KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Brighter Calif. Budget Outlook Could Mean New Safety Net Cut Fights

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, California and Oregon.

The Texas Tribune: Divided Lege Finds Rate Harmony In Women's Health 
The political fireworks and high-octane drama that accompanied lawmakers’ 2011 fight over women’s health care and abortion has been absent this legislative session. It has been replaced with some semblance of concession, as legislators on both sides of the aisle work quietly to restore financing for women’s health services. They have done it with little more than a handshake agreement. Democrats will not die on the sword of bringing Planned Parenthood back into the fold, and Republicans will not put up additional barriers to women’s access to care (Aaronson, 5/6).

Sacramento Bee: With Revenue Rising, Democrats Push To Restore Safety Net Cuts
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers are on a collision course over restoring cuts to California's safety net, marking a key test of vows to hold the line on state spending. Brown is set to release a revised budget proposal this month, and state revenue is running about $4.5 billion over projections, lending momentum to efforts to boost programs for the poor or needy. Legislation and ideas abound at the Capitol for bolstering the safety net, targeting adult dental care, mental health, welfare assistance, child care, college aid and affordable housing (Sanders, 5/6). 

California Healthline: Managed Care Tax Decision Left Until New Budget Proposal Arrives
Distrust ran high yesterday during part of a budget subcommittee hearing when the subject turned to reinstitution of a managed care organization tax. The MCO tax instituted in 2009 had the singular distinction of being embraced by the ones being taxed because the money was matched by federal dollars and was used to support the Healthy Families program. In the long run, health insurers made their money back and the state had more federal dollars in its coffers. The MCO tax expired in December. The Brown administration wants to keep it going with one big difference: Since the state eliminated Healthy Families, a transition that started in January and runs through the end of this year, the governor would like to put the MCO tax money into a rainy-day fund for the state (Gorn, 5/3).

Los Angeles Times: White Memorial Medical Center In L.A. Settles Kickback Allegations
White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles has agreed to pay $14.1 million to settle allegations that it paid illegal kickbacks to physicians to get their patient referrals. The settlement announced Friday by the U.S. Justice Department stemmed from a whistle-blower complaint filed under seal in 2008 by two Los Angeles doctors who objected to the hospital's practices (Terhune, 5/4).

Oregonian: Lack Of Standards For Oregon Medical Interpreters Raises Issues About Training
Doctors who don't understand the language of their patients rely on interpreters to explain everything from a diagnosis to prescription routines. And although Oregon is one of only a handful of states with qualification and certification exams for medical interpreters, the vast majority of interpreters working in the state have neither and don't have to. The state recognizes three tiers of medical interpreters: registered (the basic level), qualified (tested in the language) and certified (tested in medical terminology) (Castillo, 5/5).

KQED/State Of Health: How Nurses And Other 'Mid-Level Providers' Fill Growing Gap In Primary Care
Simmi Gandhi -- a family nurse practitioner at South LA's UMMA Community Clinic -- is at work early. When she calls a patient, she apologizes for waking the woman up. But she knew the woman was waiting for test results. In Urdu, she tells the patient her mammogram shows the mass in the woman's breast isn't cancer. After Gandhi hangs up, she doesn't miss a beat: She starts debriefing for her next patient, who's been missing appointment for months (Martinez, 5/3).

Los Angeles Times: How A 'Million-Dollar Patient' Got Off A Medical Merry-Go-Round
Remo and countless other chronically ill patients like her pose one of the biggest obstacles to medical professionals, hospitals and political leaders trying to rein in costs as they overhaul the healthcare system. Starting next year, clinics in rural and urban areas will receive an influx of millions of newly insured patients — many with complex, chronic diseases — and face higher expectations to keep costs down. Many of those patients are so ill — or resistant to altering behaviors — that they repeatedly cycle through expensive emergency rooms and hospital beds (Gorman, 5/5).

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