KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Legislatures Pressured On Health Cuts, Malpractice Laws

California Healthline: Emergency Departments On Life Support
This week, the Assembly and Senate will debate the final package of budget reductions. ... Among the $6 billion in health-related cuts is the elimination of the Maddy Fund, a $55 million attempt to reimburse emergency departments for indigent care (Gorn, 3/9).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: N.J. Panel Hears Appeals For Aid Programs
The Assembly Budget Committee heard testimony for more than seven hours Tuesday during its first hearing on Gov. Christie's proposed $29.4 billion spending plan, as advocates called on the state to preserve funding for the sick, disabled, and elderly. … Advocates also questioned some of Christie's proposed reductions in health care for needy residents. Those include plans to end Medicaid coverage for certain beneficiaries receiving prescription drugs, institute a $3 co-pay for medical day care, and reduce state reimbursements to nursing homes (Rao, 3/8).

Health News Florida: Med-Mal Bill Bolsters Hospital Shield
Florida lawmakers are considering a controversial proposal that would shield hospitals from malpractice lawsuits if they contract with doctors whose errors harm patients. The proposal is a part of a wide-ranging malpractice bill approved today by a House subcommittee. ... Opponents questioned whether Medicaid would get stuck paying for the health care of injured patients if hospitals cannot be held liable and if contracted physicians do not have malpractice insurance (Saunders, 3/8).

Connecticut Mirror: Doctors Reconsider SustiNet Support After Liability Protect Withdrawn
Malpractice liability has long been a major concern for doctors, and many cheered the provision included in the proposed SustiNet bill, which calls for joining state-funded health insurance pools and offering state-run insurance coverage to the public. The provision would have protected health care providers from liability if they injure a patient covered by SustiNet while following clinical care guidelines. ... But lawmakers removed the liability section ... in response to concerns that limiting liability for injuries to SustiNet patients would create a double standard in the judicial system (Becker, 3/8).

WBUR: City Officials, Public Unions Take On Rising Health Insurance Costs
Mayors and town managers say they will have to lay off more employees unless the Legislature gives them the power to reduce health insurance costs without having to negotiate with unions. It seems that everyone has a plan to save money on public employees' health insurance, and all were at the State House Tuesday to argue for their plan (Thys, 3/9). 

The Texas Tribune: Stubbornness Could Hold Up Abortion Sonogram
House Republicans have no interest in taking up the Senate version, which they say is too lax for their liking. Indeed, an amendment on the House floor that would've replaced that chamber's sonogram bill with the Senate's language went down in flames last week. But the House version could have trouble making its way through the Senate, where abortion sonogram legislation only passed because of a careful balance struck between the bill's author, Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick, and Democratic state Sen. Carlos Uresti (Ramshaw and Aguilar, 3/8).

Stateline: Wisconsin Pension Plan Among Most Secure
The protests in Wisconsin over public workers' pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights have underscored a dilemma facing many states: the cost of public pensions and how cash-strapped governments should pay for them. But ... [s]tudies show that Wisconsin's state pension program is one of the most solid in the country. ... Wisconsin was hailed as a "national leader" in managing its long-term liabilities for both pensions and retiree health care (Prah, 3/9).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Health Plan?In $250 Million Hole
Insurance premiums for state employees, retirees, teachers and school personnel could increase by as much as 67 percent next year because the state has a $250 million shortfall in its health benefits program. If the state makes up the newly discovered shortfall only with premium increases, costs could rise by two-thirds for employees, teachers and state government retirees. That would mean an extra $100 to $200 or more per month for many of them. House leaders learned last week of new calculations showing a $250 million hole in the program, which was already slated to cost almost $3 billion, House Speaker David Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. The shortfall will occur in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1 (Salzer, 3/9). 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: Gov. John Kasich Targets Nursing Home Lobby In Speech
While Gov. John Kasich did not offer details about his upcoming budget during Tuesday's State of the State speech, he made clear one target for savings: nursing home care (Naymik, 3/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Ethics Questions
At the request of a national consumer group, a New York state ethics body is examining whether members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Medicaid policy team ran afoul of conflicts-of-interest laws. The Center for Justice and Democracy on Tuesday submitted a formal ethics complaint to the Public Integrity Commission, which regulates ethics laws over New York state agency employees (Gershman, 3/9).

WBUR: Halting Board Member Pay, Blue Cross Ponders Nonprofit Status
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Board of Directors on Tuesday voluntarily agreed to indefinitely suspend its members' compensation. In total that amounts to more than $1.2 million a year. The payments for the 18 board members make up a fraction of the $13 billion company, but the board says it heard clearly the community's anger at the board payments and the severance package to former CEO Cleve Killingsworth (Brady-Myerov, 3/9).

Georgia Health News: Price For Individual Insurance: $1,000 A Month, Plus Deductible
The tipping point for Jennifer Thurman was the additional $100. Her health insurer was already charging her about $999 a month for an individual policy. And not only was the monthly cost high, but the deductibles were, too. ... Her situation demonstrates the uncertainties and expense of individual health insurance, especially for people who have pre-existing conditions. ... For those who don't have access to a job-based plan, like Thurman, individual or family policies can cost as much as mortgage payments – if they can obtain coverage at all
(Miller, 3/8). 

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