KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Time Of Turmoil For Georgia Hospitals

A selection of health policy stories from Gerogia, Wisconsin, Texas, Oregon, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina.

Georgia Health News: Time Of Change –– And Crisis – In The Hospital World
The financial turmoil rocking Georgia’s hospitals shows no signs of fading. Just this week, Emory-Adventist Hospital announced it would close by the end of October. By doing so, the Smyrna hospital would become the fifth Georgia hospital to close within the past two years. And unlike the previous four, it is in the affluent Atlanta suburbs, not a struggling rural area. Emory-Adventist officials said Wednesday that the hospital “is no longer sustainable in today’s dramatically changed health care environment.’ Other hospitals in better financial shape are seeking to position themselves for tough times ahead. Some are partnering with other health systems, seeking to broaden their services and increase their scale. Why all the activity? (Miller, 7/31).

The New York Times: Wisconsin Justices Uphold Union Limits, A Victory For The Governor
Some labor leaders said that Mr. Walker’s measure all but eviscerated many public sector unions, leaving members wondering exactly what bargaining ability they were getting for their dues, which under the law can no longer be automatically withdrawn from their paychecks. Act 10 limited bargaining rights to pay raises within the rate of inflation. And with higher contributions from workers for their health care and pensions under the law, some union members said they could no longer afford dues. One Wisconsin union said it had lost as much as 60 percent of its membership (Davey, 7/31). 

Texas Tribune: Rule Changes Address Contraceptive Devices
Texas women who receive state-financed health services may be able to more easily access contraceptive products like intrauterine devices and hormonal implants beginning Friday, when rule changes to the state’s Medicaid program and the Texas Women’s Health Program take effect. Under the new rules implemented by the state's Health and Human Services Commission, physicians who participate in the two programs will be able to order long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) products from three pharmacies in Texas instead of having to purchase them from a drug wholesaler (Ura, 7/31).

The Associated Press: Oregon Medicaid Targets Expensive Hepatitis Drug
An Oregon Medicaid committee on Thursday significantly scaled back access to an effective — but expensive — new drug used to treat hepatitis C. The decision allows only a narrow set of Medicaid patients to be treated with the $1,000-per-pill drug known as Sovaldi, made by Gilead Sciences Inc. (Cooper, 7/31).

Miami Herald: Florida Mental and Behavioral Health Care Providers Get Funding Boost From Affordable Care Act
Eight health centers in Florida, including one in Miami Beach and another in Broward County, are to receive almost $2 million in Affordable Care Act funding to help care for people with mental and behavioral health issues. The grants, announced on Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services, are part of $54.6 million in ACA funding intended to help 221 health centers around the country establish or expand such care for about 450,000 patients (Madigan, 7/31).

The Associated Press: Michigan Gets $1 Million in Mental Health Funding
The federal government has awarded Michigan $1 million for mental health services. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced Thursday that the state will receive the Affordable Care Act funding to support four health centers. The money will be used to establish or expand behavioral health services for more than 5,000 Michigan residents (7/31).

The Boston Globe: Substance Abuse Bill Keeps Coverage For Inpatient Care
The Legislature on Thursday was poised to approve a bill intended to address the state’s opioid addiction crisis, including controversial provisions that curtail insurers’ ability to deny coverage for addiction treatment. The bill requires coverage for at least 14 days of inpatient detoxificiation and post-detox care, bars insurers from determining whether any addiction treatment -- inpatient or outpatient -- is medically necessary, and removes the requirement to obtain “prior authorization” from an insurer before entering substance use treatment (Freyer and Abutaleb, 7/31).

WBUR: Mass. Substance Abuse Bill Responds To Tide Of Sadness And Fear
In response to stories that seem to be on the rise in communities across the state — stories of parents trying to revive children after a heroin overdose, of young people seeking treatment their insurance plan won’t cover, and of babies born addicted to opiates — state lawmakers on the last day of their formal session approved a bill they say will help save the lives of those addicted to heroin, prescription painkillers and alcohol. The measure, among several major bills passed just after midnight Friday, requires insurers pay for any care a doctor decides is medically necessary. Insurers say this and other requirements included in the bill are a mistake. In outlining the House and Senate compromise on the substance abuse bill Thursday afternoon, Sen. John Keenan of Quincy talked about his father (Bebinger, 7/31).

The CT Mirror: Ten Things John Mckinney Thinks About Health Care
John P. McKinney, the state Senate minority leader, has pitched himself as the Republican candidate for governor with experience putting together budgets and doing the work needed to govern. In his 16 years in the Senate, McKinney hasn’t been deeply identified with health care issues, although he was a key critic of plans to expand and renovate UConn’s John Dempsey Hospital using state funds. He also pushed for a tax incentive program to encourage people to get preventive care. As governor, he said, he'd side more with consumers on insurance-related matters, privatize social services and ask state employees to accept less costly health insurance. He's critical of Obamacare, but didn't cite any specific ways he'd change how Connecticut handles it (Becker, 8/1).

North Carolina Health News: Autism Insurance Bill Likely To Die In Session’s Final Days
A bill that would allow children with autism to get health insurance coverage for treatment that passed the House over a year ago looks like it won’t make it across the finish line in the current General Assembly session. The bill, which would require treatment called applied behavioral analysis to be covered by insurers, was passed by the House of Representatives in May of last year. Advocates looking to convince lawmakers to pass the autism insurance measure roamed the halls of the General Assembly to speak to legislators early in July. Applied behavioral analysis has been shown by research to be one of the most effective treatments in helping children with the disorder to be “mainstreamed” into schools and society (Hoban, 7/31).

North Carolina Health News: Hospitals, Adult Care Homes Big Losers In Budget
Hospital and adult care home operators are all reacting to the $21.1 billion North Carolina budget presented late Wednesday and passed by the Senate late Thursday evening, which contains cuts to those facilities, even as the state’s hospitals have taken cuts for the past several budget cycles. Lawmakers have said they were determined to bring the state’s Medicaid budget under control. The program – which pays for care for more than 1.6 million low-income children, pregnant women, low-income seniors and people with disabilities – has been blamed for claiming an ever-increasing part of the state budget (Hoban, 8/1).

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