KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Vt. Closer To Single Payer Plan

Vermont Public Radio: House Gives Preliminary Approval To Health Care Bill
After a full day and evening of debate, the Vermont House gave preliminary approval to health care reform legislation that's designed to put the state on the path toward a single payer system. ... The heart of the bill is the creation of a five person Health Care Board, modeled after the Public Service Board, which will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in the state. The Board will establish a total state budget for health care, it will review hospital budgets and private insurance rates, and it will design a new payment system for health care providers (Kinzel, 3/23).

Earlier, related KHN coverage: Vermont Gov. Proposes Single-Payer Health Plan (Miles, 2/8).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Dayton Revamps State's Health Care Strategy
Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday ordered sweeping changes in the way Minnesota handles health care programs by introducing more competition, aiming to save the state money in the fastest-growing part of its budget. Dayton's plan would force providers to compete to provide the state's subsidized health care based on cost and outcomes, rather than negotiating prices based on history (Stassen-Berger and Crosby, 3/23).

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Republican Plan Upends Minnesota Health Programs
Disparate philosophies on how to spend taxpayer money on health care collided at the Minnesota Capitol on Wednesday, as a key Senate Republican unveiled a proposal that challenges the status quo more aggressively than his House counterparts, including refusing to comply with federal health care law. Meanwhile, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's health and finance commissioners criticized the House plan as "untenable," and Dayton signed an executive order targeting HMOs - a move that Republicans have made rumblings about but so far have avoided (Orrick, 3/23).

Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton Orders More Transparency From Health Plans
Minnesota health plans will now be required to compete against each other to manage state-subsidized health care programs for elderly, disabled and poor Minnesotans. Gov. Dayton announced the change in state policy Wednesday. He said noncompetitive contracts have favored managed care plans at the expense of taxpayers. ... [Lucinda Jesson, Human Services Commissioner examined] the state's contracts with its health plans. What she found was a system that paid health plans based on what they had gotten in previous contracts, plus adjustments for growth and inflation (Benson, 3/23).

Dallas Morning News: Collin County Changes Approach To Indigent Health Care
Collin County is changing its approach to indigent health care services, which for years have been a target of criticism and controversy. County commissioners awarded $485,000 this week to a start-up program called Project Access that will link the poor with doctors and hospitals that donate their services (Housewright, 3/23). 

Meanwhile, news organizations also examine state budget issues -

The Boston Globe: Budget Battle Poses Threat To Community Health Centers
Construction workers have transformed the parking lot alongside the Lynn Community Health Center into a sleek, three-story annex that will double the center's capacity to provide checkups, dental work, and therapy for the city's poorest residents. Yet even as bricklayers and electricians prepare the building for its August opening, a funding battle in Congress threatens to choke off the new services before the doors have opened. Republicans want to cut more than a billion dollars bound for such clinics, a move that would force centers across the country to cut back many services. Dozens of new centers could be forced to close, advocates said (Emery, 3/23).

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: Report: Economic Worth Of Mass. Doctors
The Massachusetts Medical Society has just sent over this Lewin Group report, commissioned by the American Medical Association, on doctors' contribution to the economy. Alice Coombs, M.D., President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said: "As the state's number one industry, health care plays the leading role in the economic well-being of Massachusetts" (Goldberg, 3/23).

Houston Chronicle: House Budget Bill Comes Out Of Committee
A state budget proposal to carve $23 billion from current two-year spending - slashing education and Medicaid reimbursement rates - represents as much as many House Republicans are willing to spend, but less than Senators may be willing to approve, key lawmakers said Wednesday (Fikac, 3/23).

Health News Florida: Public Hospital Costs Get Scrutiny
Saying he wants taxpayers to get their money's worth in health care, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order late Wednesday appointing a commission to scrutinize the performance and costs of hospitals operated by local governments. His Commission on Review of Taxpayer Funded Hospital Districts has nine months to study whether it is in the public's best interest to have government entities operating hospitals at all (Gentry, 3/23).

Health News Florida: Out-Of-State Insurers May Be Allowed
With supporters arguing it would make coverage more affordable, lawmakers began considering a bill Wednesday that would open Florida to stripped-down health insurance policies from other states. The bill, which was approved by a House subcommittee, could undergo major changes in the coming weeks. But at a minimum, the proposal refueled a long-running debate about whether coverage requirements - known as "mandates" - drive up the cost of insurance in Florida (Saunders, 3/23).

Related, earlier KHN story: FAQ: Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines (Galewitz and Verdon, 1/25).

KQED: LA Patches Together Mental Health Care For Juvenile Offenders
California's counties are assuming greater responsibility for juvenile corrections – a job once handled by the state. And a central task for local governments is ensuring treatment for the many young offenders who suffer from psychological problems. ... In Los Angeles, Dave Mitchell, from the county's Probation Department, agrees the system breaks down when kids are released to their homes on probation. But he says there can be serious hurdles even for probation officers who are intent on getting a child into treatment. Many troubled teens have no health insurance to pay for drugs or therapy and don't qualify for public programs. And then, says Mitchell, even well-meaning medical privacy laws get in the way (Varney, 3/24).

ProPublica: Lawsuit Against New Orleans Hospital Settles Shortly After Trial Begins
Tenet Healthcare has settled the class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of people trapped in Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The amount was not immediately announced. ... The bodies of 45 patients were found at Memorial after the August 2005 storm. Some doctors subsequently acknowledged that they had hastened the deaths of patients by injecting them with drugs. No criminal charges were ever brought and the medical staff said they had done their best under extraordinary conditions. The suit against Tenet, the corporate parent of Memorial, alleged that the hospital had failed to plan for the care for or evacuate patients during a disaster that was overwhelming but foreseeable (Fink, 3/23).

Georgia Health News: State HIV Funds Sought As Waiting List Grows
More than 1,100 Georgians are on the waiting list for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). That's the second-longest list in the country behind Florida's, says Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality, which runs an advocacy network for people with HIV. Currently, the ADAP program, which serves more than 4,000 uninsured Georgians, gets about $12 million in state funding and $33 million in federal money. ... The state Department of Community Health, which runs ADAP in Georgia, said Wednesday that by using anticipated federal funding, the waiting list will be substantially reduced (Miller, 3/23). 

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