KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Conn. Bill Would Require Kids Behavioral Health Assessments

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Connecticut, Oregon, Idaho, Georgia, Texas and California.

The New York Times: Legal Battle Over Limits On Sugary Drinks May Outlast Mayor's Tenure
But if the case over the soda wars was shaping up as a landmark of the Bloomberg administration, the timing of the legal battle suggested that a definitive ruling was not likely to come before Mr. Bloomberg leaves office on Dec. 31 (Glaberson, 3/12).

Medpage Today: NYC To Appeal Soda Ban Ruling, Miss. Forbids Such Bans
New York City will appeal a judge's ruling against its ban on extra-large sugary drinks, the mayor's office announced Monday; meanwhile, legislators in Mississippi are making sure towns in their state don't follow NYC's lead. "We plan to appeal the sugary drinks decision as soon as possible, and we are confident the measure will ultimately be upheld," Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office tweeted Monday night, a few hours after the decision by state Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling. In Mississippi lawmakers passed what's being referred to as an "anti-Bloomberg bill" that would prevent municipalities there from regulating nutrition (Struck, 3/12).

CT Mirror: Bill Would Screen School Kids For Behavioral Health Problems
A bill requiring all public school and homeschooled children in Connecticut to have behavioral health assessments in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 is drawing criticism from parents and homeschool advocates who say it would stigmatize children and intrude on parents' rights. The bill was crafted in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting with the hope of identifying mental health problems in youths in a timely way. The bill is intended to make sure that pediatricians are screening for behavioral health problems routinely during annual physical exams, said Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, who proposed the bill with Rep. Toni E. Walker, D-New Haven (Merritt, 3/12).

Oregonian: Medical Malpractice Mediation Bill Passes Oregon House
A bill offering mediation for medical errors passed the Oregon House Tuesday, its final hurdle before reaching the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber. Senate Bill 483 is the result of a work group Kitzhaber convened in order to address concerns about medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill easily passed the Senate in a 26-3 vote March 5. The margin in the house was even greater, passing 55-1. Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, cast the lone no vote. Kitzhaber is expected to sign the bill into law soon (Gaston, 3/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Merger in Idaho Challenged
The Federal Trade Commission and Idaho's attorney general have challenged the acquisition of a physician group by a Boise, Idaho-based hospital system, in the latest sign of antitrust regulators' close focus on health-care mergers. The antitrust complaint, filed Tuesday under seal in U.S. District Court in Boise, says that the merger between St. Luke's Health System and Saltzer Medical Group gave the combined entity an approximately 60 percent share of the primary-care physicians in Nampa, Idaho, the state's second-largest city (Mathews, 3/12).

Georgia Health News: Health Agencies Await Sequestration
The state Department of Public Health said Tuesday that it expects funding reductions from sequestration, but added that it’s unclear so far how much money or what programs will be cut. And the timeline for decisions on federal reductions is also unknown, said Kate Pfirman, chief financial officer of Public Health, at an agency board meeting Tuesday. Sequestration, or the “sequester,’’ is a series of automatic cuts to government agencies, resulting from the federal debt ceiling compromise of 2011. Areas expected to see large cuts in federal health spending include maternal and children’s health, mental health, and community health centers, according to a Stateline article (Miller, 3/12).

The Lund Report: Legislature May Narrow Rural Tax Credit for Doctors
Legislators heard two bills on Monday that would make it easier for doctors and other health care providers to practice in rural Oregon. The House Health Committee quickly approved House Bill 2858, renewing and strengthening the Oregon Primary Health Care Loan Forgiveness Program, while down the hall, the Senate Health Committee delayed a vote on Senate Bill 325 that would extend a tax credit for rural health practitioners. "I want to consider this tax credit, I just want to be smart about it," said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward, a family physician at Oregon Health & Science University (Gray, 3/13).

The Texas Tribune: Bill Excludes Elective Abortions In State Health Care
State Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, told a committee of his colleagues on Tuesday that Texans should not be forced to pay for abortion coverage they don't want and won't use, and he urged the House Insurance Committee to approve House Bill 997. … Anti-abortion and pro-choice advocates lined up to debate Smithee's bill, which the committee left pending (Schneiders, 3/12).

California Healthline: CBAS Hearings Nearing An End
Of the roughly 2,600 appeal hearings filed over eligibility for the Community Based Adult Services program, only 47 are still to be heard, according to Michael Weston, deputy director of public affairs for the Department of Social Services. Administrative law judges from the Department of Social Services heard the appeal hearings and then forwarded their opinions to Toby Douglas, director of the Department of Health Care Services, the agency that issued the denials of eligibility. Douglas reviewed each case and made the final ruling on CBAS eligibility. According to Douglas, about 49 percent of the appellants were granted eligibility as a result of the appeal (Gorn, 3/12).

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