Latest Morning Briefing Stories
KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: A Health-Heavy State of the Union
President Joe Biden spent a large portion of his first State of the Union address talking about foreign affairs, but he also spent time on an array of health topics, including mental health, nursing home regulation, and toxic burn pits. Also this week, the administration unveiled a strategy to address the covid pandemic going forward. Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post, and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too.
Biden Pledges Better Nursing Home Care, but He Likely Won’t Fast-Track It
CMS chief Chiquita Brooks-LaSure says the agency reserves its power to quickly institute new regulations for “absolute emergencies.” On staffing, nursing home residents might need to wait years to see any real change.
Desperate for Cash: Programs for People With Disabilities Still Not Seeing Federal Funds
Almost a year after the American Rescue Plan Act allocated what could amount to $25 billion to home and community-based services run by Medicaid, many states have yet to access much of the money due to delays and red tape.
Biden’s Promise of Better Nursing Home Care Will Require Many More Workers
The president wants to set minimum staffing levels for the beleaguered nursing home industry. But, given a lack of transparency surrounding the industry’s finances, it’s a mystery how facilities will shoulder the added costs.
From Alabama to Utah, Efforts to Vaccinate Medicaid Enrollees Against Covid Run Into Obstacles
Inoculation rates remain low despite massive outreach efforts and incentives from federal and state programs and Medicaid plan operators, leaving many low-income people vulnerable to the virus.
Journalists Discuss the Cost of Service Dogs and Medicaid Coverage for People With HIV
KHN and California Healthline staff made the rounds on national and local media this week to discuss their stories. Here’s a collection of their appearances.
Changes to Medi-Cal’s Troubled Drug Program Reduce Backlog in California, but Problems Persist
After a troubled start to the new Medi-Cal prescription drug program, the state’s contractor has hired staffers to reduce wait times for medication approvals and patients seeking help. But some doctors and clinics report that patients continue to face delays.
KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Contemplating a Post-‘Roe’ World
In anticipation of the Supreme Court rolling back abortion rights this year, both Democrats and Republicans are arguing among themselves over how best to proceed to either protect or restrict the procedure. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are at risk of losing their health insurance when the federal government declares an end to the current “public health emergency.” Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Shefali Luthra of The 19th, and Rachana Pradhan of KHN join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Jay Hancock, who wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” episode about a couple whose insurance company deemed their twins’ stay in intensive care not an emergency.
‘Injections, Injections, Injections’: Troubling Questions Follow Closure of Sprawling Pain Clinic Chain
In May 2021, Lags Medical Centers, one of California’s largest chains of pain clinics, abruptly closed its doors amid a cloaked state investigation. Nine months later, patients are still in the dark about what happened with their care and to their bodies.
Missouri Takes Months to Process Medicaid Applications — Longer Than Law Allows
Missouri has more people waiting to have their Medicaid applications processed than it has approved since the expansion of the federal-state health insurance program. Although most states process Medicaid applications within a week, Missouri is taking, on average, more than two months. Patient advocates fear that means people will stay uninsured longer, leading them to postpone care or get stuck with high medical bills.
Why Millions on Medicaid Are at Risk of Losing Coverage in the Months Ahead
State Medicaid agencies for months have been preparing for the end of a federal mandate that has prevented states from removing people from the safety-net program during the pandemic.
Skirmish Between Biden and Red States Over Medicaid Leaves Enrollees in the Balance
The Biden administration is getting rid of several policies implemented by Trump-era appointees that restricted enrollment. Federal officials now say states can no longer charge premiums to low-income residents enrolled in Medicaid and have ruled out work requirements.
‘Somebody Is Gonna Die’: Medi-Cal Patients Struggle to Fill Prescriptions
Problems with California’s new Medicaid prescription drug program are preventing thousands of patients from getting their medications, including some life-saving ones. State officials say they’re working on fixes.
California Inks Sweetheart Deal With Kaiser Permanente, Jeopardizing Medicaid Reforms
The backroom deal with politically connected Kaiser Permanente, which infuriated other Medi-Cal health plans, allows the health care giant to continue selecting the enrollees it wants.
Faxes and Snail Mail: Will Pandemic-Era Flaws Unleash Improved Health Technology?
The covid-19 pandemic exposed how state and local governments’ severely outdated technology can hinder unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, vaccine registrations, and the flow of other critical information. Now, with hefty federal pandemic relief and unexpected tax windfalls, states may finally have the chance to revamp their information technology for health care and social services. But can they?
Justices Block Broad Worker Vaccine Requirement, Allow Health Worker Mandate to Proceed
The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a federal rule requiring larger businesses to mandate employees be vaccinated or wear masks and undergo weekly testing. At the same time, however, it allowed a federal order that health care workers be vaccinated.
Left Behind: Medicaid Patients Say Rides to Doctors Don’t Always Come
States are required to set up transportation to medical appointments for adults, children and people with disabilities enrolled in the Medicaid program, and contracts can be worth tens of millions of dollars for transportation companies. But patients say the companies that deliver those rides are showing up late — and sometimes not at all — leaving them in bad weather, disrupting their care and even causing injuries.
Clinics Say State’s New Medicaid Drug Program Will Force Them to Cut Services
On Jan. 1, California started buying prescription drugs for its nearly 14 million Medicaid enrollees, a responsibility that had primarily been held by managed-care insurance plans. State officials estimate California will save hundreds of millions of dollars by flexing its purchasing power, but some health clinics expect to lose money.
South Dakota Voters to Decide Medicaid Expansion
Despite state Republican leaders’ rigid opposition to expanding the health program designed for low-income residents, advocates successfully gathered enough signatures to get the measure on the fall ballot.
Nursing Homes Bleed Staff as Amazon Lures Low-Wage Workers With Prime Packages
Add nursing homes to the list of industries jolted by Amazon’s handsome hourly wages. Enticed by an average starting pay rate of $18 an hour and the potential for benefits and signing bonuses, low-wage workers are fleeing entry-level elder care for jobs packing boxes.