KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: In Poll, Many Mass. Voters Say State Health Law Not Working

Star Tribune: Health Coverage For $240 A Month
In a pioneering bid to streamline the state's big health insurance programs, the Legislature's new Republican majority is poised to give thousands of low-income Minnesotans vouchers to buy coverage in the private marketplace. Republicans say the voucher plan, contained in a huge budget bill under debate Wednesday in the House, would cap the state's liability, treat low-income people with respect by giving them responsibility for their own care, and unleash the power of competition to contain rising health care costs. The state's growing health care programs "can't be sustained," said Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, the architect of the insurance privatization plan. "We as a state and nation can no longer afford to make promises we can't keep with money we don't have" (Wolfe, 4/6).

The Associated Press/Minnesota Public Radio: Minn. House Approves Deep Cuts In Health Spending
The Minnesota House approved deep cuts to health and welfare programs early Thursday after a protracted debate that began a day earlier. ... The package is the final piece in budget frameworks assembled by both legislative chambers as majority Republicans attempt to erase a $5 billion deficit without state tax increases. ... The health bill would unravel a Medicaid expansion Dayton ordered this year for 100,000 vulnerable adults, eliminate MinnesotaCare health coverage for 7,200 adults and give other MinnesotaCare enrollees subsidies to buy private insurance (Condon and Lohn, 4/7).

The Boston Globe: Poll Finds Mass. Voters Say Health Law Not Working
Nearly half of Massachusetts voters are saying the state's landmark health care law isn't working. That's according to a new poll by Suffolk University and WHDH-TV which found 49 percent of respondents said they didn't feel the 2006 law was helping. Thirty-eight percent said it was working. Thirteen percent were undecided (4/6). 

Kansas Health Institute News: Study Raises Doubt About Savings From Medicaid Managed Care
This summer or fall, a study group led by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is expected to roll out a plan for cutting between $200 million to $400 million from the Kansas Medicaid budget. The plan ... is likely to call for moving more of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries - disabled adults and the frail elderly, especially - into managed care programs. ... But an analysis of the Florida pilot programs released Tuesday by the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University raised serious doubts about the project's success. According to the report's authors (Ranney, 4/6).

The Sacramento Bee: Study Urges California To Prepare For Health Law Costs, Challenges
California will spend $2 billion more per year on Medi-Cal when federal health care reform goes into full effect in 2016 and $4 billion more annually by 2020, according to a Rand Corp. study released this week. The law will add coverage for about 6 million Californians, raising the percentage of those covered to 96 percent from today's 80 percent. But the study's authors and sponsors say California and other states need to prepare for the costs and challenges that lie ahead in expanding coverage to more residents (Darrell Smith, 4/7).

NPR: At California Mental Hospitals, Fear Is Part Of The Job
The tipping point for major change is often tragedy. That may be the case in California at the state psychiatric hospital in Napa, where an employee was killed last October, allegedly by a patient - one of thousands of violent acts committed at the hospital that year (Jaffe, 4/7). First in a two part series.

The New York Times: Virginia Lawmakers Limit Insurers' Abortion Coverage
Lawmakers in Virginia approved an amendment Wednesday that would ban private insurance plans from covering abortions if they participate in a state health care exchange under President Obama's new health care law (Tavernise, 4/7).

The Washington Post: Virginia Assembly Pushes Back Against McDonnell's Proposed Budget Changes
A divided Virginia General Assembly pushed back Wednesday against Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's proposed changes to the state budget and other bills - overriding his veto of an effort to raise awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and rejecting his attempt to weaken measures that would require businesses to provide insurance for autistic children and mandate that leak-plagued oil tanks in Fairfax be brought up to code (Kumar and Helderman, 4/6).

Health News Florida: State Workers Get Break On Coverage
Still grappling with health-insurance costs, the Florida Senate on Wednesday decided rank-and-file employees should escape a large increase in premiums next year. But they could see their benefits trimmed. The insurance decision came after Senate leaders proposed changes last week that could have forced tens of thousands of employees to swallow premium increases of $1,100 a year or more for family coverage. Senators scaled that back dramatically Wednesday, approving a budget amendment that includes a $20-a-month premium increase for family coverage and no increase for individuals (Saunders, 4/7).

The Miami Herald: Disabled Advocates Protest Rick Scott's Big Cuts
On Wednesday, scores of parents of developmentally disabled children protested deep cuts that Gov. Rick Scott ordered last week to close a $174 million deficit a the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. … Nor were there answers for the owners of group homes, some of which could close soon.?? Nurses and support coordinators, who help the developmentally disabled live on their own, didn't get the answers they were looking for, either (Mark Caputo, 4/6).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker Signs Budget-Repair Measure Into Law
The state will push off making payments on its debt to cover rising costs for prisons and health care for the poor, under budget-repair legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker Wednesday. ...The bill passed both houses of the Legislature Tuesday with all Republicans and a handful of Democrats voting in favor of it. The budget-repair measure is the second that Walker had sent to lawmakers to help resolve a shortfall in the current fiscal year ending on June 30. ...The state shortfall as estimated by the Walker administration grew to $161 million in recent weeks as the projected costs rose for state health care programs for the needy (Stein, 4/6).

KQED: GOP's Medicaid Proposal Would Affect Medi-Cal
House Republicans unveiled their budget proposal for 2012 on Tuesday. It includes hefty cuts and major structural changes to Medicaid. About one in five Californians relies on Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid, to pay for health care - and state officials say the impact would go even further (Felde, 4/6).

The Texas Tribune: Will Hospitals Be Taxed to Prop Up Medicaid?
Talk has resumed in the Senate - albeit quietly - about a so-called quality assurance fee, a revenue generator that would effectively tax hospitals to prop up the state's cash-strapped Medicaid program. ... But state leaders suggest Texas hospitals would largely have to be on board in order to get them to seriously consider this source of new revenue (Ramshaw, 4/6).

The Texas Tribune: To Some House Republicans, Family Planning = Abortion
Is "family planning" a euphemism for abortion? Many House Republicans seem to think so. In amendment after amendment during last weekend's budget battle, they raided the Women's Health Program - which funds reproductive health issues, but not abortions, for Texas' poorest women - to divert money to other budget-whacked services, from autism to children's mental health. ... Their amendments put the pinch on moderate conservatives, who were forced to cast what they characterized as anti-abortion votes instead of preserving funding for a program with a large federal match and proven cost-savings (Ramshaw, 4/7).

Columbus Dispatch: Senate OKs Abortion Ban After 20 Weeks
Ohio took another step toward outlawing late-term abortions with yesterday's Senate approval of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy if a doctor determines that the fetus could live outside the womb. The 24-8 vote was the latest in a series of actions this year on abortion-related bills in the Republican-controlled legislature (Siegel, 4/7). 

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