KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: States Act On Medicaid And Health Spending, Payment Reform

MinnPost: GOP Proposal For Health Fund 'Overhaul' Under Discussion
A Republican proposal to retain solvency in a key state health care fund is making headway at the Capitol, despite the tumultuous ride reform has taken this session. The fund - which supports MinnesotaCare, a state-sponsored program for about 140,000 "working poor" residents - is set to run a $150 million deficit by 2013. Gov. Mark Dayton extended the solvency of the state account past 2011 when he signed the early Medicaid opt-in as his first act as governor and attracted more than $1 billion in federal funding. But with the state's $6.2 billion projected deficit, Republican opposition to the opt-in (with legislation to back it up) and proposed cuts to MinnesotaCare in Dayton's budget, the future is bleak (Nord, 2/23).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Aide: Ending Medicaid Would Cripple State
If shutting down the state's health-care program for indigents sounds drastic, that's because it's supposed to. While other states have just talked about it, Arizona on Wednesday became the first to take official action toward killing its Medicaid program. Senate Bill 1519, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on an 8-5 vote, would end the nearly 30-year-old safety-net program, which now covers more than 1.3 million Arizonans, about half of them children. The state would forego more than $7.5 billion in federal matching funds, and most of the $2 billion in state funding would be redirected to the general fund, with about $1 billion earmarked for the developmentally disabled, behavioral health care and the "medically indigent" (Reinhart, 2/23).

WBUR: Health Care Jargon: How Do You 'Bend The Cost Curve?'
This week, Gov. Deval Patrick began the tough job of selling doctors, hospital executives and other health care professionals on his plan to bring down health care costs in Massachusetts. Patrick says he wants to use "global payments," "accountable care organizations" and "medical homes" to achieve "comprehensive payment reform." Lost yet? Because health care policy can be dense - but its jargon is even denser. To wade through the jargon, WBUR's All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer gave a pop quiz to wbur.org reporter and health care novice Andrew Phelps on some of that terminology (Pfeiffer and Phelps, 2/23).

California Healthline: More Seniors Means Greater Elder Abuse
Assembly member Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) cited an interesting statistic during a legislative session on elder abuse yesterday: "We have 10,000 people a day who are turning 65 in this country" ... "One in four residents in nursing homes and residential care facilities get anti-psychotic drugs," [Patricia McGinnis, executive director for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform], "many without informed consent." McGinnis said there's a need to increase civil and criminal punishment for mistreating seniors (Gorn, 2/23).

(New Orleans) Times-Picayune: Teen Pregnancy Reduction Grants Totaling $30 Million Awarded
Six state, local and private agencies are in line for a combined $30 million in federal aid aimed at reducing teen pregnancy. The organizations, among 93 entities nationally to receive awards from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, are the state health department's Office of Public Health and its HIV/AIDS program, Louisiana Public Health Institute, the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center and Tulane University. All of the recipients nationally run existing programs that federal authorities determined to be effective in reducing teenage pregnancy rates (Barrow, 2/23).

The Boston Globe: Another Health Plan Link On Table
Tufts Health Plan is in talks to take control of Cambridge Health Alliance's managed care plan as a way to expand its reach into the health insurance market for lower-income people. The deal would also provide money the alliance needs to invest in its hospitals and health care delivery system. The talks have been going on for months, according to e-mails sent to employees from both organizations? chief executives yesterday. The alliance, which operates so-called safety net hospitals in Cambridge, Somerville, and Everett, has had to cut jobs over the past two years and has been seeking a buyer or an affiliation with another health care provider (Ailworth, 2/24).

The Boston Globe: Advocates Say Proposed Cuts Would Force Many Into Nursing Homes
Advocates for frail elders and disabled adults, including many with Alzheimer's disease, say proposed cuts by the Patrick administration to a community-based health program will force many patients into nursing homes. At issue is the administration's two-pronged proposal, which includes reducing reimbursement rates starting March 15 to 140 providers that care for elderly and disabled adults who are still living at home. The administration said the action would help to immediately address a multi-million dollar gap in the state's Medicaid budget and would save the state about $3.3 million a year. But advocates, who plan to pack a public hearing on the proposal Thursday morning, say many of the programs are already barely making ends meet and further cuts would force some of them to immediately close (Lazar, 2/23).

The Miami Herald: Questions Raised About Bid To Buy Jackson
A day after a Boston company made a stunning offer to buy Jackson Health System for $1.1 billion, community and healthcare leaders on Wednesday tried to find answers to questions about the potential deal including whether the bidder has the ability to run Jackson, how to find other potential buyers and how to determine the proper price for the century-old institution. Jackson is in such difficult financial conditions – its executives warn it may run out of cash in July – that many leaders are willing to consider a sale, but they wondered whether the 90-day timetable set by Steward Health Care System is realistic and what the deal might mean for the 500,000 uninsured persons in Miami-Dade County (Dorschner, 2/23). 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Health Insurance Premiums Debated
Since the 1980s, Georgia legislators have added a series of consumer protections to the state's insurance laws. They required insurers to pay for mammograms and prostate cancer screenings. They banned "drive-through deliveries" by requiring insurers to pay for a 48-hour hospital stay for new mothers and their babies. Lawmakers also required that insurers pay chiropractors and optometrists for care. This year, legislators are debating whether Georgia has gone too far with its slate of mandates for insurance companies. That debate is taking place as the federal government is coming up with its own list of insurance minimums, as part of the national health care law (Teegardin, 2/24).

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