KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Minnesota Lawmakers Debate Budget, Medicaid Expansion

The Associated Press/WCCO (Minneapolis): "More budget talks were expected Thursday as Minnesota's legislative session hurtled toward a midnight Sunday deadline with no deal on a $3 billion deficit. The Democratic-controlled Legislature defied another veto threat from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty late Wednesday and sent him a health and welfare package he opposes. Democrats hope to make a key provision - an expansion of Medicaid health care for poor adults - part of a deal. The health bill was pushed through with just enough time for Democrats to try to override a veto if Pawlenty takes the maximum three days to reject the bill. At least three House Republicans would have to join all the chamber's Democrats to overturn a veto - a prospect that appears unlikely. No House Republicans voted for it and five House Democrats voted against it" (Lohn, 5/13).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: "The House and Senate approved a final health and human services bill late Wednesday night. But rather than moving to the governor's desk, it appears headed for the negotiating table. The 178-page bill helps balance the budget, improves health care coverage for the poor, protects nursing homes from budget cuts, lays the groundwork for federal health care reforms and floods the state with more than $1 billion in new federal spending. DFLers quickly moved the bill toward final passage over Republican objections. ... The bill passed the House, 82-50. Shortly after, it passed the Senate, 47-18. But on its way to the floor votes, the bill became ensnared in late-session intrigue as top lawmakers hinted key portions were the topic of closed-door negotiations with the governor's office" (Hoppin, 5/13).

The Los Angeles Times: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to present a revised budget plan Friday that would dismantle some of California's landmark healthcare programs after efforts to scale them back have been reversed by federal courts. The rulings, issued mostly over the last two years, have already forced the state to unwind roughly $2.4 billion in cuts approved by the governor and Legislature and have alarmed other financially strapped states seeking ways to balance their budgets. … Administration officials declined to reveal which specific programs the governor would eliminate. But officials involved in the budget process, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said they would probably include home healthcare for the elderly and disabled, a nearly $2-billion program that serves 440,000 Californians" (Goldmacher and Halper, 5/12).

The Boston Globe: "Small businesses are crying foul over a proposal they say would shift more health insurance costs onto them for the treatment of developmentally disabled children, a move they say runs counter to pledges from Massachusetts lawmakers to help ease employers' staggering insurance bills. At issue is a measure in the Legislature that would require insurance companies to absorb the cost of copayments and deductibles for physical and speech therapy and other services provided through a state-run early intervention program for children up to 3 years old. Until now, the state has funded co-pays and deductibles for the program, but officials say it faces a $10 million shortfall and can no longer afford to do so" (Lazar, 5/13).

Austin American-Statesman: "An early casualty of impending state budget cuts could be the health care contract that serves most of Texas' 154,000 prison convicts. Top officials at the University of Texas System, whose Galveston medical branch provides the health services, are threatening to cancel the contract because legislative budget-writers will not fully cover a projected $82 million shortfall. The warning, issued to the top budget-writers in the Legislature, marked the latest crisis to surface over a projected $18 billion shortfall that Texas lawmakers could face when they return to Austin in January" (Ward, 5/13).

Kansas City Star: "Lawmakers sent to the governor Wednesday a bill requiring Missouri health insurers to cover therapies and treatments for autism. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has long supported the mandate and called its passage 'a dramatic and positive step forward.' If he signs the bill, it will go into effect Jan. 1. ... Passage of the autism insurance bill is the culmination of years of legislative efforts and lengthy discussions over the last four months. ... The bill requires state-regulated health insurers to cover autism spectrum disorders, a range of neurological conditions that affect communication and social interaction" (Noble, 5/12).

PBS News Hour reports on childhood obesity in Mississippi: "Kids in Mississippi are the most obese in the nation. So, in January, using federal and private money, 94 of the state's 1,055 schools got rid of the food fryers in their cafeterias, and replaced them with special combination steam ovens that don't use any kind of cooking oil. Out went the deep-fat fried chicken and pork chops. In came potatoes the look like french fires, but are now baked, instead of cooked in fat. … Obesity is not just a Mississippi problem. The CDC says 30 percent of all American children between 2 and 19 are too heavy or obese, triple the number of 30 years ago. And according to a new report published this month, the percentage of obese girls increased more than twice as much as it did for boys among middle and high school kids. And between 2003 and 2007, black and Hispanic kids were twice as likely as their white counterparts to be overweight and obese. But nowhere are the numbers more sobering than in Mississippi, where 44 percent of kids aged 10-17 are considered overweight or obese, compared to nearly 32 percent nationwide. That extra weight puts them at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, and other causes of premature death when they grow up" (Bowser, 5/12).

The Associated Press/Seattle Times: "The National Alliance on Mental Illness has joined the legal challenge to a new state law that allows some people who are found not guilty by reason of insanity to be moved from state hospitals to prisons. The new law was signed by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire on March 31, and immediately challenged in federal court in Spokane. The alliance contends that the purpose of prisons is to punish, not treat mental illness" (5/12). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.