KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Iowa Reconsiders Lawmakers’ Benefits

News outlets report on a variety of state health issues.

Des Moines Register: Bills Introduced To Rewrite Pension, Insurance Benefits For Iowa Lawmakers
Two bills introduced in the Iowa House last week would curtail benefits for lawmakers. ... House File 2118 also removes per diem and daily allowances from inclusion in lawmakers’ pension calculations, but also requires members and employees of the General Assembly to pay a portion of their health-insurance premiums. That premium payment would have to be at least $100 a month (Noble, 1/30).

Texas Tribune: Peter Carmel And Bruce Malone: The TT Interview
American Medical Association President Peter Carmel, a New Jersey-based pediatric neurosurgeon, and Texas Medical Association President Bruce Malone, an Austin orthopedic surgeon, sat down with The Texas Tribune to talk about the Medicare cuts that physicians face, Texas' decision to challenge federal health reform in court, and state lawmakers' efforts to curb abortions and slash funding to Planned Parenthood (Ramshaw and Tan, 1/31).

Health News Florida/The Florida Current: House Budget Spreads Cuts Across Agencies
The Florida House of Representatives on Friday released a $69.2 billion budget that frees up money for schools and avoids the deep cuts to hospitals proposed by Gov. Rick Scott. The full budget released Friday, along with related bills discussed this week in committees, would address funding shortfalls for state courts, school construction and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (Pillow, 1/27).

Reuters: Illinois Facing "Financial Disaster": Watchdog
Illinois could see its pile of overdue bills climb to an unprecedented $35 billion in five years if the state fails to rein in pension and other costs, a watchdog group said in a report released on Monday. ... The rise was pegged largely to an unsustainable increase in the state's costs for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor that is jointly funded by states and the federal government (Pierog, 1/30).

The CT Mirror: Aetna To Pay Docs To Coordinate Care
Aetna announced Monday that it will launch a patient-centered medical home program in Connecticut and New Jersey to reward primary care physicians who more actively coordinate and manage their patients' care. Doctors who meet certain requirements will be eligible to get a quarterly care coordination payment for each Aetna patient they treat, although Aetna Medicare patients are not included. The program is intended to be used across the country but is beginning in two states (Levin Becker, 1/30).

HealthyCal: California Counties Improve Stroke System
In large part, [one patient's] happy ending is due to the fact that he had his stroke in Santa Clara County – the first in California to coordinate their stroke identification and treatment efforts. Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in California and the third leading cause of death. ... In order to improve stroke survival and lessen brain damage, [the California Department of Public Health] is coordinating an effort to standardize stroke treatment in all 32 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions (Shanafelt, 1/30).

Houston Chronicle: Major Psychiatric Center In Houston To Close Tuesday
A major Houston psychiatric hospital reprimanded for posing "an immediate and serious threat to patient health" is closing Tuesday, further straining the area's already overburdened mental health care services. IntraCare Medical Center's closure comes about a month after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services terminated its contract because of the danger (Ackerman, 1/30).

The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: Hawaii Lawmakers Voting On Organ Transplant Center
State lawmakers are moving quickly to fund an organ transplant center in Hawaii. … Hawaii hasn't had a Medicare and Medicaid Services-certified organ transplant facility since Hawaii Medical Centers closed its two Oahu hospitals in December. That means that the 400 Hawaii patients on national kidney and liver transplant waiting lists have to get on waiting lists at mainland hospitals (1/30). 

Lund Report [an Oregon news service]: Douglas County Providers Form the State's First Coordinated Care Organization
A group of nine health care providers in Douglas County are forming the state's first coordinated care organization (CCO), calling it "the Community Health Alliance." ... The Community Health Alliance's announcement is well ahead of the curve in the state: many organizations are just beginning to meet to talk about forming a CCO. The Legislature, which begins meeting on Wednesday, will begin considering a business plan outlining how CCOs will be implemented (Waldroupe, 1/30).

Kansas Health Institute: 'Turf Battle' Continues Over Dental Practitioner Bill
Opposition from Kansas dentists to a bill that would allow a new type of oral health care provider in Kansas remains firm, despite a four-hour roundtable meeting called by a key legislator with hopes of brokering a compromise. "I don't like to see turf battles, and that's what this is," said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who heads the House Health and Human Services Committee (Ranney and Shields, 1/30).

The Associated Press/MSNBC (Video): Judge Sides With Police, Fire Retirees In Medicare Suit
A Rhode Island judge ruled Monday that Providence police and fire retirees may keep their existing health care coverage for now rather than be forced onto Medicare. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter ruled the city may not break a contract provision that promised them lifetime health coverage. Police and fire retirees argued the Blue Cross is in their contract and that Medicare would cost them at least $1,200 a year each (1/30).

Georgia Health News: State Responds On HIV Drug Waiting List
There are two pools of funding relative to HIV and AIDS in Georgia – one aimed at HIV prevention and another aimed at treatment. These federal funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the CDC cannot be commingled. The reality is, Georgia is receiving more funding this year, and not less, to address HIV prevention efforts. While the Department of Public Health has received a reduction of $3.7 million in federal prevention funding this fiscal year, the CDC has separately awarded Fulton and DeKalb counties $4.5 million for HIV prevention – representing an increase in total federal prevention funds allocated to the state of Georgia of $800,000 (Miller, 1/30).

Boston Globe: Harvard Pilgrim Cuts Health Premium Rate Increase
Ten days after state regulators approved Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s request for a premium increase of 3.8 percent for the period starting April 1, the Wellesley-based insurer said yesterday it has effectively slashed its rate increase in half. The new increase, OK'd by the state Division of Insurance, will be 1.9 percent for thousands of small businesses and individuals in the so-called small group market. About half of Harvard Pilgrim's customers in that market are up for renewal April 1 (Weisman, 1/31).

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