KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. Insurance Mandate Examined

A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, California, New York, Iowa, Illinois, New Hampshire, Kansas and Oregon.

San Francisco Chronicle: Prop. 29: Dollar-Per-Pack Cigarette Tax Passing
Tobacco companies poured nearly $47 million into defeating Proposition 29, a $1-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes, but the measure was narrowly leading in early returns Tuesday despite the hard-fought campaign. The tax increase would raise $810 million a year for cancer research and smoking cessation programs, and it would give California -- which currently has a lower tobacco tax than 32 other states -- the 16th-highest cigarette tax in the nation. … The vote would be a huge win for the public health groups that sponsored the measure, including the American Cancer Society (Lagos, 6/6).

Politico: California Cigarette Tax Too Close To Call
A Lance Armstrong-backed initiative in California to raise taxes on cigarettes for the funding of cancer research remained deadlocked Tuesday morning, reports the Associated Press. Just a few months ago, a statewide poll showed that Proposition 29 -- to hike taxes $1 per pack -- would pass with two-thirds support -- but the morning after the polls closed, the vote remains too close to call (Mak, 6/6).

The Associated Press: Calif. Voters Split On Tax Targeted By Big Tobacco
A high-profile California cigarette tax initiative backed by cycling legend Lance Armstrong that once seemed like a sure thing teetered on the brink of defeat Wednesday, a testament to the efficacy of a $50 million campaign backed by Big Tobacco. A blizzard of industry-financed radio and television advertisements over the last two months closed the gap on an effort to impose an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund cancer research (Dreier, 6/6).

The Associated Press: In Mass., Individual Mandate Sparks Little Outcry
It's the single most contentious element of President Barack Obama's health care law: the requirement that nearly everyone have insurance or face a financial hit. But in Massachusetts, the only state with a so-called individual mandate, the threat of a tax penalty has sparked little public outcry since the state's landmark health care law was signed in 2006 by the governor, Mitt Romney (LeBlanc, 6/6).

The New York Times' City Room: Ruling Delayed On Adding Cancer To 9/11 Fund Illnesses
An eagerly awaited federal ruling on whether to include cancer among the illnesses that will be treated and result in compensation using money set aside by Congress for victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center has been delayed by several days, federal officials said Tuesday (Hartocollis, 6/5).

Des Moines Register: Wellmark Agrees To Pay Genesis Hospitals For Keeping Patients Well
A Quad Cities hospital-and-clinic system has joined a national movement that aims to reward health-care providers for keeping patients healthy instead of just treating them when they’re sick. Genesis Health System announced today that it has signed a contract with Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield to set up an accountable-care organization (Leys, 6/5).

Modern Healthcare: No Negative Credit Impact From Illinois Legislation: Fitch
Legislation in Illinois that would link hospital property taxes to charity-care levels is not expected to have a negative effect on not-for-profit providers in the state, according to Fitch Ratings. … Fitch described the legislation as providing "long overdue clarity" on how to define charity care and said it is consistent with the standard used in other parts of the country (Kutscher, 6/5).

Modern Healthcare: CMS Claims 'Inaccurate,' N.H. Official Says
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is disputing claims that it has not submitted detailed information to the CMS about Medicaid reimbursement rate reductions. In a May 23 letter, released Monday, CMS Deputy Administrator Cindy Mann requested the state health department supply specific data and analysis about Medicaid reimbursement rates within 30 days (Lee, 6/5).

Kansas Health Institute: Kansas Asks To Withdraw Medicaid 1115 Waiver Request 
Kansas officials today announced they have asked that the so-called 1115 Medicaid waiver application they submitted with fanfare to federal authorities in April be withdrawn pending consultation with two Native American health centers. The Governor's Office issued a statement today saying the administration intends to resubmit the waiver application in July. The statement included a copy of the email sent by Kari Bruffett, director of the state's Health Care Finance Division, to Victoria Wachino of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, notifying the federal agency of the state's intentions (Shields, 6/6).

WBUR: Mass. House Begins Debate On Sprawling Health Cost-Cutting Plan
Debate is now underway in the Massachusetts House on the health care cost-cutting bill, a sprawling proposal to save $150 billion over 15 years by re-focusing medical care on prevention, changing the incentives and methods for paying doctors and hospitals, linking health-care spending to the state economy, and more. Debate is expected to run through today and pick up again tomorrow (Zimmerman, 6/5).

The Oregonian: Rural Oregon Women And Men Often Missing Out On Cancer Screening
Women and men in rural Oregon often go for years without receiving recommended cancer screening tests, researchers report in the journal Cancer. Among rural women age 55 or older, only 30 percent were up-to-date for cervical cancer screening and 37 percent for mammography. The statewide average rate for both screening tests is about 75 percent. ... Patricia Carney and others at Oregon Health & Science University based the findings on medical chart reviews of four primary care practices in two rural Oregon communities (Rojas-Burke, 6/5).

HealthyCal:  Clinics Prepare For Onslaught Of Patients
As federal health care reform promises insurance for tens of thousands of Santa Clara County residents, local health clinics are scrambling to prepare for the expected onslaught in demand.  For the soon-to-be-insured poor, health care reform is an opportunity to take care of aches and pains many have ignored for years, doctors said. As a result, demand for primary care doctors is expected to surge around Santa Clara County. These family physicians are the first stop for most patients, to help them identify the roots of their problems (Bookwalter, 6/6).

California Healthline: Bill Aims to Expand Number of Residency Slots
Most of the health care reform expansion effort has focused on the logistics of adding coverage for up to 3 million more Californians, but that's just the start, according to Senate member Michael Rubio (D-Shafter). Those millions of health insurance cards won't be worth their weight in plastic if you don't make sure the state has the providers to take care of all of those people, he said. … Rubio spoke on the Senate floor last week on behalf of his bill to expand the number of residency slots in California, a plan with the potential to significantly increase the number of providers in the state, he said. Setting up the infrastructure to accept private contributions for residency expansion creates an opportunity to add providers in California without using any more general fund dollars, Rubio said (Gorn, 6/6).

Boston Globe: Mass. Hospitals Receive Top Marks
Using the model of letter grades posted in New York to steer ­diners away from the dirtiest restaurants, a prominent health quality group is grading U.S. hospitals on safety, giving ­Massachusetts medical centers the highest overall scores in the nation. The Leapfrog Group planned to post the assessments online Wednesday morning, at (Conaboy, 6/6). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.