KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Slash Budgets For Tobacco-Prevention Programs; Florida Lawmakers Consider Medicaid Revision; Md. To Probe Nonprofit Mental Health Clinic

The Wall Street Journal: "Many cash-strapped U.S. states are slashing budgets for tobacco-prevention programs, raising alarms among public-health groups as the nation's progress toward getting adult smokers to quit has stalled. The adult smoking rate was 20.6% in 2009, the same as a year earlier and largely unchanged since 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

"States have cut their combined funding for smoking prevention in the current fiscal year to the lowest level since 1999, according to data gathered by a coalition of antismoking groups for a report that will be released later this month. The $517 million allocated by states for tobacco prevention and cessation in fiscal-year 2011 is down 9.2% from $569 million a year earlier and 28% less than states spent in 2008, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington advocacy group preparing the report, along with the American Lung Association and others" (Kesmodel and McKay, 11/9).

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: "Pennsylvania's new 'high-risk' insurance plan, meant to provide coverage for uninsured people with pre-existing health conditions, still has room for new enrollees but is dramatically outperforming similar state plans across the country. So far, more than 1,650 people are enrolled and receiving benefits through the federally subsidized PA Fair Care program, which costs $283 a month. To be eligible, an applicant must be without health insurance for at least six months and must be unable to obtain coverage because of medical conditions. Pennsylvania's $283 monthly rate, plus co-pays and deductibles, measures favorably against other states, where monthly premiums can reach $972 a month. The take-home message, three months into the program, seems to be that the more affordable the policy is, the more people will buy it" (Toland, 11/9).

The Miami Herald: "The wheels are already turning in a legislative plan to craft a Medicaid revamp that would include major limits on lawsuits, something that is firmly in line with Governor-Elect Rick Scott's proposed plan to make it more difficult for patients to sue doctors. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, told the News Service Friday that he and fellow Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will meet in the coming days to examine last year's legislation aimed at steering Medicaid patients into a managed care program, an expansion of a five-county pilot program. … In a twist that will surely raise trial bar antennae, the two plan to include liability protections for providers and others in any proposal the Senate considers this spring when the Legislature meets in Tallahassee" (Haughney, 11/6).

The Salt Lake Tribune: "Privatizing Utah's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is supposed to save money and improve services. But with no proof yet of any savings reaped, the experiment has been tripped up by service breakdowns. The latest: Complaints from some of the 379 CHIP families in Carbon and Emery counties who say their children no longer have access to pediatric care. That's because Intermountain Healthcare's SelectHealth, which inherited some CHIP patients on July 1, has no primary care doctors in that region. … This isn't the first problem with the CHIP revamp" (Stewart, 11/8).

The Boston Herald: "Slicing too deeply too quickly into the Massachusetts health care payment system could result in 'serious job losses,' disrupting an industry that is the state's top employer, a Patrick administration health policy aide warned Monday. … Patrick administration officials and legislative leaders say they are preparing a major push to overhaul the health care payment system" (Cheney, 11/8).

The Baltimore Sun: "Maryland's top health official said Monday that his agency would do all it can to ensure that scarce mental health resources are spent properly after a Baltimore Sun investigation into Baltimore Behavioral Health Inc. uncovered the nonprofit clinic's large Medicaid billings and other concerns. … The health department had launched an investigation into BBH after The Sun started its examination of the mental health clinic in Southwest Baltimore" (Calvert, 11/8).

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