KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: N.C. Lawmakers Face Off Over Medicaid Spending; Heart Surgery Ratings In Ore.

The Associated Press: Medicaid Spending Plans Challenged By NC Senate 
North Carolina senators were not persuaded Thursday to accept Medicaid spending numbers for the coming year from Gov. Pat McCrory's administration after hearing a two-hour presentation led by State Budget Director Art Pope. Pope was summoned by the Senate Appropriations Committee to explain why McCrory's spending projection earmarks are much less than the Senate's to pay for unpaid claims from the year ending June 30 and additional enrollment and services for next year. The House -- which largely sides with the governor's position -- and the Senate are about $250 million apart in their rival proposals on additional spending for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for 1.6 million North Carolina residents (Robertson, 6/26).

North Carolina Health News: Government Branches Tussle Over Medicaid Numbers 
A memo circulated to members of the General Assembly gives a glimpse of the conflict between different branches of state government over the coming year’s Medicaid budget. For the past week, members of the House and the Senate have traded barbs over their diverging interpretations of the coming fiscal year’s state spending. And the roadblocks to a final budget agreement boil down to two issues: Medicaid and raises for teachers (Hoban, 6/26).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Health Insurance Premiums Up 1.2% In Public Sector, 7.1% In Private
Health insurance premiums in the public sector increased 1.2% on average this year, compared with a 7.1% increase in the private sector, based on an annual report by M3 Insurance, the state's largest insurance agency. The report also showed a sharp increase in health plans with high deductibles, with 34% of the plans offered now having an annual deductible of $1,250 for individuals and $2,500 for families. That was up from 28% last year and 14% in 2007. The survey is based on 554 M3 clients, most of them in Wisconsin, ranging in size from three to more than 5,000 employees and offering 1,091 different health plans (Boulton, 6/26).

The Oregonian: Consumer Publication's Heart Surgery Hospital Ratings Show Big Differences In Oregon
A new rating of how well hospitals perform with the most common heart surgeries shows some surprising local results, with Oregon Health & Science University scoring poorly in one category and Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center -- a relative unknown in the heart field -- scoring among the top 15 hospitals in the country. Consumer Reports has released its first-ever ratings of hospitals' performance in bypass surgery and aortic valve surgery. The respected publication relies on quality and outcome data collected by the prestigious Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The data is organized for the first time by hospital [name] (Budnick, 6/26).

Georgia Health News: Nursing Homes In Arrears May Lose Medicaid 
Nursing homes and other medical providers that owe money to a state health agency now face a repayment timetable that could lead to their being cut off from the government Medicaid program. The new policy on collections, which goes into effect July 1, defines a series of steps on how delinquent providers can be suspended and then terminated from the Medicaid and PeachCare programs. Termination could cause financial devastation for a nursing home, where most patients can be Medicaid beneficiaries (Miller, 6/26).

MinnPost: Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Fight Now Turns To Those In Chronic Pain 
When lawmakers approved the state's new medical marijuana program last month, they deliberately left out the largest group of potential patients: those with chronic pain. But the debate is not over, and how state leaders sort out the issue of chronic pain and marijuana will determine whether Minnesota's marijuana program expands by a few thousand people -- or perhaps a hundred thousand. During the last legislative session, compelling stories of children with seizure disorders and their families resurrected a once-dead bill, giving medical marijuana advocates their first victory after more than a decade of effort at the state Capitol (Welsh, 6/26).

Texas Tribune: Volunteers Provide Care, Shelter To Incoming Immigrants 
The child whose dull eyes came alive when a shelter volunteer handed her a floppy-eared, pink bunny doll does not know she and her mother, who crossed the border with her, are in the middle of a political firestorm. And Ofelia De Los Santos, a public information officer with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, wants to keep it that way. ... Volunteers here help arrange medical appointments for immigrants being released from detention, and prepare travel bags for those facing long bus rides to stay with friends and relatives in the United States while awaiting their court dates in places like Chicago, Miami, New York and Miami. Most of the immigrants are women traveling with young children, including infants wearing nothing but diapers after days in detention (Aguilar, 6/27).

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