KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Dozens Of States Pass, Debate Greater Restrictions On Abortion

USA Today: "Dozens of states are passing or debating new restrictions on abortion, a trend fueled in part by passage of the nation's new health care law. Both sides of the hot-button issue are seeing new approaches to reduce abortions. … So far, 2010 has been 'very successful,' said Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee. The most significant legislation, both sides say, is a Nebraska law signed by the governor this month that would ban most abortions at the 20th week of pregnancy based on a new rationale that the fetus feels pain. Legal challenges are likely. Previously, abortion bans were based on when a fetus could survive outside the womb, generally beginning around 22 weeks, according to medical studies. At least 22 states have bills to increase counseling or waiting periods; 18 states have bills to expand the use of ultrasound," according to Elizabeth Nash, a spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute, "a research group focused on reproductive health and rights" (Young, 4/26). 

Anchorage Daily News: Alaska "has committed to spending $5,000 on its share of the multi-state suit challenging the constitutionality of the mandate that people buy health care insurance or pay a fine. The 20-state consortium, led by Florida, aims to end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. But Alaska has vowed not to spend a penny more than $5,000 to be a part of the litigation, said Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan. Sullivan and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell re-emphasized their commitment to low-cost legal action after they were criticized by the only Democrat in Alaska's congressional delegation: Sen. Mark Begich. Begich suggested the suit would be pricey and called it of 'dubious merit'" (Bolstad, 4/25).

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: "City of Lakeland officials emptied out a conference room in one of its administrative buildings a couple years ago and installed medical examining tables and EKG machines. The meeting room became a four-room health clinic where city employees get basic medical services for free. Bringing medical services to its staff saved the city $1.1 million in health claims in just one year. Now, a growing list of local government agencies including Sarasota County, the city of Sarasota and the Manatee County School District are considering opening clinics as they struggle with health care costs that have risen at double-digit rates in recent years. Sarasota County, which insures about 5,000 workers, dependents and retirees, paid $29 million in medical expenses in 2009 and has budgeted about $31 million this year. … The district's health care fund is $6 million in the red" (O'Donnell, 4/25).

Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Chattanooga may be facing higher costs next year for more police officers, pension benefits and stormwater cleanup, but the city's fiscal health is getting some help from the health of its employees. The city's health insurance costs are projected to decline slightly next year, according to estimates by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. … City Personnel Director Donna Kelley credits the improvement to the city's Well Advantage program, which includes a city-operated pharmacy, fitness center and medical clinic along with employee incentives for improving health habits. … The city expects to spend just under $23.5 million on health care coverage for its 2,900 employees and retirees in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The city estimates it will spend a comparable amount in the current fiscal year after spending $24.7 million this year on employee health care coverage" (Flessner, 4/26).

The Los Angeles Times: "Nearly 5,600 people lined up outside the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Sunday, many camping out in the cold on the sidewalk overnight, to claim wristbands and a chance for free dental and medical treatment at a massive health clinic this week. … The seven-day clinic, which starts Tuesday, will include vision exams, mammograms and diabetes screening, among other services. A team of more than 300 volunteer doctors, dentists and other medical professionals each day will see patients from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. … Most of those seeking treatment came from throughout Los Angeles County, but some drove from neighboring counties. Many were unemployed, disabled or retired. But there were also workers of all ages, some with children, who said they could not afford health insurance. Some were illegal immigrants. Most of those with insurance, including government plans, said their coverage did not include dental or eye care" (Hennessy-Fiske, 4/25).

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