KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Ga. Governor Gets Insurance ‘Navigators’ Bill

A selection of health policy news from Georgia, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, West Virginia and California.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Bill To License New Health Care Workers Clears Final Hurdle
A bill that would require a new group of health care workers called health insurance navigators to be licensed and regulated cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday. The House of Representatives passed House Bill 198 after the Senate approved a version that would require navigators to be knowledgeable about the state's health programs for low-income Georgians: Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids. The legislation passed 136-24. It will now go to the governor's desk for his signature. The federal Affordable Care Act calls for health insurance navigators to help uninsured people and businesses use the new federally run online health insurance marketplaces starting this fall. The bill would require navigators to have at least 35 hours of training, be licensed and take continuing education classes (Williams, 3/14).

The New York Times: Focusing On Violence Before It Happens
In the national debate that has followed the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, much of the focus has been on regulating firearms. But many law enforcement and mental health experts believe that developing comprehensive approaches to prevention is equally important. In many cases, they note, the perpetrators of such violence are troubled young people who have signaled their distress to others and who might have been stopped had they received appropriate help (Goode, 3/14).

MPR News: Dayton: Higher Tobacco Tax Is About Health, Not Revenue
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says the income tax increase on top earners in his revised budget plan is all about fairness. But his proposal to raise the current tobacco tax of $1.23 per pack by an additional 94 cents will disproportionately hit Minnesotans of modest means, Dayton acknowledges. ... The increase is not about money, but instead about decreasing tobacco use, especially among young people, said Dr. Edward Ehlinger, state health commissioner. "Other than totally banning tobacco as a product in the United States, the most effective way of decreasing use is by raising the price," Ehlinger said (Zdechlik, 3/15).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Finding A Partner For Children's Health In Centralized Care
For the last year, Anna (Barkhuizen) has participated in a pilot program at the Seton Children's Comprehensive Care clinic at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin. The three-year program, now in its second year, coordinates care for medically needy children, providing access to pediatric physicians, medical specialists and behavioral health care, while offering family support services. The program's founders hope comparative data collected from the pilot program and routine outpatient care will show that centralized coordination improves the quality of care while cutting costs (Aaronson, 3/14).

The Associated Press: Study: Michigan Cities Have $12.7B In Retiree Health Costs
Michigan cities and townships that provide health care for retired public workers face nearly $13 billion in unfunded costs, according to a report released Thursday, with half setting aside no money to cope with a bill gobbling up more of their budgets. The sobering study, released the same day an emergency financial manager was assigned to Detroit, shows the city is not alone in grappling with how to pay promised health benefits to retirees. More than 300 cities, townships and villages -- home to two-thirds of state residents -- face a combined $12.7 billion in unfunded liabilities in the next 30 years (Eggert, 3/15).

The Associated Press: Bill To Reduce Medicaid Costs Cut Up In Committee
A West Virginia bill intended to streamline the way Medicaid patients get to the doctor's office would be more difficult to manage and less effective after amendments made by a state Senate committee Thursday. The state reimburses Medicaid members for costs related to getting to the hospital for non-emergency services, whether they drive themselves, get a ride from a senior center, take a bus or take an ambulance. State rules dictate that the least expensive option must be used. ... The bill proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin would create a broker that would guide Medicaid patients toward the most convenient and least expensive option. But the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee voted unanimously to exempt ambulances, public transit and senior centers from being managed by the broker system (Gutman, 3/14).

California Healthline: Financial Concerns For Ambulance Services
Health care providers in California are waiting for judicial rulings to see if they will be hit by a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates as a result of a law passed in 2011 and currently tied up in federal appeals court. Ambulance service providers are among those who would be hit by the cut but they say they shouldn't be included for one large and simple reason: Unlike physicians, ambulance providers are required by law to transport Medi-Cal beneficiaries. They're not allowed to refuse them (Gorn, 3/14).

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