KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Minn. Democrats Push Pay Hike For Nursing Home Workers

A selection of health policy stories from Minnesota, Colorado, New York, Delaware, Georgia, Oregon, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Massachusetts and California.

The Associated Press: Minnesota House Health Bill Has Care Worker Pay Hike
Minnesota House Democrats proposed a health programs spending bill Tuesday that includes new money for mental health treatment and small salary hikes for nursing home and long-term care workers, but helps pay for it with an increase in the state surcharge on hospitals that even the bill sponsor said was likely to be "very controversial." The health and human services (HHS) finance bill amounts to the DFL-controlled House's opening offer on how to divide public dollars in one of state government's largest spending areas (Condon, 4/9).

MPR News: DFL Spending Cuts Target Hospitals, HMOs
Minnesota House Democrats are proposing a health and human services budget that spares drastic cuts to poor people, the elderly and people with disabilities. But the plan would raise about $152 million from the state's hospitals and HMOs. It would also increase funding for the state's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Three weeks ago, DFL legislative leaders announced their intention to cut $150 million from the health and human services budget, but didn't explain how they would do it until now (Scheck, 4/9).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): 'Risks' Loom For Health Exchange Technology
As Colorado’s health exchange managers sprint toward an October 1 launch, a top manager warned board members on Monday that a recent decision to build a new "eligibility" IT system poses the greatest risk of delay and could undermine the quality of the online health marketplace. … No. 1 on that list of risks is the new decision to divide one planned IT system into two. ... State Medicaid managers are building their own separate system to determine if exchange customers are eligible for Medicaid. Previously, Medicaid and the health exchange were planning to operate one "shared eligibility service," the report said (Kerwin McCrimmon, 4/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Care Ails In Rockaways
After superstorm Sandy disrupted many of the Rockaway Peninsula's health care facilities, volunteer doctors and nurses filtered into the devastated area, knocking on doors to see if residents needed help and serving hundreds of them from mobile medical units (Dawsey, 4/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Del. Officials Reduce Hours At Public Health Clinic, Cite Low Patient Numbers, Consolidation
Delaware public health officials say services at a Middletown clinic are being reduced because of low patient number and a need to consolidate services. Officials say the Division of Public Health alerted patients last week of a reduction in service hours at the Middletown Health Unit, Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinic, effective last Friday (4/10).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado's Pitch For New Business: Healthy, Lean Workers Cost Less
The cost of doing business may be lower in areas where there's a 'culture of health.' And that's put Colorado, which has the lowest rates of obesity in the nation, on the map for companies looking to relocate or expand. Kelly Brough is proud of this. She runs the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and she's creative about luring businesses to relocate in Colorado. For instance, she runs a 'Colorado loves California' campaign (Whitney, 4/10).

Georgia Health News: Website Data For Some Ga. Hospitals Are Flat Wrong
One thousand, one hundred and fifteen minutes. That’s 18.5 hours. It’s not much time in the grand scheme of things. But it's a very long time for a person who arrives in an ER to have to wait before being sent home. The 1,115-minute figure is reported on a public federal website as the average time an emergency room patient waits at Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville before being sent home. The national average is just 140 minutes (Miller, 4/9).

The Lund Report: Bill Would Ban Pop And Junk Food In Public Vending Machines
 If you want to buy a Coke or a Snickers bar from a state Capitol vending machine, you’d better get yours while you can. If House Bill 3403 becomes law, those and other products like fatty potato chips or whole milk would be off-limits at any vending machine in Oregon public buildings. … House Bill 3403 requires that all food and drinks sold in public vending machines meet strict specifications. Snacks may not be more than 200 calories and may contain no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat or sugar (Gray, 4/9). 

CT Mirror: For Better Mental Health Coverage, Help With The Paperwork
Talk to people involved the mental health system and it won't be long before you hear complaints about the difficulty of getting private insurance to pay for mental health services. Some advocates say the answer is to better enforce state and federal laws requiring equal coverage for mental health and medical services. Some clinicians and lawmakers want the state to take over insurance coverage for mental health care, billing insurance carriers for the cost (Becker, 4/9).

Philadelphia Inquirer: IBC To Sell Percentage Of Insurance Subsidiary To Cooper
Independence Blue Cross has agreed to sell a 20 percent stake in its New Jersey health insurance subsidiary, AmeriHealth New Jersey, to Cooper University Health Care, of Camden, the organizations plan to announce Wednesday. The deal, which requires regulatory approval, is part of a trend toward increased integration of hospitals and insurers in preparation for a shift to a system that pays providers lump sums for all care needed by an individual rather than for each discrete visit and treatment (Brubaker, 4/10).

Arizona Republic: Human Side Of Arizona Debate Over Medicaid
John Froneberger has been without medication to treat his depression and high blood pressure since last fall, when a cost-of-living increase in his disability benefit, to $970 a month, put him just above the poverty level and cost him his health insurance. Froneberger’s monthly disability check helps pay for rent and food, but, as with hundreds of other Arizonans, it disqualifies him from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program (Reinhart, 4/9). 

Boston Globe: Quincy Medical Center, Nurses Far Apart As Strike Nears
Quincy Medical Center nurses sat in a sea of blue in the basement of a Quincy church Tuesday morning, as they aired their grievances in a dispute that centers on staffing levels. The public event came a day after unsuccessful negotiations between the Massachusetts Nurses Association and hospital officials to call off a one-day nurses strike that is scheduled for Thursday (Bartlett, 4/10).

California Healthline: Physician Assistant Bill Clears First Hurdle
The Senate Committee on Business and Professions approved SB 352 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), a bill designed to allow physician assistants and other providers to oversee work by medical assistants. … Pavley made it a point to say the bill doesn't change what medical assistants are allowed to do, or even what physician assistants or nurse practitioners are allowed to do (Gorn, 4/9).

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