KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

N.J. Effort To Override Cuts To Family Planning Fades; Ill. Faces Budget Cuts To Health Care; Mich. Focuses On High Cost Of Chronic Disease

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "As two Democratic state lawmakers initiated a campaign to override the governor's veto of $7.5 million for family-planning health centers, six Republican state senators who previously voted to restore the funding reversed course, most likely ending any hopes of restoring the money. Democrats would need at least four Republican votes for an override in the Senate, which now appears unlikely. Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D., Middlesex) said Tuesday that they intended to continue to pressure the Republicans. … After Christie, citing fiscal constraints, eliminated state aid to the health centers in his first budget, the Legislature restored the $7.5 million. The governor vetoed the restoration, again citing a lack of funding and adding that the same services were available through clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers" (Lu, 8/4).

The Associated Press: "Schools, social services and health programs face deeper cuts under the latest version of [Ill.] Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to trim spending during the worst budget crisis in Illinois history. Quinn announced early last month that he planned to trim about $1.4 billion but had not finished deciding where. His budget office said Tuesday that the Chicago Democrat has now settled on the remaining cuts. … The Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which oversees Medicaid for the poor, will lose $216 million, or about 2.7 percent. Last month, Quinn said the agency would be one of the few getting more money. The Department of Human Services is being cut by $576 million, about 14 percent. Originally, the department was going to lose just $312 million" (Wills, 8/3).

The Salem News: "Two North Shore towns saved a bundle on steadily climbing health insurance costs by transferring their workers' coverage to a larger state-run pool, according to a report released yesterday. The study found that Swampscott had realized $1 million in health insurance savings and Wenham had saved $100,000 in the first year of switching from town-administered health plans to the state's Group Insurance Commission. Those savings are significant sums. In Wenham, for example, the total cost of employee health and life insurance is $532,466 for fiscal year 2011. Altogether, the 15 communities across the state who have made the switch have saved a combined $35 million compared to what they would have spent on their municipal-based plans, according to the report by The Boston Foundation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. It was a rare piece of good news for town and city managers struggling to find creative ways to balance budgets amid soaring employee health insurance and pension costs" (Cassidy, 8/4).

Health News Florida: A legal battle regarding "a proposed constitutional amendment targeting federal health reform appears headed straight to the Florida Supreme Court. The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee today said the case is of such 'great public importance' that it needs to be resolved immediately by the Supreme Court. The justices still need to formally accept the case." This action follows a Circuit Court ruling last week that "the proposed constitutional amendment should not go before voters in November because of misleading wording. Attorneys for the state filed notice Monday that they would appeal, according to an appeals-court online docket." GOP lawmakers approved the proposed ballot measure for the November election. A quick resolution of the case, though, is needed because ballots must be printed by Sept. 2. The amendment "would try to prevent Floridians from being forced by law to 'participate in any health-care system'' --- an attempt to allow people to opt out of a new federal requirement that they eventually buy health insurance or face financial penalties" (Saunders, 8/3).

The Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune: "Health care reform has become the main task for the interim Industry, Business and Labor Committee, and Chairman George Keiser, R-Bismarck, has begun talking with legislative leaders about saving a few days for a potential special session to deal solely with the new law. North Dakota's biennial session is limited to 80 days, and Keiser suggested saving five days for the Legislature to reconvene and deal with aspects of the law that are still being written by federal agencies. … House Majority Leader Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said he believes most of the work can be tackled during [the] session, but lawmakers always try to leave a few days at the end in case of some kind of emergency. House Minority Leader Rep. Merle Boucher, R-Rolette, said the idea could have some merit" (Beitsch, 8/4).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "A North Dakota lawmaker says the Legislature might need a short special session to deal with the new federal health care law. Bismarck Rep. George Keiser says issues could come up after the 2011 Legislature that need action before lawmakers meet again in 2013. Keiser is chairman of a legislative committee that's reviewing the health care law. He says he's asked legislative leaders to try to save some time in the 2011 session, and use it later for another, short session on health care issues" (8/3).

The Detroit News: "Chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, are costing Michigan big bucks, according to a study released Tuesday that puts a hard price tag on the annual cost of care for such conditions. The average yearly cost of treating someone with a chronic condition can be as much as $38,270 more than caring for a patient with no long-term ailments, the Ann Arbor-based Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation found. The report is part of the center's series of studies investigating what is driving up health care costs. It comes at a time when the industry and the federal government through health reform are striving to slow these fast-rising costs" (Rogers, 8/4).

Detroit Free Press: The Michigan report "analyzes national statistics as well as data from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which funds" the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation. "The seven costliest diseases in 2008 in Michigan were congestive heart failure, with yearly spending for the condition alone at $9,263 a patient; $4,623 for coronary artery disease; $2,819 for osteoarthritis, $1,637 for chronic obstructive lung disease; $2,828 for mental disorders, excluding dementia; $2,091 for diabetes; $1,797 for asthma and $2,788 for selected other problems, the report found" (Anstett, 8/4).

The Boston Globe: "Insurers will be required to pay for a broad range of services for children with autism in Massachusetts under a bill signed into law today by Gov. Deval Patrick. The measure, which goes into effect on January 1, mandates coverage for early and intensive interventions, including services known as 'applied behavioral analysis,' which trains children with autism and related disorders in social, verbal, and motor skills" (Lazar, 8/3).

Health News Florida, in another story: "Applicants for caregiver jobs face new background-screening requirements that went into effect Sunday. But a key part of the system isn't fully ready -- the sites where you get the electronic fingerprinting. The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which had reassured worried health-care providers last week that screening sites would be available, sent an e-mail Friday acknowledging that a contractor, Cogent Systems, had fewer sites open than expected. AHCA said providers would not be penalized if they could show they made 'good-faith efforts' to meet the fingerprinting requirements. State lawmakers passed the requirements this spring after an investigation by the Sun-Sentinel found that convicted felons and career criminals had been hired as caregivers for seniors, children and people with disabilities" (Saunders, 8/3).

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