KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: States ‘Scrambling’ On Medicaid Budget

CNNMoney: Shrinking Medicaid Funds Pummel States
Strapped states are scrambling to address Medicaid's ballooning costs before the federal government cuts back a critical source of funding this week. Medicaid is one of state's costliest burdens. And the weak economy swelled the rolls to record numbers. Nearly 49 million people -- or almost one in six Americans -- were covered by the safety net at the end of 2009, the latest figures available (Luhby, 3/28). 

The New York Times: N.Y. Budget Deal Cuts Aid To Schools And Health Care
Capping weeks of secretive negotiations and intense political jockeying, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and leaders of the Legislature on Sunday announced a $132.5 billion budget agreement that would cut overall spending, impose no major new taxes and begin a long-term overhaul of New York State's bloated Medicaid programs. ... For both Medicaid and education, the deal calls for a two-year appropriation instead of the traditional one year's worth of financing, locking in fixed rates of growth (Confessore and Kaplan, 3/27).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota's GOP Legislators Rushing To Craft State Budget 
Republican legislators are cobbling together a budget outline that prevents income tax increases but appears destined to prompt a veto by the governor. ... But what happens next will likely set the stage for the final act of this year's legislative drama, as the two sides careen toward adjournment and a solution to the state's $5 billion projected deficit. ... To slash that much money from the budget in this round, Republicans controlling the Legislature are seeking deep cuts in aid to the Twin Cities and steep reductions to health and human services, which could boot thousands of Minnesotans off public programs (Helgeson and Stassen-Berger, 3/27). 

MinnPost: Advocates Say Those With Disabilities Hit Hard By Proposed Budget Cuts
A particular concern is cuts to programs that let those with disabilities continue to work and live independently, [Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities] said, which will lead to increased long–term costs. The House HHS budget proposal would cut $373 million over two years from a waiver program that helps Minnesotans with disabilities to identify and maintain employment, housing and transportation, the group said (Kimball, 3/25). 

The Dallas Morning News: Texas Unlikely To Use More Medical Parole For Inmates Despite Budget Pressures
Texas legislators will nip, tuck and gut state spending to cover a $23 billion shortfall over the next two years, but authorities are unlikely to tap potentially millions of dollars by releasing more terminally ill or incapacitated prisoners (Jennings, 3/25). 

Kaiser Health News / Bay Area News Group: Health Care Expands For Ex-Offenders In California 
In coming months, local governments in California stand to gain tens of millions of dollars in federal funds to care for the indigent, including ex-offenders. ... Expanded indigent-care is expected to help many of the 130,000 former inmates discharged every year in the state, as well as the mainly impoverished communities where they move upon release. The newly freed arrive home in neighborhoods in Oakland and Hayward, Richmond and Antioch, bringing high rates of chronic and communicable disease and serious mental illness (Schmitt, 3/28).

The Sacramento Bee: Sutter Health Posts Rosy Results, Warns Of Financial Strains Ahead
Sacramento-based Sutter Health saw both income and revenues rise in 2010, the health network reported Friday, but Sutter's president cautioned that "unprecedented" financial challenges loom. President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Fry, in a letter to employees, cited a host of factors, from the federal health care overhaul to the state's budget woes, in calling for cost reductions (Smith, 3/26). 

California Healthline: Longtime Battle Continues For Senior Care
Few details changed in Governor Jerry Brown's budget, from the time it was proposed to when the Legislature passed it. So the salvaging of the state's Adult Day Health Care program from the budget wreckage could be seen as a sign of the long-term care system's tremendous popularity and support. Now, the Senate Committee on Health has moved along a new bill seeking to improve long-term care in California. ... The bill provides case management and transition services for some people who may want to return home, and leave expensive facilities such as skilled nursing facilities (Gorn, 3/28).

Houston Chronicle: Bills Aim To Close Mental Health Coverage Gap
Rachel Fennell's son Reece has been hospitalized 11 times, and he's only 12. Diagnosed at 5 with bipolar disorder, the reed-thin boy has physically assaulted a teacher, threatened to take his own life and frequently had violent temper tantrums. ... While his serious mental illness diagnosis, the bipolar disorder, was covered by his mother's policy (or at least $10,000 of it was), he has had other issues such as anxiety and oppositional defiant-disorder that weren't covered. That's because private insurers in Texas aren't required to cover what's known as Serious Emotional Disturbance in children ... Rep. Joaquin Castro and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, both Democrats, have filed legislation that would require some private insurers to expand their coverage to include SED (Stoeltje, 3/27). 

Georgia Health News: Reform's Unintended Result: No Kids' Policies
The Affordable Care Act required child-only insurance policies to accept kids with pre-existing medical conditions, starting Sept. 24, 2010. But in many states, including Georgia, several major insurance companies, including WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare and Aetna, decided to stop offering new individual policies that cover children only. The insurance industry explained that under the new federal requirement, a parent could wait till a child gets sick before purchasing coverage (Miller, 3/25). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.