KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Maine Hospitals Fighting For Timely Medicaid Payments

News outlets report on a variety of health care issues in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.

Los Angeles Times: NYPD To Try GPS In 'Bait Bottles' To Track Drug Thieves
New York police plan to distribute "bait bottles" of fake pain-killers equipped with invisible GPS devices in a drive to combat the scourge of pharmacy robberies by addicts and sellers looking for oxycodone tablets, which can fetch more than $80 per pill on the street. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced the novel approach at the 2013 Clinton Health Matters Conference in La Quinta on Tuesday, saying his city's cases of oxycodone-related crime have included a retired police officer who resorted to robbing pharmacies to satisfy his craving for the highly addictive narcotic (Susman, 1/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Delays In Medicaid Pay Vex Hospitals
Hospitals in Maine, concerned that further deficit-reduction agreements in Washington could erode funding for Medicaid, are demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in back payments from the state for treatment of patients in the program. States across the nation have long been slow to reimburse hospitals for treating needy Americans in the Medicaid program, but hospitals usually haven't quibbled, knowing they would be paid eventually. But now, a coalition of 39 Maine hospitals is demanding $484 million in Medicaid payments owed for bills dating to 2009 (Levitz and Radnofsky, 1/15).

Georgia Health News: Bid To Avert Fee Battle Galvanizes Capitol
It was just the second day of the legislative session, but a state Capitol meeting room was packed with health care officials and lobbyists Tuesday. Besides those with seats, there were people standing against every available wall or massed at the door. Just as unusual as the early timing and the heavy attention was the venue of the meeting. The Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee is not the typical panel to hear a major health care bill. In fact, health care veterans said they couldn't recall any such bill ever being considered by the committee before. Senators on the panel met Tuesday to weigh legislation that would shift authority to levy the state's Medicaid hospital provider fee from the Legislature to the Department of Community Health (Miller, 1/15).

Oregonian: Bill To Reduce Medical Tort Claims In Oregon Gets Bipartisan Support
Gov. John Kitzhaber said Tuesday that a bill is in the works that could reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits in Oregon and fulfill a promise he made to get his Medicaid reforms through the Legislature last year. Under his proposal, which he said has gotten the needed sign-off from trial lawyers and doctors, patients who think they were wronged by a doctor would get a chance at mediation -- and a settlement -- without going to court. The governor said similar laws have worked in other states. The program would be voluntary, and suing for damages would remain an option. But experiments elsewhere show it can save time and money, Kitzhaber said (Esteve, 1/15).

MPR News: Two Minn. Health Giants Announce Collaboration
A new collaborative research initiative between two Minnesota health giants will work to improve patient care and lower costs. Announced Tuesday morning, the partnership between Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealth Group's Optum division is the largest health data-sharing effort of its kind in the country. The new alliance is called Optum Labs. Think of it as a massive database that combines Optum's claim records from more than 100 million patients over the last 20 years, with five-million of Mayo's clinical records from the last 15 years. Together, these records will help health care providers better understand health care delivery to create more efficient approaches to care, said Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy. He said this is particularly important for illnesses that require long-term care, like heart disease (Baier, 1/15).

MPR News: Gov's Office Wants MinnesotaCare Paid For With Federal Funding
The Dayton administration wants to use funds available under the federal health care law to help pay for MinnesotaCare. MinnesotaCare is a state-subsidized health plan that insures about 130,000 people under age 65. The program serves people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still have difficulty affording commercial insurance. The federal health care law gives states the option of enacting a similar program known as a Basic Health Plan, with the help of federal funding. Last week, Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson met with Cindy Mann, deputy director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, to ask if the state could use federal Basic Health Plan dollars to fund MinnesotaCare (Stawicki, 1/15).

MinnPost: Uncertain Fate Awaits Minnesota's Health Plan For Working Poor
The fate of a key state program that provides health coverage to low-income Minnesotans appears uncertain as the state begins serious efforts to implement the federal health care reform law. The program, called MinnesotaCare, provides subsidized insurance to about 130,000 of the state's working poor. Aspects of the current program make it incompatible with higher standards included in federal health care reform, which many states will race to enact before the 2014 deadline (Nord, 1/15).

Stateline: Colorado Preps For Recreational Marijuana
Driving east on Interstate 70 through Denver's warehouse district, the smell of the marijuana plants growing inside unmarked industrial buildings blasts through car air vents and overwhelms drivers who roll down their windows. The smell is a pungent reminder that the state of Colorado is now home to some of the world's laxest marijuana regulations. The state legalized medicinal marijuana use in 2000, but in November voters in Colorado went even further by approving a constitutional amendment that legalizes recreational marijuana for all users over 21 and aims to "regulate marijuana like alcohol" (Clark, 1/16).

Kansas Health Institute: Bill Filed To Legalize Medical Marijuana In Kansas
A bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state was introduced in the Kansas Senate and referred today to the Public Health and Welfare Committee. The "Cannabis Compassion and Care Act" would permit the use of marijuana to treat pain and nausea associated with a number of conditions including cancer, glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, or multiple sclerosis (1/15).

Health News Florida: 3 Companies Win Big In FL Medicaid
Three companies stand out as major winners in Florida's competition for contracts in the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program for Long-Term Care, a market worth an estimated $3 billion. They are American Eldercare, Sunshine State Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare of Florida (Gentry, 1/15).

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