KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Govs, Legislatures’ Varying Solutions To Medicaid Squeeze; Calif. Adult Day Care On Chopping Block; Threat To HIV Treatment

National Journal: Governors Asking For Flexibility, Not Cash, For Medicaid
Cash-strapped governors have started to take a different tack with federal lawmakers as Capitol Hill has turned more conservative. Instead of financial assistance, they're asking for flexibility, and in place of a bailout, they're pitching a vision of self-reliance. In some regards, the approach reflects voters' growing wariness about federal spending. Republicans won control of the House and put Senate Democrats on notice last fall, in part with a pledge of fiscal belt-tightening.  ... Finding Medicaid funding has traditionally been a bipartisan headache at the state level, and finding ways to remedy it has tested both parties. But with the GOP in control of the House and the vote margins narrowed in the Senate, getting more federal aid is a tough sell (DoBias, 2/8).

Reuters: South Carolina Bailout Pushes Back Medicaid Crisis
South Carolina's budget watchdog on Tuesday okayed a partial, $100 million bailout that delays a payments crisis for the state's Medicaid health-insurance program for poor people. With the state eyeing a large overall budget shortfall in its next fiscal year, the South Carolina Budget and Control Board voted to allow the Medicaid agency to operate with a $100 million deficit. ... The board's vote allows the agency that helps 832,000 people monthly to push back to mid-April from March 4 a deadline based on current spending for when it would no longer be able to pay health-care providers (McLeod, 2/8).

Connecticut Mirror: Malloy Administration Moving HUSKY Out Of Managed Care
The Malloy administration announced plans Tuesday to move the HUSKY and Charter Oak health programs out of managed care and increase care coordination in the state's other Medicaid programs, an effort officials said would save money while giving the state more control over health programs that serve more than 500,000 people. ... In the current system, the state pays three managed care companies set fees for each HUSKY and Charter Oak member every month, and the companies use the money to pay medical claims. Critics say it gives the managed care companies an incentive to deny care since they get to keep the money not spent on medical costs (Levin Becker and Phaneuf, 2/8).

Chicago Tribune: Budget Squeeze Could Make HIV Treatment Costlier, Rarer
Thousands of low-income Illinoisans who have the AIDS virus could find themselves with fewer choices for life-sustaining medicines and more hurdles to get treatment, as the state continues to grapple with an unprecedented budget crunch amid increased demand and high drug prices (Japsen, 2/9).

Kaiser Health News: Vermont Gov. Proposes Single-Payer Health Plan
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who was elected last November after promising to reform health care in the state, unveiled a bill  today that would abolish most forms of private health insurance and move state residents into a publicly funded insurance pool (Miles, 2/8).

San Francisco Chronicle: Calif. Adult Day Health Care On Chopping Block
The elderly San Francisco residents are at risk of losing the four-hour-a-day program, which provides medical care, physical therapy, exercise, counseling, socialization and other support to low-income, disabled and elderly adults in California. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed eliminating the $176 million a year program as part of his plan to close the state's $25.4 billion budget shortfall. The Adult Day Health Care program, which serves 37,000 Californians a year at 310 licensed centers, is one of just two social services programs up for elimination under the Democratic governor's plan. The other is the similar Multipurpose Senior Service Program, which provides social and health care for frail, elderly clients who are certifiable for placement in a nursing facility but who wish to remain in the community (Lagos, 2/7).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Plan Profits Are Focus Of Hearing
A lawyer and lobbyist who worked until recently for the Minnesota Hospital Association testified Tuesday that local health insurance companies may be reaping much larger profits off taxpayer-supported programs than state officials know. That's because reports they file with state and federal agencies lack transparency, said David Feinwachs, who was fired in November after criticizing the managed-care plans (Wolfe and Schrade, 2/8). 

Kansas Health Institute News: Legislators Consider Changes To Insurance Company Regulation
Kansas legislators today began work on a bill to bring state law up to date with provisions of the federal health reform law that are intended to safeguard consumers from arbitrary or illegitimate denials of health insurance claims. ... Testifying before the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, Kris Kellim from the Kansas Insurance Department said current Kansas law already provides most of the consumer protections required by the federal law, but full compliance would require the addition of four new provisions (2/8).

Georgia Health News: Ob/Gyn To Oversee Public Health System
A Carrollton ob/gyn will direct Georgia's beleaguered public health system. Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald will preside over a unit that faces major financial and administrative challenges. ... Georgia ranks low among states on several health indicators, including infant mortality, childhood obesity, infectious disease and cardiovascular deaths. Yet Public Health, with a $600 million budget and more than 1,000 employees, is scheduled for cuts under (Gov. Nathan) Deal's proposed budget for fiscal 2012 (Miller, 2/8). 

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Lawmakers To Consider Anti-Abortion Bills 
In Arizona, the anti-abortion effort has won more than it has lost, particularly in the past two years since Gov. Jan Brewer joined an increasingly conservative House and Senate. Abortion opponents say the changes Arizona lawmakers have made and continue to work for are intended to protect women. This year, legislation is aimed at furthering restrictions on an increasingly popular prescription abortion pill as well as preventing doctors from using remote video technology to serve rural patients seeking abortions. ... Abortion-rights advocates argue that such efforts are more about making it harder for women in Arizona to get abortions (Rau, 2/9). 

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