KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Continue Budget Struggles; Oklahoma Nursing Homes Brace For Funding Cuts

The Associated Press/Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Three Minnesota Democratic legislators are proposing that the state spend $1 billion from the state's special health care fund in an effort to get $1 billion in federal money. "A spokesman for Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty says the plan won't work because the special fund is already scheduled to run a deficit" (4/14).

Tulsa World: "If the state budget is cut further, Oklahoma nursing homes will be in 'critical condition, if not life support,' said Bruce Yarwood, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association. ... Hit by what Yarwood calls a 'tsunami' of events, including new federal regulations, health care reform legislation and growing state Medicaid cutbacks, nursing homes are struggling to stay afloat" (Archer, 4/15).

The Des Moines Register: "In an escalating battle over the protection of older Iowans, state officials faced off Wednesday against one of the nation's largest assisted living companies. After being barred Monday from a Council Bluffs facility run by Assisted Living Concepts, a state health inspector and a representative from the Iowa Long-Term Care Ombudsman's office succeeded Wednesday in gaining entry to a Clarinda facility run by the same company. State officials have said they have 'grave concerns' that Assisted Living Concepts will soon care for 120 or more elderly and disabled Iowans without being subject to state inspections and regulations. The company confirmed Wednesday that it now plans to forfeit the assisted living licenses of four Iowa facilities" (Kauffman, 4/15).

The Columbus Dispatch: "Ohioans should be able to vote this November on a single ballot issue to exempt themselves from federal health-care mandates, a coalition of conservative groups argues in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday. The Ohio Liberty Council wants the state's top court to overturn a 4-0 decision by the Ohio Ballot Board that split its health-care opt-out proposal into two separate ballot measures. The council is proposing a constitutional amendment to exempt Ohio from key provisions of federal health reforms championed by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, such as requirements that all Americans purchase health insurance and employers participate in health plans. On Friday, the Ballot Board dealt a serious blow to the effort by concluding that proponents would need to gather more than 400,000 signatures on two separate petitions, with two distinct proposals to appear on the ballot if they meet the threshold. One of the proposals would address consumer choice, and the other would deal with oversight of the health-care industry" (Nash, 4/15).

The New Jersey Star Ledger: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his advisers would welcome a rush to retirement by state workers trying to beat [a] plan to require these workers to pay a portion of their benefit costs starting Aug. 1, according to a report on NorthJersey.com. The report said officials in the Christie administration are preparing legislation to require these payments and require a greater contribution to health care, according to Education Commissioner Bret Schundler" (4/15).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that it can't sell the state of Montana the cheaper medicine it gets from the pharmaceutical industry, rejecting a request made last week by Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Schweitzer wanted the VA to resell to Montana pharmacies the medicine that the federal agency gets at a discount directly from the drug makers. The governor, intent on making a point about the cost of medicine, plans to keep pushing the issue. But the VA said current federal law would prevents it from participating in the governor's request. The agency is restricted from redistributing the medicine to anyone other than veterans" (Gouras, 4/14).

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