KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Minn. Can Cut Health Care Aide Pay; Ore. CCO Guidelines Released

A selection of state health policy and politics stories from Georgia, Minnesota, Kansas, California, Oregon, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: New Abortion Restrictions Likely Stopped 
One of the most controversial bills this legislative session, that sought to put new restrictions on late-term abortions, was all but gutted Monday after a bipartisan coalition in the state Senate forced key changes.  The original proposal would have cut by about six weeks the time women in Georgia may have an elective abortion. With the changes, it would now also include an exemption for "medically futile" pregnancies, giving doctors the option to perform an abortion when a fetus has congenital or chromosomal defects. The change hits at the heart of the controversy: Should fetuses once they hit 20 weeks be protected even if those protections mean women are forced to continue medically risky pregnancies? (Torres, 3/26).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Care Aides' Pay Can Be Cut, Judge Says In Ruling
The state can impose a 20 percent pay cut on nearly 7,000 Minnesotans giving personal care assistance to low-income relatives, a district judge has ruled. The Friday ruling by Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman reversed a temporary order he issued last fall blocking the cuts. The eight home-care agencies that brought the lawsuit opposing the cuts plan to appeal Lindman's ruling, which found that a state law cutting payments to personal care assistants (PCAs) who were earning about $11 per hour in a federal-state Medicaid program does not violate the state constitution or the federal civil rights of the aides (Wolfe, 3/26).

Kansas Health Institute News: KHIE Committee Changes Course On Funding Scheme 
The operations of Kansas Health Information Exchange Inc. probably should be funded by fees assessed on the networks it licenses instead of by charges levied against individual medical providers, KHIE officials have concluded. ... The networks, called Health Information Organizations or HIOs, weren't even on a list of potential funding sources discussed at the previous meeting (Cauthon, 3/26). 

California Healthline: Inland Empire Hospitals Grapple With Chronic Bed Shortage 
Health care reform is expected to shake up the established business model for hospitals in much of California, resulting in some closures, consolidations, layoffs and ultimately fewer hospital days for patients. But experts say some areas of the state, such as the Inland Empire, could be more insulated from economic pressures. ... One indication of how underserved the region is has to do with its ratio of hospital beds. With 1.9 beds per 1,000 residents, California lags well behind the national average of 2.7 beds per 1,000. The High Desert only has 1.1 beds per 1,000 (McSherry, 3/26). 

KQED's State of Health blog: Health Insurance Executive Is Longtime Backer of Universal Coverage 
Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, one of California's largest health insurance companies ... first proposed a system of universal coverage for Californians ten years ago. ... "[W]e proposed that all people in California have at least basic coverage. Those that can’t afford it would be subsidized and all groups and individuals would be mandated to be covered" (Aliferis, 3/26). 

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Guidelines Set for Community Health Workers To Participate In CCOs 
Community health workers who will work with coordinated care organizations (CCOs) will be expected to need 80 hours of training and education, but not be licensed, according to recommendations that a subcommittee of the Oregon Healthcare Workforce Committee expects to approve Wednesday. ... Once CCOs get under way in August, community health workers will engage with patients outside of a doctor's office, visiting them at home, connecting them to health and social services, and working closely with people who have chronic health conditions so they can remain out of the hospital and lead healthier lives (Waldroupe, 3/27). 

HealthyCal: Telemedicine Brings Pediatric Specialists To Rural California
UC Davis has a well-established telemedicine program, where specialists consult with doctors in remote or underserved locations. The numbers suggest that the need for specialists to test kids’ hearing is acute in the far north of California. Depending on the year, anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of children in that region who don’s pass the newborn screen don’t return for follow-up tests and treatment, according to Anne Simon, pediatric audiologist at UC Davis Medical Center (Gilligan, 3/26).

St. Louis Beacon: Waiting for Medicare: Uninsured 59-64 year Olds Hope Their Health Holds Up
Census data show that roughly 47,000 Missourians between the ages of 59 and 64, representing 12 percent of the state’s residents in that age group, were uninsured between 2008 and 2010. The Beacon interviewed some to find out how they are coping while they wait for Medicare. One is Leslie Caplan of Olivette. ... Caplan came to learn about the world of the uninsured following a divorce. She previously was insured through her husband’s job at a corporation (Joiner, 3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Rivals Battle For Patients In Pittsburgh
In Pittsburgh, the acrimonious battle between Highmark, the region's most powerful health insurer, and UPMC, the dominant health-care provider, is drawing national attention as a test case on the impact of consolidation in the health-care industry (Mathews and Miller, 3/27).

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