KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Re-Election Pressures May Be Driving Some GOP Govs Toward Medicaid Expansion

Meanwhile, news outlets report on health law implementation news from a variety of states, including Florida, California, Indiana, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Virgina, Kansas and Kentucky.

McClatchy: GOP Governors Turn Pragmatic As Election Nears
Faced with tough re-elections and constituents clamoring for government services, Republican governors in some big swing states are turning pragmatic, pulling away from the conservative line that helped them win in 2010. The clearest sign of the shift comes from seven Republican governors who have agreed to expand the Medicaid program, a key feature of President Barack Obama’s health care law that some bitterly opposed when winning their seats. But the governors are learning, as their predecessors did, that voters tend to judge them on how well they manage government, not how eloquently they articulate political theory (Lightman, 2/24).

CNN: Millions More Could Join Medicaid As Republican Governors Cave In
Despite their initial, vehement protests, a growing number of Republican governors are giving their blessing to expanding Medicaid in their states. That opens the door for millions of poor Americans to enroll in government health care coverage, beginning in 2014. Florida Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday became the latest to warm up to the expansion, which broadens coverage to adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line. Medicaid rules vary from state to state, but many states (including Florida) do not currently cover most childless, non-disabled and non-elderly adults. Scott, a former health care executive, follows his GOP peers in Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota in accepting a reform they once strongly opposed (Luhby, 2/22).

Kaiser Health News: Plans To Expand Florida Medicaid Welcomed And Feared
Almost overnight, Florida has gone from being an ardent opponent of the federal health care law to a laboratory for an ambitious experiment under the law (Galewitz, 2/24).

Los Angeles Times: Jerry Brown Wants Wiggle Room From Feds On Health Care
(Gov. Jerry) Brown hopes to coordinate with other state leaders about how to expand coverage to the poor under the federal Medicaid program. Speaking to reporters at the National Governors Assn. winter meetings in Washington on Saturday, Brown said he wants to "build support among the governors for an appropriate state rule in the Medicaid expansion." With billions of dollars at stake, he said it was "absolutely critical that states have the authority they need to manage this very complex and expensive program" (York, 2/23).

The Associated Press: 'Elephant'-Size Prices For Health Care
The cost of health care for an additional 400,000 low income residents is something nobody in the Statehouse seems to be able to nail down firmly this year, even as the crucial decision about whether to expand Medicaid bears down on lawmakers midway through their annual session. The Medicaid expansion could end up costing Indiana $503 million in state dollars if the state expands coverage or $10.5 billion in lost federal aid if it does not, according to estimates from the Indiana Hospital Association (LoBianco, 2/24).

The Associated Press: NH Moves Forward With Health Overhaul Law
New Hampshire has taken two significant steps in implementing the Obama administration's health overhaul law, though there's a lot left to do and not a lot of time to do it. Gov. Maggie Hassan recently announced that New Hampshire will partner with the federal government to operate the new insurance markets required under the law, and she wants to take advantage of the federal government's offer to temporarily cover the cost of expanding the state's Medicaid program. In both cases, going further requires the approval of other parties, however (Ramer, 2/24).

The Associated Press: Neb. Schools May Cut Hours To Avoid Health Law
A lawyer for Nebraska public school districts said districts are considering cutting thousands of part-time non-teacher employees' hours next year to avoid offering them health insurance benefits mandated by the Affordable Health Care Act. The act requires large employers -- those with at least 50 full-time equivalent workers -- to cover at least 60 percent of health care costs for employees who works more than 30 hours per week, putting some businesses and government agencies in a difficult position (2/25).

The Associated Press: Dems Seek Vote On Medicaid
The Indiana House's top Democrat urged his Republican colleagues on Friday to consider expanding Medicaid before a key legislative deadline next week, calling it one of the most important job-creating needs this year. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath called on GOP leaders a day after Republican Gov. Mike Pence hit the brakes on legislation that would expand Medicaid in the state (LoBianco, 2/23).

Kansas Health Institute: Budget Committee Hears Resolution Opposing Medicaid Expansion
Expanding the Kansas Medicaid program is the "morally right thing to do," according to a spokesman for Via Christi Health, the state's largest medical provider -- and if the state says no to it, the financial costs to the health system would "be greater than if we say yes." Dr. Keven Hoppock of Via Christi, a Catholic non-profit based in Wichita, was among the spokespersons for major medical providers who testified today against House Concurrent Resolution 5013, which would declare that the "will of the Kansas Legislature is that the state of Kansas not expand Medicaid above its current eligiblity levels" (Shields, 2/22).

The Associated Press: Senate Oks Bills To Give Assembly Say On Medicaid
The Senate approved two bills Friday that would give the Legislature more say on the federal health care overhaul's role in Kentucky. The measures would allow lawmakers to vote on whether Kentucky expands the Medicaid program and sets up a state-run marketplace to sell insurance to individuals and small businesses (Finley, 2/22).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Two Local Delegates Named To Medicaid Commission
The members of the House of Delegates who will sit on the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission were announced Sunday, and two represent the Richmond area. Dels. R. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, John M. O’Bannon III, R-Henrico, Johnny S. Joannou, D-Portsmouth, and Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick, were named to the commission. The Senate appointees have not yet been chosen. O’Bannon, a physician, said in a statement that Medicaid is the fastest-growing item in the state budget, and that expansion "without significant reforms could wreck Virginia's finances" (2/15).

Kansas Health Institute: Budget Committee Hears Resolution Opposing Medicaid Expansion
Expanding the Kansas Medicaid program is the "morally right thing to do," according to a spokesman for Via Christi Health, the state's largest medical provider -- and if the state says no to it, the financial costs to the health system would "be greater than if we say yes." Dr. Keven Hoppock of Via Christi, a Catholic non-profit based in Wichita, was among the spokespersons for major medical providers who testified today against House Concurrent Resolution 5013, which would declare that the "will of the Kansas Legislature is that the state of Kansas not expand Medicaid above its current eligiblity levels" (Shields, 2/22).

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