KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Minn., Fla. Weigh Progarm Changes For Disabled, Poor

The Miami Herald: Gov. Scott To Call For Deep Cuts At Agency For Disabled
Due to a shockingly large deficit, Gov. Rick Scott is planning to invoke his emergency powers and make deep cuts to the rates charged by group homes and case workers who help the developmentally disabled. Scott could announce a 15 percent rate cut as early as Thursday to close the $170 million budget gap in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, according to lawmakers who were briefed Wednesday (Caputo, 3/30). 

Health News Florida: 'Bold' Changes To Medicaid OK'd
With the chief sponsor calling for "bold and transformative" changes, a Senate committee today approved a controversial proposal that would hand over most of the Medicaid program to managed-care plans. The Senate Health Regulation Committee unanimously approved a bill that calls for shifting hundreds of thousands of women, children and seniors into HMOs and other types of managed-care organizations. The full House is expected to pass its version of the Medicaid overhaul Thursday (Saunders, 3/30).

The Miami Herald / Health News Florida: State Workers Should Pay More For Health Insurance
A new Senate proposal would force many state employees to pay thousands a dollars a year more for health insurance --- or choose skimpier coverage. The bill, filed this week to help carry out the Senate's budget plan, would provide $500 a month to help cover each worker's health costs, whether the worker is single or has a spouse and children. For rank-and-file employees with family coverage, that would be about $500 a month less than the state provides this year (Saunders, 3/31).

The Arizona Republic: AHCCCS Recipients Await Fate Of Health-Care Program
Arizona's health-care program for low-income adults has been on the bubble for months, the subject of intense debate at the state Capitol over how many people to cut from a program that Republicans and Gov. Jan Brewer say is unsustainable. While the debate rages at the Capitol, the 250,000 people who were originally targeted have watched anxiously, wondering how they will get health care if they are dropped from the state's Medicaid program (Pitzl, 3/31).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Senate OKs Cuts In Care For Poor
The Minnesota Senate voted Wednesday to dramatically shrink government's role in providing health care for poor and disabled Minnesotans. The far-reaching plan, approved 37-26, is the latest in a series of steps that the new Republican majority in the Legislature has taken this month in an effort to erase the state's projected $5.1 billion deficit without raising taxes. It would slice millions of dollars from projected spending while cutting benefits and privatizing medical care for thousands of recipients. A companion bill is pending in the House, but both measures face a likely veto by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton (Wolfe, 3/30).

Minnesota Public Radio: Minn. Senate Passes Deep Cuts For Health, Welfare Programs
The Minnesota Senate passed a sweeping health and human services bill on Wednesday, including historic changes to health care for the state's poor and disabled. The bill was approved on a 37-26 party line vote. ... To help close Minnesota's $5 billion budget gap, the bill cuts some nursing home funds, family planning programs, and health screening and programs for the disabled. Debate about the bill, though, centered mostly on the proposed privatization of health care for the poor (Nelson, 3/31).

The Connecticut Mirror: Advocates Worry Adults In HUSKY Could Lose Out Under Health Reform
The federal health reform law is meant to expand health insurance coverage, but some advocates worry that it could inadvertently leave some low-income adults in Connecticut worse off. ... Beginning in 2014, states will be required to provide Medicaid coverage to adults earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level. ... But Connecticut already provides Medicaid coverage to some adults--an estimated 16,000 in the HUSKY program for low-income children and parents--at higher income levels than the federal law requires. Some advocates worry that health reform will lead the state to shift them from free Medicaid coverage to private insurance that, even with federal subsidies the law provides, could come with out-of-pocket costs (Levin Becker, 3/30).

The Boston Globe: 2 Insurers' Boards Will Keep Taking Pay
The state's second- and third-largest health insurers said yesterday their board members have decided to keep paying themselves five-figure annual fees despite objections from the state attorney general and an inquiry into directors' compensation at nonprofit health plans. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, in separate statements, said the expertise of directors in fields ranging from medicine to finance was critical to running their complex and high-risk businesses (Weisman, 3/31).

The Texas Tribune: Advocates Rally to Retain State Health Funds
[Hundreds] rallied at the Capitol today to urge lawmakers to maintain state spending on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, joint state-federal health plans that cover more than 3 million Texans, and are facing an estimated $7 billion in cuts in the current House budget bill (Musa, 3/30). 

The Times-Picayune: Private Hospitals Louisiana To Collect Extra Medicaid Payments
Private hospitals across the state will collect $83 million in extra Medicaid payments under new public-private partnerships designed to bring in federal health-care dollars, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday. The payments will flow to 25 hospitals across the state. ... private hospitals agree to cover the costs of providing care to low-income and needy populations that are now served by public entities such as local public hospital districts. ... The financing arrangement saves money that the public institutions would otherwise have to spend, and makes the hospitals eligible to receive federal Medicaid matching funds that exceed the cost of the care they cover (Moller, 3/30).

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: Analysis: Why Hospitals Are Selling Themselves More Than Ever
I spoke recently with Tom Simons, CEO and chief creative officer of the Boston marketing firm PARTNERS+simons, about the local landscape of hospital advertising. ... There's an old saying, "If you want to find a Boston teaching hospital, you look for a crane." But in fact, today, hospital patient volumes are looking like they are into a downward trend - there's a lot of discussion about this. This is creating an evolving set of conditions that is resulting in some really aggressive marketing (Goldberg, 3/30).

Des Moines Register: Iowa House Expected To Debate Abortion Bill Thursday
House File 657 would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, which is similar to a law enacted in Nebraska last year under the theory that fetuses can feel pain at that stage. The bill is proposed as a way to prevent a Nebraska abortion doctor from expanding to Council Bluffs. One line in the bill says that "it is recognized that life begins at fertilization" (Clayworth, 3/30).

The Associated Press/Denver Post: Colorado Health Exchange Up For 1st Hearing
A new health insurance market for Colorado is up for its first big test in the state Legislature.
A Senate committee planned to start work Thursday on a divisive proposal to create a health insurance exchange. It would be an insurance pool allowing individuals and small businesses more choice when shopping for health insurance (3/31). 

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