KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State News: Florida Considering Major Cuts To Mental Health Programs; Texas Patient Groups Fight Back On Medicaid Plans; Calif. Weighs Limiting Medicaid Patients’ Trips To Doctors

Health News Florida: Budget-Cutters Target Mental Health Programs
In the committee rooms and corridors of the state Capitol, lobbyists are looking for clues about which programs will get slashed. On Wednesday, mental-health and substance-abuse programs got more than a clue. In fact, it looked like a bulls-eye (Saunders, 1/27).

The Texas Tribune: Health Group Says Cuts More Like 33 Percent
Lawmakers have proposed cutting Medicaid provider rates 10 percent to help meet the state's budget crisis. But health care groups suggest the cuts are far deeper. In a press conference today, the Texas Health Care Association, which advocates for nursing homes, said the House and Senate's recommended budgets for Medicaid services actually represent a 33 percent cut from current service levels (Aaronson, 1/27). 

California Healthline: Budget Subcommittee Gets An Earful
A range of major budget cuts were presented at the hearing, including a big one: a 10-visit hard cap on Medi-Cal physician visits. If enacted, California would be the first state in the nation to place hard limits on the number of times Medicaid patients can see a doctor (Gorn, 1/27).

The Sacramento Bee: Home Health Care Cuts Face Legal Questions
Many of them voted for Jerry Brown last year, but California disabled activists are willing to fight the new Democratic governor in court if some of his proposed budget cuts are enacted. Activists sued former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, blocking hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts and permanent eligibility changes to programs for the disabled. Some suits are still pending in federal courts, and Brown hasn't dropped them (Ferriss, 1/28).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Hospital Group Wants To Assess $300 Million Bed Tax
Arizona hospitals want to assess a $300 million bed tax on themselves rather than lose out on Medicaid payments that would be eliminated by proposed state budget cuts. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association's proposal calls for a one-year assessment on hospitals that is based on the number of days patients spend in hospitals (Alltucker, 1/28).

The Dallas Morning News: State Budget Cuts May Mean Hundreds Of Nursing Homes Close, Industry Warns
Hundreds of nursing homes, including dozens in Dallas-Fort Worth, may close if lawmakers cut Medicaid as leaders propose, industry officials said Thursday. Since last week, GOP leaders have introduced budgets in both chambers that would reduce by one-third the state's budget for its 56,000 nursing home residents on Medicaid. Two-year spending would sink to $2.8 billion, from $4.2 billion (Garrett, 1/27).

The Des Moines Register: Branstad Budget Proposal Impacts
The state's biggest financial challenge is how to cover the always-rising costs of Medicaid, the state and federal health insurance program for the poor. The federal government helped shore up states' Medicaid programs in recent years with extra money, much of it from the economic stimulus package. That money is scheduled to disappear next fiscal year, and the governor said the state also will not be able to continue tapping state reserve funds for the program. The Legislative Services Agency says the budget would add $528 million in general fund money to Medicaid in the next fiscal year (1/28).

The Kansas City Star: Kansas Begins Lining Up Ideas To Implement Federal Health Care Act
Kansas is quietly taking steps to prepare for the new federal health care act, even as some of its elected leaders vow to fight to keep the controversial law from going into effect. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger met with dozens of insurance executives, agents and community leaders Thursday to discuss plans to create insurance exchanges - a cornerstone of the health care bill passed by Congress last year. Yet other leaders, such as Gov. Sam Brownback, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and many legislators, hope the law is repealed or struck down in court. Last week, Kansas formally joined 25 other states that are suing Washington to block the law (Klepper, 1/27).

Kansas Health Institute News: "Kick-Off" For A Kansas Health Insurance Exchange
Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger spoke to a gathering of about 125 people today, the kick-off event for developing a plan for a Kansas health insurance exchange, which needs to be operational by Jan. 1, 2014 to meet the demands of federal health reform (Shields, 1/27).

The Detroit Free Press: State Warns Of Health Insurance Scams
Consumers shopping for health insurance should be wary of "scam artists soliciting fraudulent medical discount plans, the state insurance commissioner warned today. The plans go under the names of "Consumer Health Benefits Association," "National Association for Americans," "National Benefits Concepts" and "National Benefit Solutions," said Ken Ross, commissioner of the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation. Ross said the policies are scams that do not provide insurance benefits. … The warnings addressed issues raised recently by the Federal Trade Commission in 24 recent lawsuits to stop the practices (Anstett, 1/27)

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