KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: N.C. Lawmakers Reach Medicaid Agreement; Idaho Asks SCOTUS To Take Up Medicaid Case

North Carolina Health News: NC House, Senate Begin To Come Together On Medicaid
For the past few weeks, two big issues have kept the two chambers of the General Assembly from reaching an agreement on next year’s state budget: teacher salaries and Medicaid. But on Wednesday, the Senate and the House of Representatives finally moved closer to agreement on their Medicaid forecasts, loosening a logjam that’s kept legislators in Raleigh past July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year (Hoban, 7/3).

The Associated Press: NC Budget Negotiators Find Agreement On Medicaid
House and Senate Republicans made a key breakthrough in the stalled North Carolina government budget talks Wednesday by agreeing to earmark another $323 million for possible Medicaid cost overruns. The Senate's budget negotiators accepted the House's offer -- the midpoint of best- and worst-case scenarios presented by fiscal analysts -- for pending Medicaid provider claims and potential expenses for the coming year. The amounts are closer to what the Senate originally proposed in its budget (Robertson, 7/2).

Associated Press:  Idaho Asks Supreme Court To Take Up Medicaid Reimbursement Challenge 
The U.S. Supreme Court should consider an appeal by Idaho of a lawsuit challenging increased Medicaid reimbursement rates, according to a petition filed Wednesday. The state’s appeal requests that the justices decide on a 2009 case where five providers say Idaho’s Medicaid rates were too low because they were kept at 2006 reimbursement levels. The Idaho private agencies that sued the state include Inclusion Inc.; Exceptional Child Center Inc.; Living Independently for Everyone Inc.; Tomorrow’s Hope Satellite Services Inc.; and WDB Inc. In 2011, a federal judge ruled against Idaho and ordered the department to raise the payments. The increased reimbursements cost the state $12 million in 2013 (Krusei, 7/3).

The Boston Globe: State Panel Deals Challenge To Another Partners Hospital Merger
A key state board on Wednesday dealt another challenge to the quest of the state’s biggest health system to become even bigger. The Health Policy Commission found that Partners HealthCare’s proposed takeover of Hallmark Health System, which runs two hospitals north of Boston, would reinforce Partners’ market power, raise spending on medical care by $15.5 million to $23 million per year, and increase premiums for employers and consumers. Partners operates Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General hospitals, as well as several community hospitals, health centers, and a health plan. It wants to absorb Hallmark’s Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Melrose. It plans to convert the Medford hospital to a short-stay facility, while renovating the Melrose facility (McCluskey, 7/2).

The Washington Post: City Officials: Fewer New HIV Cases In D.C. In 2012, But Infection Rate Still 'Epidemic'
New HIV/AIDS data released by the D.C. government Wednesday show fewer new cases and fewer deaths in 2012 than years prior, but infection levels remain at epidemic rates in the District, officials said. According to data compiled by the District’s health department, 680 new HIV cases were reported, down from 722 new cases in 2011 and 1,180 in 2008. And 221 HIV-positive city residents died in 2012, down from 345 in 2008 and 229 in 2011, with fewer of those 2012 deaths due to causes related to the infection (DeBonis, 7/2).

McClatchy: U.S. Court Doesn’t Change NC Contraception Law
The Supreme Court ruling this week that certain business owners don’t have to provide their employees with no-cost access to contraceptives under federal law doesn’t affect North Carolina’s state law on contraceptives. The state law, which went into effect in 2000, requires that insurers that provide plans that cover prescription drugs or devices also cover contraceptives. The Supreme Court, in the case brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, ruled that closely held corporations can be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide employees with no-cost birth control coverage if the company’s owner objected on the basis of religion (Schoof, 7/3).

WBUR: Mass. Receives Mixed Marks On Painkiller Prescription Report
Massachusetts ranks in the top 10 of all states for prescribing OxyContin and other long-acting painkillers, but in the bottom 10 for overall prescribing of opioids. That’s according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, based on 2012 data, says Massachusetts ranks eighth in long-acting painkiller prescription rates and ninth in the use of the sedative benzodiazepine.“ State variation in prescribing shows us that the overprescribing of opioids can be reduced safely and feasibly,” said Daniel Sosin, acting director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in a statement. “Improving how opioids are prescribed will help us prevent the 46 prescription painkiller overdose deaths that occur each day in the United States” (7/2).

Stateline: Without Federal Action, States Move on Long-Term Care
Three years after the demise of the long-term care piece of the Affordable Care Act, some states are retooling their Medicaid programs to maximize the number of people who can get care at home and minimize the number who have to become poor to receive help. They also are trying to save state dollars. Medicaid is a joint state-federal program, and long-term care for the elderly is putting an ever greater burden on state budgets: Total Medicaid spending for long-term services rose from $113 billion in 2007 to nearly $140 billion in 2012. Two recent reports have focused attention on the issue (Ollove, 7/3).

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