KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: N.J. Localities’ Coverage Costs; Pa. Cuts Raise Ire

A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota, California, Wisconsin and Oregon.

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Deval Patrick On Mass. Health Reform, Cancer And Cost-Cutting
[At a speech to the American Cancer Society, Gov. Deval Patrick] says that Massachusetts health reform has led to significant improvements in cancer screening. ... Patrick also calculates that current health care cost control efforts are enabling the state to "avoid nearly a billion dollars in cost increases in this fiscal year and another several hundred million more next year" (Goldberg, 2/28). 

The Wall Street Journal: Report: NJ Municipalities Overpay For Health Insurance
The New Jersey state comptroller said Tuesday that local and county governments are wasting more than $100 million a year by enrolling employees in private health-insurance plans — some of them politically connected — instead of the state health plan (Haddon, 2/28).

The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: Corbett's Welfare Cuts Draw Anger From Democrats
State Democratic senators angrily challenged Gov. Tom Corbett's top public welfare official Tuesday over the administration's moves to stop the growth of spending on a wide range of social safety-net programs despite rising demand and health care costs. Among the Corbett administration's proposals are eliminating cash payments to poor adults, cutting 20 percent from aid for county-run social service programs, raising fees or co-payments for people to use certain services and cutting reimbursements by 4 percent to hospitals and nursing homes that care for the poor (Levy, 2/28).

Minnesota Public Radio: State Facility For The Mentally Ill Risks Losing Over Turmoil
David Proffitt, the administrator of the state's largest facility for the mentally ill and dangerous, began his new job in August 2011 with a vow to improve patient care and reduce the use of restraints and seclusion. ... The use of restraints has more than doubled since Proffitt arrived. Employees describe a chaotic work environment made worse by confusing policies and a lack of adequate training (Baran, 2/28).

Minnesota Public Radio: Data: Violence, Restraints Common At Minnesota Security Hospital
Data provided by the Department of Human Services offer a glimpse into the tense and sometimes violent world of the Minnesota Security Hospital, a state-run facility that provides treatment to nearly 400 adults deemed mentally ill and dangerous by the judicial system (Baran, 2/28). 

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota House Committee Advances Bill Seeking Independent Audits Of Nonprofit HMOs
Just a few weeks after learning of a federal investigation of the state's Medicaid program, a state House committee on Tuesday passed a bill to require annual independent financial audits for nonprofit HMOs that manage the care for most of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries. In addition to audits, the bill introduced by Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, would require that health plans give the state detailed data about the health care services provided to beneficiaries. It also would prohibit the actuarial firm that advises the state in evaluating health plans from also providing services to the HMOs (Snowbeck, 2/28).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Nurses Take Staffing Fight To Legislature
The Minnesota Nurses Association, which made "safe staffing" its rallying cry during a one-day strike in 2010, is calling for legislation to set a limit on how many patients may be assigned to hospital nurses. At a press conference in St. Paul Tuesday, union leaders accused hospital officials of breaking promises made after the strike to work with nurses to address staffing questions. They also said they collected nearly 1,000 reports in the last half of 2011 from nurses who said patients were endangered by inadequate staffing levels (Lerner, 2/28).

California Healthline: Concerns Raised Over Adult Day Health Care Transition, Assessments
Corinne Jan doesn't quite know what to say to some of her patients at the Hong Fook Mental Health Center in Oakland. Many of them are frail, elderly, monolingual in Cambodian, Mandarin or Thai and have been receiving Adult Day Health Care services. ADHC will be eliminated on Mar. 31 as a Medi-Cal benefit and replaced with a new program, Community-Based Adult Services. ... the Department of Health Care Services has made a slew of mistakes in assessing eligibility for CBAS -- getting names wrong, having duplications on their lists and even sending contradictory notices to patients. (Gorn, 2/28). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Medical School In Wausau Not Feasible, Health System Decides
Aspirus, a health system based in north-central Wisconsin, has determined that partnering with other regional health systems to start a medical school in Wausau is not feasible. The health system and the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine announced in November that they were studying the possibility of starting a medical school that would focus on students interested in primary care. Aspirus, based in Wausau, had proposed owning the medical school - projected to cost $75 million - with other regional health systems (Boulton, 2/28).

Sacramento Bee: Steinberg Wants Immediate Action To Improve Sacramento County's Child Dental Program
The political back-and-forth over Sacramento County's failing Denti-Cal program is heating up. Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has called on the state's Medi-Cal chief to take immediate action to improve dental care for more than 110,000 Sacramento County children. In a letter to Toby Douglas, director of the Department of Health Care Services, Steinberg said Sacramento County kids can't wait for the department to draw up new contracts with dental plans before they get better care (Bazar, 2/29).

The Lund Report: Workgroup Recommends Oregon Health Plan Use Doulas
A workgroup charged with studying how doulas could be incorporated into the Oregon Health Plan told legislators earlier this week that doing so could help improve birth outcomes, particularly in minority communities. ... Doulas are birth coaches who provide emotional support to a mother during pregnancy, birth and immediately after giving birth (Waldroupe, 2/29). 

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