KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: N.Y. Veterans’ Benefits; Ga. Rural Hospital Deal

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota and Colorado.

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Audit Faults Referrals For Veterans’ Benefits
New York auditors say poor coordination of health benefits for military veterans by local social services departments and the state health department has resulted in many veterans placed in the state's Medicaid program rather than federal programs (3/20).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Gov. Deal Endorses Plan Aimed At Keeping More Rural Hospitals Open
Struggling hospitals could scale back their services under a plan unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Nathan Deal meant to help rural communities keep healthcare facilities open. Deal’s plan involves a “step-down” that clears the way for ailing hospitals, and those that were recently shuttered, to offer only more limited services such as emergency care. “Communities should not have to go without crucial services – many of them life-saving – simply because they don’t fall within a certain zip code,” said Deal (Bluestein, 3/19).

Georgia Health News: Deal Plan Would Allow Rural Mini-Hospitals
In the wake of some recent closures of rural Georgia hospitals, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Wednesday an initiative to help such facilities survive tough financial times. Deal, speaking to the Rural Caucus of the General Assembly, said he is proposing a change in licensure rules that would allow a struggling rural hospital — or one that has recently closed — to offer downsized services that would include an emergency department. Such a facility could also provide childbirth services and some kinds of elective surgery, he said (Miller, 3/19). 

Georgia Health News: Anti-ACA Bill Gets Late-Night Approval 
An anti-Obamacare bill that appeared to have died in the Georgia Senate was revived late Tuesday night and now heads to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk to become law. HB 707 had captured the attention of the health care industry, policy experts and consumer advocates throughout this year’s General Assembly session. The legislation would prohibit Georgia employees of any state unit from spending state funds to advocate for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision, and would eventually halt the navigator program run by the University of Georgia (Miller and Craig, 3/19).

The Washington Post: Md. Senate Chair Seeks Pay Raise For Workers Who Care For Developmentally Disabled
The chairman of a key Maryland Senate Committee said Wednesday that he does not plan to act on a bill to raise the minimum wage until a related issue is resolved involving the way the state reimburses workers who care for the developmentally disabled. Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) made his comment during the latest in a series of work sessions his committee has held as it attempts to craft its version of a minimum wage bill, which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has said is his top legislative priority this year (Wagner, 3/20).

Minn Post: Minnesota's 'Health Care Homes' Aim To Fill Gaps In Support For Late-In-Life Patients
As the giant boomer cohort of Americans begins to reach senior status, neither individuals nor the disparate components of the U.S. medical system have fully prepared for a new reality: People can expect to live far longer than their forebears. And as they age, patients frequently will need years of coordinated care and support services before they enter the end stage of life (Schmickle, 3/19).

Health News Colorado: Health Officials Want Go-Ahead For $10 Million In Pot Research
Colorado’s health department could begin funding $10 million in marijuana research by next year if a bill to authorize new studies passes the Colorado legislature this spring. The unconventional research of what has long been an illegal drug would aim to determine whether pot has health benefits or harms people. One of the highest priorities for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is to learn whether marijuana can help children who suffer from seizures and whether there are any harmful side effects (McCrimmon, 3/19).

Health News Colorado: Vaccine Supporters Deploy Moms, Want Immunization Grades At Schools
Mobilizing moms may be the secret to boosting Colorado’s dismal immunization rates. Anti-vaccine activists long have been well organized and aggressively share their concerns about vaccines, despite an outcry from scientists that research does not support those fears. Now public health advocates who support immunizations are trying to light a fire under ambivalent parents by hitting them where they hang out: at their kids’ schools (McCrimmon, 3/19).

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