KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Md. Expected To Give Retroactive Health Coverage After Exchange Problems

A selection of health policy stories from Maryland, California, Texas, Vermont, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Georgia.

The Washington Post: Md. Expected To Approve Retroactive Health Insurance For Some
Maryland lawmakers are expected to quickly approve emergency legislation sponsored by the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley that would provide retroactive health insurance to residents who tried to sign up for coverage through the state's new exchange, encountered problems and were left uninsured (Johnson and Wagner, 1/9).

Los Angeles Times: GOP Candidate Tim Donnelly Slams Gov. Jerry Brown's Budget Plan
Brown on Thursday morning unveiled a $155-billion budget proposal that would increase general fund spending by more than 8 percent, to $106.8 billion. With his administration projecting a $4.2-billion surplus at the end of June, Brown called for setting up a $1.6-billion rainy-day reserve fund, and for paying down $11 billion of the state's debt. The proposal calls for a $10-billion infusion into schools and community colleges to make up for years of cutbacks, $1 billion in new money for higher education to ward off new tuition increases, and $670 million more for the state's public health care system to deal with new enrollees because of the federal healthcare overhaul (Mehta, 1/9).

Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown's Overcrowding Plan Alters Parole For Elderly, Sick Felons
Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to at least partly comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding could make several thousand felons eligible for release, and free hundreds of them in the first six months. The governor's budget proposal, released Thursday, announces plans to immediately expand parole eligibility for inmates who are sick or mentally impaired, and creates a new parole program for the elderly. The governor also is, on his own, increasing the time some repeat offenders can reduce their sentences with good behavior (St. John, 1/9). 

California Healthline: Advocates Want Infant Program In Budget
In anticipation of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal scheduled to be released tomorrow, children's advocacy groups have a long list of cutbacks and program eliminations they want re-funded. But they're starting small: They seek full funding for an infant health program cut back in 2009. Children's groups would like to see the Black Infant Health Program restored to its original scope and funding. The state still is running a version of the program, but in a limited number of areas and in a limited way, according to Rae Jones, executive director of Great Beginnings for Black Babies headquartered in Inglewood (Gorn, 1/9).

Kaiser Health News: New Providers Face Obstacles in Texas Women's Health Program
Since ousting Planned Parenthood clinics from the Women's Health Program, which provides cancer screening, well-woman exams and contraception for low-income women, Texas leaders have made a concerted effort to recruit physician groups to fill the void. They also widened the services covered, adding testing and some limited treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. But unlike specialty family planning clinics, physician groups generally don't receive additional government funding to help low-income women access services not expressly covered by the program -- and that has created obstacles for both providers and patients (Aaronson, 1/9).

NewsHour: Vermont Gov. Confronts Deadly Heroin Crisis As Public Health Problem
Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to a "full-blown heroin crisis" ravaging Vermont. Shumlin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his shift in focus on the issue of opiate addiction and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post offers context on why heroin has made a major comeback in the United States (Woodruff, 1/9).

ABC News: Scourge of Heroin Abuse In Vermont Mirrors National Epidemic
The governor of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State speech on Wednesday to address the scourge of heroin abuse, a problem he described as a "full blown … crisis" in his state, but which is also spreading across the country. Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, described an epidemic that "may be invisible to many," but which has increased in his state by 770 percent since 2000 (Goldman, 1/9).

NBC News: Vermont Gov. Focuses On Heroin Crisis (VIDEO)
Vermont's governor focused the entire state of the state address discussing the region’s problem with heroin (Williams, 1/9).

Bloomberg: Detroit's Retired City Workers Sue Over Health Benefits
Detroit, struggling to provide its 700,000 residents with basic services, was sued by retired workers including police and firefighters who are seeking to block the bankrupt city from unilaterally cutting their health care benefits. The retirees said the city's decision to reduce funding of vested health-care benefits by 83 percent, starting in March, will force retirees to spend money out of pocket to replace the coverage, according to a filing today by representatives of the workers in federal bankruptcy court in Detroit (Rosenblatt, 1/9).

Health News Florida: 133,000 Waiting For Medicaid
The number of low-income Floridians waiting in computer limbo for their Medicaid card is far more than previously thought, according to the Department of Children and Families. Ninety thousand Florida Medicaid accounts that cover 133,000 people have been stuck in the federal Healthcare.gov data system for weeks pending transfer to the state, said Jennifer Lange, project director for the Medicaid Eligibility System Project at DCF (Gentry, 1/10).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bill To Detain Dangerously Mentally Ill Advances
A bill to allow a limited number of Milwaukee County mental health care workers to temporarily detain people considered dangerously ill won unanimous approval Thursday from the state Assembly's Health Committee. The bill only slightly expands the ability to hospitalize psychiatric patients who are considered in danger of harm but is a symbolic victory for those trying to increase the options to get dangerously ill patients in to care. State Rep. Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie) said he believed the bill might turn out to be the most important legislation coming out of an Assembly task force on mental health he led along with state Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) (Kissinger and Stein, 1/9).

Georgia Health News: Critics Of New Health Plan Send Message To State
Jan. 1 rang in a major change for more than 650,000 members of the state employees' health plan. And on Jan. 2, the wife of a Cherokee County teacher started a Facebook page to voice complaints about the 2014 changes to the State Health Benefit Plan. In just days, the Facebook page has exploded, with thousands joining the group.  The governor's office has been deluged with phone calls. Preparations are under way for a rally against the new plan. State employees' leading complaint is the lack of choice of health plan providers, said Ashley Cline (Miller, 1/9). 

California Healthline: Will Mexico's Soda Tax Spur California
With a massive experiment underway next door and more research supporting the premise at home, California policymakers may try again to tax sugar-sweetened beverages in the effort to discourage sugar consumption, reduce obesity and raise money. A new tax on soda and other high-calorie foods went into effect on New Years Day in Mexico, the newly crowned fattest country in the world. Beverage and food manufacturers, led by U.S. soft drink companies, fought the proposal but health advocates, worried by the increase in obesity and diabetes -- now the country's leading cause of death -- pushed hard for the new tax (Lauer, 1/9).

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