KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: States Grapple With High Health Costs, Medicaid Squeeze

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker Could Reshape Medical Care
Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill would give his administration sweeping powers to reshape state health programs covering more than 1 million state residents. Under the bill, the administration's rewrite of the Medicaid program would be reviewed only by the Legislature's budget committee, which has a broader margin of control for majority Republican lawmakers than any other legislative committee. ... For just this fiscal year that ended June 30, the state faces a $153 million deficit in the Medicaid program. The budget repair bill deals with that shortfall by making cuts in other areas and then shifting enough money into health programs to cover the shortfall. But in the next budget starting July 1, the state faces as much as a $1.8 billion shortfall that will be much more difficult to simply backfill with tax dollars (Stein, 2/14).

The Dallas Morning News: Cutting Medicaid Harder Than Issuing Soundbites, Senators Learn
Texas budget writers are finding that cutting Medicaid is harder than it sounds. Reducing services that states don't have to provide for poor adults is already a part of both chambers' initial budgets. But Senate health budget writers were warned Monday to tread carefully for fear of costing the state more in the long run. If kidney dialysis treatment is cut, Medicaid patients with renal disease would show up very ill at hospitals, said Charles Bell, deputy executive commissioner for health services at the Health and Human Services Commission (Garrett, 2/14).

Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton's Budget Spares State Aid To Cities And Counties
Gov. Mark Dayton releases his budget plan Tuesday and it's expected to protect funding for state aid to cities and counties. ... Patti Cullen, CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, said the nursing homes and assisted living facilities she represents are bracing for cuts. "You can't solve this huge budget deficit without some measure of cuts in health and human services, and we're just hoping that it's a minimal amount," she said. "We've gone several years without rate increases, so it's already a tense situation out there" (Scheck and Pugmire, 2/14).

Kansas Health Institute News: Governor's Budget Includes Cuts In Elderly Services
Hoping to avoid making frail seniors wait for services that help keep them out of nursing homes, Gov. Sam Brownback has told the Kansas Department on Aging to cut its salaries by $3 million. That's almost one-fourth of the agency's employee costs. ... Historically, KDoA has avoided a waiting list because limiting frail seniors' access to services increases the likelihood more will be admitted to nursing homes, which generally ends up costing the state more than home- and community-based services. States are required to cover nursing-home care for frail, low-income seniors; in-home services are not subject to a federal mandate (Ranney, 2/14).

Chicago Sun-Times: How Illinois' Medicaid Reforms Could Affect You
Illinois' new Medicaid reform law is expected to save the state an estimated $800 million over the next five years by tightening eligibility requirements for enrollment and providing more cost-effective care. All Kids covers fewer kids ... More managed care ... More community-based housing ... Better eligibility verification (Thomas, 2/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Top N.J. Democrat To Propose Change In Health Spending
New Jersey's Senate president will propose an overhaul to the way the state's public workers pay for health care, requiring higher-paid employees to spend more for coverage. ... [The proposal] is a rebuttal to one from Republican Gov. Chris Christie and would require workers to pay a percentage of their health-care plan's premium (Fleisher, 2/15).

The Boston Globe: Insurers Seeking Smaller Rate Hikes
One year after the state's biggest health insurers requested premium increases averaging 12 to 25 percent for small businesses and individuals, touching off a five-month battle with Governor Deval Patrick, the companies are limiting their proposed base rate hikes to under 10 percent for the year starting April 1. Patrick administration officials, who last year rejected the double-digit rate increases, hailed the more modest requests as a victory in their campaign to contain soaring health costs (Weisman, 2/15).

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: Inside Scoop: Patrick Expected To Give Major Speech On Controlling Health Costs Thursday
Governor Deval Patrick is scheduled to speak at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday morning. ... Word in the halls of the State House is that he will make the speech an urgent call to halt rising health care costs. ... The governor is telling some hospitals he wants the authority to set the rates they can charge if, after three years, hospitals are still asking for increases of more than 2% (Bebinger, 2/14).

The Texas Tribune: Texas Is 'On the Brink,' Legislative Study Group Says
Despite having the highest birth rate, Texas has the worst rate of women with health insurance, and the worst rate of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, according to the report commissioned by the Legislative Study Group, a liberal-leaning research caucus in the Texas House. ... And though Texas has the highest percent of its population without health insurance, the state is 49th in per capita spending on Medicaid, and dead last in per capita spending on mental health, according to the report (Ramshaw, 2/14).

The Miami Herald: Treasurer Says Jackson Faces Train Wreck
The grim news that Jackson Health System lost another $11.1 million in December and has a dwindling supply of cash to meet its payroll prompted Marcos Lapciuc, treasurer of the Public Health Trust that oversees Jackson, to warn Monday that "there's a train at 200 mph heading straight at us." ... Jackson presently gets about $335 million a year from sales and property taxes. Commissioners have said repeatedly in recent weeks that [Miami-Dade] county can't give Jackson anything more (Dorschner, 2/14).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Grady Memorial Hospital To Cut 100 Jobs
Grady Memorial Hospital will cut 100 jobs and may consider trimming programs to help bridge a $25 million shortfall in federal funding, hospital officials said. The layoffs, which will not include doctors or nurses, are expected to save Grady roughly $6 million, though it's unclear where the rest of the gap will be made up -- whether in program reductions or new sources of revenue, spokesman Matt Gove said. Grady is seeing one of its largest-ever reductions in government funding at a time when the recession has spurred greater numbers of uninsured patients, CEO Michael Young told board members at a meeting Monday. "We see patients in tears" who have lost their health coverage, he said (Williams, 2/14). 

Modern Healthcare: N.Y.C. System Sues Over Massive Data Breach
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. filed a lawsuit against a data storage and transport vendor after the December theft of electronic files that contained personal or health information for about 1.7 million patients and hospital or contract employees. The 14-hospital system said the breach involved patients, staff and vendors at Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital and two health centers during a 20-year period (Evans. 2/14). 

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