KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Maryland Program Treats Prisoners’ Medical Problems

News outlets report on a range of state health policy issues.

The Wall Street Journal: Pension Deals Elusive In Both N.J. And N.Y.
A sweeping deal to cut pensions and health-care benefits for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey public workers was teetering Wednesday, as rank-and-file Assembly Democrats refused to go along with an agreement struck between top legislative Democrats and Gov. Chris Christie (Fleisher and Gershman, 6/9).

MSNBC/Phillyburbs.com: Coalition Speaks Out Against Medicaid Cuts
New Jersey nursing homes stand to lose as much as $140 million in government funding as a result of Medicaid cuts proposed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, according to a coalition of health care providers and nursing home caregivers. The coalition, United for Quality Care, contends that the reductions could force nursing homes to close or make drastic cuts that would likely affect the care they provide to senior residents (Levinsky, 6/9). 

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Tries To Address Chronic Health Conditions In Prison
If Phillip Tharrington hadn't been caught attempting to rob a Rockville store in 2005, he might never have gotten treatment for an HIV infection he had ignored for years. The 47-year-old said he was persuaded to get care after being sent to the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. ... State data suggest there are now more healthy prisoners like Tharrington among the 26,000 incarcerated in Maryland facilities - and that's good public policy, officials say. More diseases are being controlled and fewer costly hospital trips are needed, making the system more efficient. … Even so, not everyone agrees that enough prisoners are getting sufficient care, despite a constitutional mandate. More troubling for cities such as Baltimore, the public health benefit may be fleeting, experts say (Cohn, 6/8).

Connecticut Mirror: Surgery Centers Hoping Larson Bill Increases Medicare Revenue
(Ambulatory surgical centers) leaders say their financial well-being is under threat, with hospitals eager to gobble them up. So this increasingly-powerful health care sector is pushing legislation that could tilt the balance between surgical centers and hospitals. ... Last week, Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, joined with a top House Republican, Pete Sessions of Texas, to introduce legislation designed to increase the amount that ASCs are reimbursed by Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly. The measure, pushed by the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, an advocacy group, would also give ASCs entrée into a key element of the federal health care reform law--a change that could potentially drive millions of new Medicare patients their way (Shesgreen, 6/8).

The Boston Globe: Merged Hospitals May Rival Partners
Merger talks between Lahey Clinic and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reflect a jockeying for position in the Massachusetts hospital industry that is picking up speed amid changes in how health care is delivered and paid for, analysts said yesterday. The discussions are in the early stages, and both sides have cautioned that it is too soon to predict their outcome. But an alliance of the two major academic medical centers would reshape the state's medical terrain and could present a formidable competitor to Partners HealthCare System Inc., the state's dominant hospital and physicians organization (Weisman, 6/9). 

The Texas Tribune: Second Life: Bill Becomes Health Care Christmas Tree
House leaders started with an omnibus health care bill - one designed to improve medical outcomes and cost efficiency while saving the state more than $400 million over the 2012-2013 biennium. By the end of Wednesday's debate, it included several more amendments, as lawmakers used the bill as their last-ditch effort to get health care measures that failed during the regular session passed in the special session (Ramshaw, 6/8).

Houston Chronicle: Medicaid May Be Privatized In South Texas. Projected Savings: $467M
Texas lawmakers passed major changes to Medicaid on Wednesday that would privatize the health program in South Texas and allow the formation of health care cooperatives. The 142-page measure is part of a special legislative session. The Legislative Budget Board says it could save the state $467 million, almost two-thirds of that from Medicaid savings (Tomlinson, 6/8). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Some Employers Reboot With 401(k)-Modeled Health Insurance Plans
Even though some of the major changes of the federal health care overhaul won't kick in for more than two years, the law is already spurring experimentation in the insurance market - including how employers provide insurance to their workers. ... Minnetonka-based Medica has developed what it calls My Plan. Medica's John Naylor said the product allows an employer to pay a fixed cost to insure each employee and allows the employee to choose among 20 different plans. ... "So the employee will actually see how much the employer is putting into their account and they will use those funds ... to decide which plan design option for them is the best for their personal situation" (Stawicki, 6/8). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Area Health Insurance Costs Remain Higher Than Midwest Average
The cost of health insurance in southeastern Wisconsin continues to outstrip the average across the Midwest, a newly released study shows. Premiums here averaged 8% more in 2009 than premiums throughout 11 states from Ohio west to Kansas and North Dakota. That's roughly the same gap an earlier edition of the same study found for 2007 (Romell, 6/8).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Hard Times Stalling Health Spending
Minnesotans have been holding back on paying for care during the recession, says a new state analysis of the financial situation. Health care spending in Minnesota grew at the slowest pace in more than a decade in 2009, as patients coping with the recession lost insurance or cut back on doctor visits, state health officials said Wednesday. Total outlays rose 3.8 percent to $36.4 billion -- about half the increase in previous years (Walsh and Wolfe, 6/8).

Kansas Health Institute: Kansas HIE Board Continues To Take Shape
The board that is writing the rules for how electronic health information exchanges will operate in Kansas is still working on details of how it will govern itself. Meanwhile, representatives of two exchanges already active in the state urged KHIE, Inc. board members Wednesday during the group's monthly meeting to get their guidelines and policies completed ASAP or risk holding up the adoption of health information technology by Kansas medical providers (Shields, 6/8). 

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