KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Legislatures Tackle Health Budget Gaps, Worker Pay

Health policy news from New York, California, Oregon, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Florida and Kansas.

Stateline: States' Fragile Recovery At Risk
With the national economy picking up and the housing market improving, states are poised in 2013 to finally rebound from the recession’s lingering revenue crunch. But continued budget delays in Washington may dampen that prospect. For all the talk about the fiscal cliff, states already know what a free-fall in revenue feels like … Overall, though, Medicaid is still the biggest budget worry for most states in the coming year. That’s because Medicaid spending continues to be the largest component of total state spending at nearly 24 percent, easily surpassing K-12 education, which takes up less than 20 percent (Prah, 1/23).

The Miami Herald: South Florida Hospitals Face Huge Federal, State Cuts
With the federal government already slashing their funds in big and small ways, and major state cuts possible from the upcoming session of the Legislature, South Florida’s hospitals are concerned about looming financial problems. An analysis by the Florida Hospital Association shows that Miami-Dade hospitals stand to lose $1.9 billion in federal funding over the next decade to treat Medicare patients (Dorschner, 1/22).

Pioneer Press: Dayton’s Budget: Health Groups Praise Proposal
[Minn.] health care groups expressed cautious optimism for the budget proposal outlined Tuesday, Jan. 22, by Gov. Mark Dayton. Doctors and hospitals applauded Dayton's call to ... expand and reform the state's Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare health insurance programs. ... The human services budget, which is a huge source of revenue for groups that operate nursing homes and assisted living facilities, has sustained budget cuts for several years (Snowbeck, 1/22).

The New York Times: Cuomo Builds Budget With Cuts, Gambling And Fees
Over all, the proposed $142.6 billion budget represents a 5.3 percent increase over the current one, but much of the increase will be covered by federal money provided for the recovery from Hurricane Sandy and the enactment of the health care law championed by President Obama (Hakim and Kaplan, 1/22).

The Associated Press: Okla. Budget Chair Eyes Pay Hikes For DHS Workers
State workers who deal daily with Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and abused and neglected children should be targeted for merit-based pay hikes, the head of a House budget panel said on Tuesday. ... Rep. Jason Nelson said pay increases for workers in the child welfare, developmental disabilities and family support divisions of the Department of Human Services will be among his top priorities for the largest state agency (Murphy, 1/22).

The Associated Press: Changes To Md. Medicare Waiver In Works
Maryland officials will submit a plan to the federal government aimed at allowing them to hang onto about $1 billion in Medicare reimbursements received under a unique agreement with Washington, the chairman of a panel that sets hospital billing rates told lawmakers Tuesday. ... [The agreement] allows Medicare and Medicaid payments to be based on rates set by the state commission, instead of national federal payment principals (Witte, 1/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Bidding Battle Over Bronx Hospital
Two competing bids to take over New York Westchester Square Medical Center, a struggling hospital in the Bronx, are bringing to light deeper tensions about health care in the borough. Montefiore Medical Center has made a play acquire the assets of Westchester Square—one of the last remaining independent hospitals in the borough—and turn it into an ambulatory surgery and primary-care facility with an emergency room (Kusisto, 1/22).

Boston Globe: Boston Medical Center Expects Profit For 2012
Boston Medical Center, the state’s largest safety net hospital, expects to post a modest financial gain for its 2012 fiscal year, reversing three consecutive years of losses. ... [chief executive Kate] Walsh attributed the turnaround to multiple factors, including an increase in federal funding for hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income patients, higher reimbursements from commercial insurers, new billing codes that let government insurers better measure BMC’s range of care, and moves to aggressively cut costs by, among other things, consolidating operations at its South End campus and closing a 12-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit (Weisman, 1/23).

Kansas City Star: Hospitals Join In Network To Share Patient Information
More than a dozen area hospitals and clinics announced Tuesday that they have joined together in one of the first regional computer networks in the Midwest that allows doctors and hospitals to share patients’ medical information to make care faster and more efficient. … Health information exchanges are intended to speed up care and reduce costs by eliminating the need to duplicate tests or to copy and fax medical records. Care may be improved by keeping more complete medical histories of patients, including previous treatments and medications (Bavley, 1/22).

Kansas Health Institute: Alternatives To Nursing Homes Lacking, Lawmakers Told
Efforts by Kansas officials to keep frail, elderly people out of nursing homes have been hampered by the shortage of community-based alternatives, representatives of the industry told lawmakers today. It’s not unusual, [Cindy Luxem, chief executive of the Kansas Health Care Association] said, for nursing home administrators to be told that one of their Medicaid residents could and should be living in a community setting. But when a nursing home tries to arrange the services needed to make that happen, she said, the services often are not available (Ranney, 1/22).

Georgia Health News: Report Questions Claim Of Dentist Shortage
A new report shows that although Georgia has a low number of dentists per capita, a large majority of them still have room in their practices to accept new patients. The report on Georgia’s dental workforce also found that only about 20 percent of dentists serve Medicaid and PeachCare patients (Miller, 1/23).

WBUR: Free Health Clinics For Uninsured Thrive In Mass.
Massachusetts has the highest rate of residents with health insurance in the country, but that still leaves about 277,000 men, women and children who aren’t sure where to turn when they get sick and often put off care because it costs too much. A loose-knit network of free clinics in churches, synagogues and vacant offices around the state — often run by retired doctors and nurses — is quietly caring for many of these patients (Bebinger, 1/22).

The Lund Report: Sen. Jeff Merkley Urges Physicians, Nurses To Raise Their Voices
According to public opinion polls, U.S. Senators are less well-liked and less well-respected than cockroaches, Sen. Jeff Merkley told a small crowd of physicians, nurses and community members last week. Doctors and nurses, on the other, consistently rank at the top of public opinion polls – so when it comes to public policy, their opinions often hold more sway (McCurdy, 1/22).

Sacramento Bee: Democratic Lawmakers Revive California Bill On Early-Abortion Providers
More medical professionals, including nurses and midwives, would be permitted to perform certain early abortions in California under a bill unveiled Tuesday. In a news conference at the Capitol, ... lawmakers and women's health advocates said the measure is necessary for women in communities without abortion providers. They said 52 percent of California counties do not contain a provider, other than hospitals, which often have only limited services (White, 1/23).  

Fox News: Pro-Life Groups Say Cuomo Bill Would Allow Late-Term Abortions ‘On Demand’
On the heels of passing sweeping gun control legislation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing the envelope once again -- this time with a call for an abortion bill that opponents say would effectively allow late-term abortion "on demand."  Pro-life organizations and religious groups are beginning to rally against the proposal, after Cuomo declared in his Jan. 9 State of the State address that he wanted to enact a so-called "Reproductive Health Act" as part of a 10-point plan to advance "women's equality" (Berger, 1/22).

Boston Globe: Bill Would Require Consent To Use Antipsychotics
Concern about overuse of anti­psychotic medications and similar drugs in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care facilities has prompted a sweeping proposal that would require Massachusetts facilities to inform patients, or their legal representatives, in writing of the medications’ risks, benefits, and alternatives. This informed consent process would need to be repeated every three months if patients were taking these drugs long term (Lazar, 1/23).

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