KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Va. Abortion Clinic Reg Review; Calif. Budget and Medi-Cal

A selection of health policy stories from Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas and Georgia.

The Wall Street Journal: Pennsylvania's Democratic Race For Governor Gets Testy
Experts say the race turned personal because the Democrats' positions are so similar. All four support taxing natural-gas drillers tapping the state's vast shale reserves, which Mr. Corbett opposes. All want to boost education funding, which had been scaled back under the governor. All support gay marriage, which the governor has fought. All support a form of Medicaid expansion under the federal health law that the governor opposes (Maher, 5/12).

The Washington Post: Gov. McAuliffe Call For Review Of Abortion Clinic Regulations In Virginia
Gov. Terry McAuliffe moved to free Virginia’s abortion clinics from strict hospital-style building codes on Monday, loading up the state health board with abortion rights supporters and ordering it to review rules that clinic operators say threaten to put them out of business. The Democratic governor is also looking for ways to soften or suspend the rules to keep clinics open during the health board’s review, which could take more than two years. The General Assembly approved the regulations in 2011; they are set to take effect as early as June (Vozzella, 5/12).

Reuters/New York Times: Virginia: Governor Orders Review Of Last Administration’s Abortion Rules
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, on Monday ordered a review of what he called “extreme and punitive” state health rules that make it harder to operate abortion clinics, saying he would protect women’s rights to make health decisions. The review by the State Board of Health could overturn 2013 regulations set down by the previous Republican administration that forced abortion clinics to meet stricter hospital-style standards (5/12).

Los Angeles Times: Budget Talks Won’t Be Easy For Governor
[Gov. Jerry Brown is] also confronting higher-than-expected health care costs, now that one-quarter of the state's population is enrolled in Medi-Cal, which serves poor residents. More people are signing up for the program than previously anticipated as California continues to implement President Obama's federal health care overhaul, and there's a backlog of 900,000 applications still waiting to be processed (Megerian, 5/12). 

The Associated Press: Jindal To Use $74M In Savings Next Year For Health Care
Thinner asphalt for some paving projects. Fewer toll-free numbers across state agencies. Allowing pregnant women on Medicaid to use midwives instead of traditional, more expensive delivery rooms. Expanded rehabilitation programs for inmates. Those are among plans from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to shrink spending across state government by $74 million in the upcoming budget year that begins July 1. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the ideas came from a consulting firm hired to find ways to cut state costs without eliminating services. The savings expectations were included in the House-approved version of next year's nearly $25 billion budget (5/12).

The Houston Chronicle: VA Hospital Wait Time Concerns Spread To Valley 
Concerns about scheduling practices at veterans' hospitals in Central Texas and San Antonio have spread to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. A former top official at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Harlingen told investigators that unreliable tests were substituted for colonoscopies, according to documents obtained by the Austin American-Statesman. The closest VA provider who performed colonoscopies was four hours from Harlingen, and the VA did not want to pay to provide them closer, Dr. Richard Krugman, former associate chief of staff at the hospital, told investigators (5/12).

The Associated Press:  Few Answers In Wake Of Planned Parenthood Case 
The fate of two Kansas clinics remains uncertain in the wake of last week's decision by Planned Parenthood to drop its legal challenge to a state law that stripped them of federal family planning money, but federal and state health officials said Monday they are committed to ensuring family planning services continue to be offered. More than 5,700 people receive reproductive health care services at the affected Planned Parenthood clinics in Hays and Wichita. On Monday, a federal court in Wichita formally closed the case brought by Planned Parenthood challenging a Kansas law that requires the state to first allocate Title X money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood (Hegeman, 5/12).

Georgia Health News: Latest Partnership Reflects Trend In Urgent Care 
The urgent care business is thriving, with more centers popping up across many parts of Georgia and the nation. Their target clientele is a large segment of the population -- people who want easy access and walk-in services and may lack a primary care doctor. And the owners of urgent care centers see their market growing as more patients have health insurance, at least partly due to the Affordable Care Act. Large hospital systems are increasingly adopting this same kind of retail-oriented strategy, with many getting into the urgent care business (Miller, 5/12).

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