KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: R.I. Gov. Plans $43M In Medicaid Cuts

A selection of health policy stories from Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota.

Providence Journal: Chafee’s $43-Million Cut In Medicaid Program Touches Many Sectors Of Health Care In Rhode Island
Rhode Island enthusiastically embraced the expansion of its Medicaid program allowed by the Affordable Care Act. But at the same time, Medicaid is where Governor Chafee has turned to make the biggest cuts as he seeks to close a $150-million budget hole. Chafee’s budget would slash $43 million from Medicaid, the health plan for the poor, in the fiscal year that ends June 2015. It’s the only expenditure cut that even gets into the double digits (Freyer, 1/17).

Los Angeles Times: New Mexico Judge Affirms Right To 'Aid In Dying'
Now, a New Mexico judge has ruled that terminally ill patients like Riggs have the right to "aid in dying" under the state constitution. "Such deaths are not considered 'suicide' under New Mexico's assisted suicide statute," ruled Judge Nan G. Nash of the 2nd District Court in Albuquerque last week. The state's assisted suicide law classifies helping with suicide as a fourth-degree felony (Hamedy, 1/19).

The Boston Globe: State Protections Still Awaited For Long-Term Care
More than a year after Massachusetts passed legislation aimed at curbing the rapidly rising cost of insurance for long-term care, regulators have yet to adopt new rules that would help protect consumers as they buy products to cover nursing homes and similar services. Regulations were scheduled to be in place by Oct. 31, but the Division of Insurance missed the deadline and recently extended the process to July 1. The state’s insurance commissioner, Joseph G. Murphy, said he does not plan to approve premium increases while his agency finalizes rules, but other protections, such as making it harder for companies to deny coverage, will be further delayed (Fernandes, 1/21).

The Washington Post: Mental Health Advocates Try To Seize The Moment In Va.
They were not as easy to pick out as the gun rights advocates with the bright orange stickers that read “Guns Save Lives” or the medical marijuana legalization supporters. But close to 200 advocates for the mentally ill wound their way through the Virginia General Assembly Building on Monday to try to make the most of a moment they know may not last (Shin, 1/20). 

The Wall Street Journal: Circumcision Coverage Comes Into Focus
Saleem Islam, a pediatric surgeon in Gainesville, Fla., was surprised a few years ago when he started receiving a steady stream of referrals for older boys from low-income families to be circumcised. … Like a dozen other states, Florida ended Medicaid coverage of routine circumcisions for newborns after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a lukewarm statement on the practice in 1999. While the organization concluded that removing the penis's foreskin has potential benefits, it found the data were insufficient to recommend it as a routine procedure (Campo-Flores, 1/20). 

The Associated Press: Report: Wis. Hospitals Improve Quality, Save Money
More than 100 Wisconsin hospitals have been collaborating to improve the quality of health care, and their efforts have paid off with a decrease in costly outcomes such as readmissions and hospital-associated infections, according to a report released Tuesday. Hospital officials around the state have spent the past few years stepping up efforts to share knowledge and best practices associated with patient care (Ramde, 1/21).

St. Louis Today: Nixon Wants To Renovate Hospital For Nursing Classes
After Rachael Schulte spent three years watching her name inch up the wait list for Lincoln University’s nursing program, she finally started her first semester this year. Needless to say, it was a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal that the 26-year-old -- and other nursing students like her -- could have access to a soon-to-be emptied hospital for classes (Stucket, 1/21).

Minnesota Public Radio: Report: Not All Minnesotans Have The Same Opportunity To Be Healthy
The Minnesota Department of Health this week released a draft version of a report to the Legislature that recommends revamping the state's approach to health at all levels of government to eliminate health disparities between racial and ethnic groups. The 64-page document cites state policies that it found have prevented African-Americans, American Indians and members of other minority groups from enjoying the same quality of health as whites. Health Department officials say the report's authors deliberately decided to "lead with race" as a strategy for meeting the challenges of health inequities head on (Benson and Collins, 1/17).

WBUR: Launching A Grand Experiment In Massachusetts: Pricing Health Care  
There’s a grand experiment underway in Massachusetts and we are all, in theory, part of it. Here’s the question: Can we price childbirth, MRIs and stress tests, and will patients armed with health care prices change when and where they “buy” care? One of the first steps in this experiment is a new requirement that hospitals and doctors tell patients who ask how much things cost. It took effect January 1 as part of the state’s health care cost control law and we set out to run a test (Bebinger, 1/21). 

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