KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Mo.’s Declining Medicaid Caseload; N.C. Budget Would Cut Medicaid Rolls

A selection of health policy stories from Missouri, North Carolina, California, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Montana and Louisiana.

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Missouri's Declining Medicaid Caseload Stands Out In National Report
Missouri is seeing a bigger decline in its Medicaid rolls than nearly any other state, a ranking that the Nixon administration attributes to an improving economy and critics blame on application snafus. A new federal report compares Medicaid enrollment in March to the average for the three-month period of July through September 2013. Missouri's caseload declined 3.9 percent, a drop second only to Wyoming, which declined by 5.6 percent (Young, 5/30).

Raleigh News & Observer: Senate Budget Would Cut Elderly, Blind And Disabled From Medicaid Rolls
The Senate budget proposal upends the state Department of Health and Human Services by moving to take away its biggest responsibility, Medicaid. At the same time it would cut thousands of elderly and disabled people, and other beneficiaries with high medical bills, from the government insurance plan. This appears to be a first step Senate Republicans are proposing to cut Medicaid services and shrink the number of beneficiaries (Bonner, 5/29).

North Carolina Health News: DHHS, Hospitals, Medicaid Big Losers In Senate Budget 
After a year of missteps by the Department of Health and Human Services and years of budgeting problems in the state’s Medicaid program, members of the state Senate sent a message to the department: We’ve had enough of problems with Medicaid. In the Senate budget presented to the General Assembly early Thursday, budget writers indicated they want to  pull the Medicaid program out from DHHS and have it run separately (Hoban, 5/30).

Los Angeles Times: State A Step Closer To Minimum Wage Hike, Paid Sick Leave
Legislators moved Thursday to further hike the state's minimum wage and to guarantee workers three paid sick days a year, despite opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which labeled both proposals "job killers" (Mason and McGreevy, 5/29). 

Reuters:  California Lawmakers Advance Bill Mandating Paid Sick Leave
California businesses would have to offer paid sick leave to employees under a bill approved by the state Assembly on Thursday, and if the measure becomes law California would join Connecticut as the only U.S. states with such a mandate. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 48-20 and now moves on to the state Senate. The measure, authored by Democratic Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, requires all employers to offer one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. It would allow employers to limit the number of sick days a worker can take to three days (Chaussee, 5/29).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Medicaid Contractor Was Top Financial Performer In St. Louis 
New business opportunities to serve the poor, elderly and sick in an expanding number of states, as well as new ventures outside its core business, drove Centene Corp. last year to record financial heights. The Clayton, Mo.-based manager of health care for the uninsured and downtrodden broadened its operations last year in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida and began serving Medicaid beneficiaries in California, Kansas and New Hampshire. Centene took steps to further diversify by buying a specialty pharmacy company, participating in new health insurance marketplaces, and providing medical care in prisons (Doyle, 5/29).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Medical College Helping Lead National Concussion Study
Putting it at the forefront of one of the most important issues confronting sports -- particularly youth sports -- the Medical College of Wisconsin will take a lead research role in a $30 million national study on concussions and head impact exposure. The research was announced at a White House summit early Thursday that focused on the effects of concussions on young athletes (Trimble, 5/29).

CT Mirror: Bill Would Encourage 'Warm Handoff' For Mental Health Treatment In Connecticut
Jeff Walter looked into having the clinicians from his mental health and substance-abuse treatment agency partner with nearby primary care practices. He knew well that many people with mental illness don’t get primary care, and that many people who need mental health care don’t receive it (Levin Becker, 5/30).

Chicago Sun-Times: Audit: State Paid $12 Million In Health Costs -- For Dead People 
Cook County has long been ridiculed for allowing dead people cast votes, but the state may have just garnered a new distinction. It paid $12 million in health care for people who were already dead -- including in one case, for a person who had died in 1989 (Korecki, 5/29). 

The Baltimore Sun: More Marylanders Going To Hospital Without Insurance 
Significantly fewer people have been going to Maryland hospitals this year without health insurance, according to new data provided to The Baltimore Sun by state officials, who now say the rates that hospitals charge will rise more slowly for everyone. Hospitals are supporting a recommendation by the Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets their rates, to reduce a proposed annual across-the-board rate increase that will take effect in July by about a quarter (Cohn, 5/29).

ProPublica: Should A Mental Illness Mean You Get Your Child Taken Away? 
Under a concept sometimes called "predictive neglect," Missouri and about 30 other states allow courts to terminate a parent's connection to a child if authorities conclude a mother or father has a mental illness that renders them incapable of safely raising the child. Officials usually must present evidence that the illness poses a threat. Most cases involve significant mental illness, not run-of-the-mill depression or anxiety. Yet there need be no evidence of actual harm or neglect, just a conclusion that there is a risk of it (Wessler, 5/30).

The Associated Press: Montana Health Dept. Computer Server Hacked
Hackers have had access to a Montana Dept. of Public Health and Human Services’ computer server for nearly a year, and agency officials don't know whether the personal information of clients and employees stored there was stolen, a spokesman said Thursday. The server contains names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and clinical information of people the agency serves, along with the Social Security numbers and bank account information of its employees (Volz, 5/29).

The Associated Press: Consulting Contract Review Bill Headed To Jindal
After four years of calling for cuts in state consulting contracts, a Thibodaux lawmaker has won passage of a scaled-back proposal to give the Legislature more oversight of the deals signed across state agencies. Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, an independent, sought to force a 10 percent cut on agencies' spending on consulting and professional services contracts. Senators repeatedly rejected the idea, which Richard has proposed since 2011 and which faced opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. But rather than kill the bill this year, senators rewrote it to provide more review of the contracts and no required reductions (Deslatte, 5/29).

North Carolina Health News: A Closer Look At Foster Care In NC 
In the wake of two abuse scandals in foster homes, House lawmakers want to study the quality of Department of Social Services policies for DSS employees who are foster parents. The recommendations from a joint legislative committee formed after last year’s legislative session advised the creation of a continued study committee to more thoroughly examine the complicated DSS system (Namkoong, 5/30).

North Carolina Health News: Medical Cannabis Patients Push For Legalization At General Assembly 
Members of the North Carolina General Assembly have in the past introduced legislation that would make access to medical cannabis easier. But the current session is the first time members have proposed a constitutional amendment. Members of the North Carolina Cannabis Patients Network came to the legislature this week to make their rounds, advocating for the support of House Bill 1161 , which would put the issue to a vote. The bill, sponsored by Democrats in the state House of Representatives, would call for an amendment to the state constitution to legalize the medical use of cannabis (Singh, 5/29).

The Associated Press: Montana VA Health Director To Resign 
The director of the Veterans Affairs Montana Health Care System plans to resign after 16 months on the job, saying she wants to spend more time with her family, officials said Thursday. Christine Gregory, who was appointed in February 2013 to oversee the system that provides health care services for Montana veterans, will step down at the end of June, VA officials said in a statement (5/29).

The Associated Press:  Abortion Doctor Must Research Privileges, Judge Says 
A federal judge told a Milwaukee abortion doctor Thursday to renew his efforts to obtain hospital admitting privileges, hinting that it could resolve a lawsuit alleging a Wisconsin law requiring such privileges is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge William Conley said he was "bewildered" that Affiliated Medical Services abortion provider Dr. Dennis Christensen and his attorneys haven't received definitive responses from any Milwaukee hospitals. He told them to demand better answers from two facilities where Christensen is seeking admitting privileges (Richmond, 5/29).

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