KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Pittsburgh Health System Merger Falls Apart

A selection of health policy news from Arkansas, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Massachusetts, Montana and Georgia.

The New York Times: California Is First State to Ban Gay 'Cure' For Minors
California has become the first state to ban the use for minors of disputed therapies to "overcome" homosexuality, a step hailed by gay rights groups across the country that say the therapies have caused dangerous emotional harm to gay and lesbian teenagers (Eckholm, 9/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Pittsburgh Health Merger Collapses
Pittsburgh's West Penn Allegheny Health System broke off its agreement to be acquired by Highmark Inc., saying the insurer had breached the deal's terms and was demanding the hospital operator file for bankruptcy. Highmark, for its part, said it "categorically denies" that it violated the terms of the deal and "continues to believe that an affiliation" is in the best interest of both companies and the community (Mathews, 9/28).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Seeking Help For Medicaid Program
Arizona is seeking federal approval to continue its Medicaid program for childless adults, which lawmakers capped last year to help balance the budget. Without a federal extension, the program will expire next year. At the same time, state Medicaid officials hope to convince the federal government that Arizona deserves additional funding to insure that group of low-income adults. The goal is to prevent thousands of Arizonans from getting kicked out of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program, and to give Arizona policy makers additional incentive to expand government-paid insurance under federal health care reform (Reinhart, 9/30).

Kaiser Health News: Eyes Turn To Arkansas' Bold Effort To Cut Medicaid Costs, Add Transparency
On Monday, Arkansas will kick off a program to reduce its Medicaid costs and improve care through a partnership with its largest private insurance companies -- Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and QualChoice. If successful, experts say the state's Medicaid program could save about $4.4 million in FY 2013 and $9.3 million in 2014 (Kulkarni, 9/30).

The New York Times: After Decades In Institutions, A Bumpy Journey To A New Life
Once viewed as outcasts to be shunned and isolated in institutions, hundreds of Georgia's most disabled citizens are taking their first tentative steps back into society. Their fledgling journeys, marked by uncertainty, jubilation and some setbacks, are unfolding as officials embark on an ambitious plan to profoundly reshape the lives of the cognitively and physically impaired. It is a new strategy for Georgia, one of several states responding to mounting pressure from the Justice Department, which in recent years has threatened legal action against states accused of violating the civil rights of thousands of developmentally disabled people by needlessly segregating them in public hospitals, nursing homes and day programs (Swarns, 9/29).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Fines Provider Of Prison Health Care
The Arizona Department of Corrections has levied a $10,000 fine against Wexford Health Sources Inc., a new private medical-care provider for inmates that is accused of improperly dispensing medicine and wasting state resources. The DOC called on Wexford to fix staffing problems, properly distribute and document medication for inmates, show a sense of urgency and communicate better with the state when problems occur. Wexford was fined over the actions of a nurse who caused a hepatitis C scare in August at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye, and for failing to properly report the problem to authorities (Harris, 9/28).

Boston Globe: Partners HealthCare Will Give Centers $90M
Partners HealthCare plans to award community health centers $90 million over the next 15 years under a new grant program, part of a broad push to strengthen Massachusetts primary care providers. The state's largest hospital and physician organization is launching the initiative with its newly acquired insurer, Neighborhood Health Plan, and is scheduled to announce it Monday. In the first round of grants, it will give $4.25 million to 49 community health centers across the state to help them adopt immediate improvements, such as upgrading technology that tracks patients' health and redesigning office procedures so caregivers can spend more time with patients (Kowalczyk, 10/1).

Reuters: Montana Governor Sees Big Savings With New State Health Clinic
Montana, looking to cut down on state health care costs, has opened the nation's first government-run clinic for state employees in a program the Rocky Mountain state's governor says could ultimately cover a much broader range of people. Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer says the primary care clinic in the state capital Helena will keep the area's 11,000 state workers and their dependents healthier while saving the state $20 million over five years (Boyce, 9/29).

Georgia Health News: Mental Health Agency OKs Tight 2014 Budget
The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities has approved a fiscal 2014 budget that includes reductions to service providers, the closing of a nursing home and probable job cuts. Like other state agencies, DBHDD is required to cut its budget 3 percent under orders from Gov. Nathan Deal’s Office of Planning and Budget. The state has been struggling with sluggish tax revenues amid a slow economy (Miller, 9/28).

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