KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Watch: Nebraska Debates Health Reform, And Other States Grapple With Cancer, Marijuana And A Nurse Strike

Bloomberg Businessweek: An actuarial firm hired by the state of Nebraska concluded that "federal health care reform will increase the state's Medicaid costs by a total of $526 million to $766 million over the next decade, figures Gov. Dave Heineman called staggering and shocking. … A state senator who is chairman of the health committee for a national association of state legislatures criticized the report for not adequately accounting for Medicaid savings that could be prompted by federal reforms." He "acknowledged the state will see 'significant costs' from reforms, but that the federal government will cover most of the bill" (Jenkins, 8/18).

Omaha World-Herald: "Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson chastised … Heineman in a made-for-the-campaign-trail exchange Wednesday" over the report. "'This report doesn't make the case against health care reform,' [Nelson] said. 'It makes the case for it.' Nebraskans pay more for health care now to cover the cost of uncompensated care provided to the uninsured. Families also are forced into bankruptcy by medical bills, he said" (Stoddard, 8/18).

Kansas "officials are looking for ways to avoid having to cut an additional $41 million from the state's social services budget," the Kansas Health Institute News Service reports. "The potential for another round of spending cuts stems from legislators assembling and Gov. Mark Parkinson approving a budget that anticipated receiving approximately $131 million in additional federal Medicaid funding. Earlier this month, Congress agreed to put up an additional $87 million or $44 million less than Kansas lawmakers expected" (Ranney, 8/18).

In the meantime, a new New York law will "require New York hospitals and doctors to discuss the options for breast reconstruction with their patients before performing cancer surgery, to give them information about insurance coverage and to refer them to another hospital, if necessary, for the reconstructive surgery," The New York Times reports. A federal law from 1998 guarantees universal coverage for breast reconstruction after cancer surgery (Hartocollis, 8/18).

Los Angeles Times: In California, a "state appeals court Wednesday declined to decide whether California's medical marijuana laws prevent cities and counties from outlawing dispensaries, sending the closely watched dispute over Anaheim's 3-year-old ban back to the lower court for more hearings"  (Hoeffel, 8/19).

The Associated Press: Nurses "at two hospital systems in the northeast Minnesota city of Duluth have rejected new contracts and voted to authorize a one-day strike. … Staffing levels are a key sticking point. The disputes are similar to what prompted a one-day strike in the Twin Cities in June" (8/18).

The St. Petersburg Times: In the Florida city of Tarpon Springs, "commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow hiring decisions to be based on religious beliefs at Helen Ellis Hospital to clear the way for a merger that could save the financially strapped facility. Commissioners voted 5-0 on a request by Adventist Health System Sunbelt, which is associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to waive a clause in their lease agreement with the hospital that prohibited discrimination based on religion" (Lee, 8/18).

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