KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Budget Battles Continue In Statehouses

The Boston Globe: Unions Soften Tone On Health
Massachusetts labor leaders have given up their full-throated battle to protect certain collective bargaining rights amid an increasing likelihood that the Legislature will empower local governments to raise the health insurance costs of teachers, firefighters, and other municipal employees. Today, the Senate is to open debate on a state budget that includes a proposal, long sought by mayors and other local officials, to allow them to shift workers into less expensive health plans, even if unions oppose the changes. A month ago, before the House overwhelmingly approved a similar measure, labor leaders ran dramatic radio ads, held protests at the State House, and threatened to oust lawmakers. The standoff, they said, was a historic effort to ensure Massachusetts did not slide toward the tougher measures imposed in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere (Bierman, 5/25).

The Texas Tribune: Kolkhorst Keeps Heath Care Compact Bill Alive
Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, threw herself a life raft tonight, attaching her Health Care Compact bill - a measure that would seek to give Texas control of the purse strings for Medicare and Medicaid - onto a Senate health care bill up on third reading in the House. That measure, Republican Sen. Jane Nelson's Senate Bill 8, now heads back to the upper chamber, where Nelson has had no luck getting enough Democrats on board to bring up House Bill 5, Kolkhorst's Health Care Compact, in time for tonight's midnight deadline (Ramshaw, 5/26).

The Times-Picayune: Louisiana State Budget Progress Halted In House
[L]awmakers refused to go along with $81 million in health care cuts sought by Louisiana House leaders [Wednesday]. House leaders said the cuts were necessary to comply with a new rule -- approved earlier this week over objections from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration -- that restricts how much "one-time" money can be spent on recurring government expenses. But a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers -- from liberal Democrats to conservative stalwarts -- rejected two attempts to cut money for the Medicaid program, which the administration said would translate to cuts of up to 8 percent in payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that treat the poor and indigent (Moller, 5/25).

Seattle Times: Bipartisan State Budget Passes
The Senate approved more than $4 billion in recession-driven budget cuts - to higher education, social services, health care and other programs - a day after the same budget passed the House. … Several groups already are threatening to contest the Legislature's cuts. … The state hospital association also has threatened to sue over reductions to Medicaid reimbursement rates. And the union representing state home-care workers also said it may run an initiative seeking to restore cuts (Brunner and Garber, 5/25). 

Georgia Health News: State to Reduce Public Health Job Count
Barely a month before becoming an independent agency, the state Division of Public Health has been told it must shed 186 positions. Public Health has hundreds of unfilled positions as a result of budget cuts over recent years, so it's possible that all the jobs that will disappear are currently vacant. The Governor's Office of Planning and Budget ordered the cuts as part of the fiscal 2012 budget (Miller, 5/25).

The Lund Report: Tighter Audits Due for Oregon Health Plan
As lawmakers finalize a bill to make sweeping changes to the Oregon Health Plan, a battle is brewing behind the scenes with the managed care organizations that currently administer the Medicaid program's benefits. The vast majority of OHP enrollees, nearly 600,000 low-income Oregonians, are currently served by more than 40 managed care organizations throughout the state. ... State officials want to consolidate the number of plans (Rosenfeld, 5/25). 

Health News Florida: Which Hospital Is Highest In Infections?
Orlando Regional is disputing the results of a Medicare study that found an exceptionally high rate of life-threatening bloodstream infections -- a hospital-acquired illness that health officials say should never happen. The hospital's rate for the infection was 1.48 infections per 1,000 discharges, four times the national average. ... Medicare is making the information publicly available in the hope that public opinion will speed up hospitals' attempts to eradicate the infections (Davis, 5/25). 

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