KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Calif. Nurses Emerge As Political Force; Iowa Official Under Fire For Strict Policy On Nursing Home Inspections; New ‘Homey’ Facilities For Seniors Increasing

The Wall Street Journal: "One of California's most powerful political players these days is a Bay Area-based nurses' union, which helped torpedo Republican Meg Whitman's efforts to become governor and boosted the prospects of the eventual winning candidate, Democrat Jerry Brown. Now officials of the 85,000-member California Nurses Association say they will keep Gov.-elect Brown's feet to the fire on their agenda of improving conditions for nurses and the state's health-care system" (Carlton, 11/11).

The Des Moines Register: "The embattled head of the state agency that inspects Iowa's hospitals and nursing homes says one of Iowa's new legislative leaders is 'blindly endorsing' industry-fueled attacks on state regulators. The conflict underscores what is likely to be a major change in the way Iowa protects the 40,000 elderly and disabled people now living in 730 care facilities. Gov.-elect Terry Branstad and legislators in both parties have called for state health facility inspectors to cooperate with the industry and take a less punitive approach to violators" (Kauffman, 11/11).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg Businessweek: "Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe on Wednesday proposed a nearly $4.6 billion budget for the coming year that would cut the state's grocery tax by a half cent, but said there's no room for other tax cuts without threatening state services. The proposal presented by the governor's office would increase the state's budget by 2.5 percent, or about $109 million, for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011. ... Beebe recommended increasing the state's funding for Medicaid by $174 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012. Human Services officials say the state faces a major shortfall in Medicaid in the coming years because of the program's growth. Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, called Beebe's budget proposal reasonable but said she wants more details on how the state will deal with growing needs in Medicaid" (DeMillo, 11/10).

Health News Florida: "Florida lawmakers could revive a plan to limit the costs of drugs that doctors dispense to workers-compensation patients --- bucking Gov. Charlie Crist, medical groups and a major Republican donor. House and Senate leaders say they might use a special legislative session next week to override Crist's veto of a bill aimed at restricting the prices of drugs that are repackaged in small doses and then dispensed by doctors to injured workers. One of the state's most-powerful business groups, Associated Industries of Florida, helped get the limit passed on the final day of the spring legislative session. It argues that the physician-dispensing practice is driving up workers-compensation costs for businesses" (Saunders, 11/10). reports on the Leonard Florence Center for Living outside of Boston that "is one of a new breed of small, homey nursing facilities cropping up around the country, thanks to state collaborations with the nursing home industry, federal regulators and advocates for the elderly and disabled. It looks like a place only wealthy families could afford, but about half of its residents get their bills paid by Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. Massachusetts played a big role in making the $37 million center in Chelsea possible. And it's encouraging other nursing homes across the state to provide similar settings and more personalized services, whether in new buildings or traditional ones. In fact, nearly every state now is promoting what policymakers and advocates simply call 'culture change' - creating environments for the aged and disabled that feel more home-like than institutional" (Vestal, 11/10).

The (Columbia, S.C.) State: "South Carolina's largest health care agency is projecting a $228 million deficit, and it told state officials Tuesday it will have to end payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers in March if not allowed to run a deficit or make additional cuts. The Department of Health and Human Resources said the state's Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor and disabled, has been growing faster than expected during the recession. In addition, the agency said in a report, lawmakers have cut the agency budget while transferring HHS funds to other agencies. If forced to end doctor payments, the agency report said, the state risks federal penalties and lawsuits from Medicaid recipients. The agency laid out some cuts in the report, including eliminating optional services such as some prescription drug coverage" (O'Connor, 11/10).

The Boston Globe: "Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed yesterday to go to Beacon Hill to fight for a state law that would allow the city of Boston to save millions of dollar on health care insurance. Menino said he could save at least $12 million a year if he gained the authority to shift a larger share of the city's insurance costs from taxpayers to teachers, police, firefighters, and other city employees, retirees, and elected officials. State law blocks Menino and other municipal managers statewide from shifting costs unless the unions representing municipal employees agree, something most unions have been unwilling to do" (Murphy, 11/11). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.