KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

In State Budgets, Medicaid Goes Under The Knife; Costs High For Florida Medicaid’s Doctor-Immunity Plan; N.J. Practices To Launch ACOs

Bloomberg: Medicaid Demands Push States Toward 'Cliff' Even As Governors Cut Benefits
Governors nationwide are taking a scalpel to Medicaid, the jointly run state and federal health-care program for 48 million poor Americans, half of whom are children. The single biggest expense for states, Medicaid consumes about 22 percent of their total $1.6 trillion in expenditures, more than what is allocated to elementary and secondary education, according to a National Governors Association report. With federal stimulus funds to help states pay higher Medicaid costs running out June 30, "we're heading for a cliff in July," said Brian Sigritz, director of state fiscal studies at the National Association of State Budget Officers in Washington (Palmeri and Wechsler, 12/22).

The Washington Post: Governor's Committee Finds Virginia Health Care 'Mediocre'
A committee advising Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on issues surrounding health reform concludes that health-care delivery in Virginia is currently only "mediocre" and lags behind other states with much lower income levels (Helderman, 12/21).

Kansas Health Institute News Service: List Cites High- And Low-Performing Nursing Homes
Kansas Advocates for Better Care has released its annual survey of the state's best and poorest performing nursing homes (Ranney, 12/21).

The Miami Herald: Lawsuit-Immunity Plan For Medicaid Providers Costly, Report Says
As governor-elect Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature consider giving doctors immunity against lawsuits in return for treating Medicaid patients, a new report warns that such an arrangement could cost taxpayers at least $69 million a year. State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost to Scott in November, commissioned the actuarial report last month after lawmakers indicated they are considering extending the state cap on legal liability, known as sovereign immunity, to Medicaid providers (Klas, 12/22).

Health News Florida: Scott Team: Merge Agencies
Gov.-elect Rick Scott's transition team is calling for a dramatic change in Florida's health-care governance, merging the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration into a mammoth new agency (Saunders and Gentry, 12/21).

The Texas Tribune: TPPF Says Texas Medicaid Is In State Of Crisis
Texas' Medicaid program is in a "state of financial crisis," according to an analysis of caseload and costs published by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank (Ramshaw, 12/21).

Modern Healthcare: N.J. Practices Planning To Launch ACOs
Two New Jersey independent practice associations are linking together to form a new accountable care organization and, according to a business associate, this move is being done to counter the rapid growth of a larger medical group in the region (Robeznieks, 12/21).

The Arizona Republic: Bishop Strips St. Joe's Of Its Catholic Status
On the day Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted declared St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center can no longer call itself Catholic, hospital officials vowed to provide patient care the way they always have, saying they could not ethically and legally comply with the bishop's demands. Both sides on Tuesday insisted their interpretation of a case that involved a pregnancy terminated at the hospital was correct (Clancy, 12/22).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Competition Leads To Lower Health Costs In Madison
The Madison market has the lowest health insurance premiums of any region in the state and has seen the smallest total increase since 2000, according to a report from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a grassroots advocacy group. ... Madison is considered the most competitive market in the state, and the report suggests how competition can help slow the rise in health care costs (Boulton, 12/21).

Minneapolis-St. Paul Pioneer Press: Cancer Treatment Center Raises Old Issues
Linear accelerators, used to deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients, cost several million dollars to build and operate. Hoping to avoid a costly duplication of services, state lawmakers passed two bans on construction of the facilities in certain parts of Minnesota (Snowbeck, 12/21).

The Denver Post: Colorado Doctor Accused Of Faulty Medical-Pot Recommendation, May Lose License
A doctor accused of approving medical marijuana for a woman six months pregnant could become the first Colorado physician to lose his license for a sub-standard marijuana recommendation. Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino is accused of recommending marijuana in January to a 20-year-old woman at a Denver dispensary. In a formal complaint filed last week by the state attorney general's office on behalf of the Colorado Medical Board, Aquino is accused of not performing a thorough review of the woman's medical history, not listening to her heart or lungs, not asking her to come back for follow-up care and not taking any notes on the 3-minute evaluation other than on her marijuana-recommendation form (Ingold, 12/22).

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