KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: State Lawmakers, Governors Planning Health Legislation

A selection of stories from Maryland, Iowa, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, New Jersey, Georgia and Massachusetts.

Des Moines Register: GOP Legislative Leaders Weigh In On Health Benefits, Tax Reform, Mental Health
Iowa House and Senate Republicans could support legislation requiring lawmakers to contribute to the cost of their state-provided health-care benefits, party leaders told the Des Moines Register's editorial board this morning. The health-care packages now offered by the state — in which most employees, including legislators, are not required to make contributions from their salaries — are "out of touch" with the plans available to average Iowans, ... House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said (Noble, 1/13). 

California Healthline: State Moving Toward Licensing Home Health Workers
Two bills have been proposed to regulate an estimated one million unlicensed home health workers in California. The big questions are, how much regulation is needed, and how much that type of program will cost (Gorn, 1/17). 

NPR: Botox Tax Goes Under The Knife In New Jersey
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is considering a bill that would eliminate the state's 6 percent tax on cosmetic medical procedures like Botox by July 2013. ... New Jersey's tax on cosmetic surgery is only bringing in about $10 million a year, less than half of what was projected. Those revenues, however modest, go into a special fund that reimburses hospitals for charity care — a fund in which state contributions are matched with federal dollars (Rose, 1/16). 

Modern Healthcare: Minn. Not-For-Profit Hospitals Cite Spending On Community Benefits
Not-for-profit hospitals in Minnesota said they devoted nearly 12% of all the money they spent in 2010 on community benefits, including free and discounted healthcare for the poor, unreimbursed care for Medicaid patients, the training of future clinicians and medical research, a new report from the Minnesota Hospital Association says (Carlson, 1/16).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Hospitals Report Jump In Unpaid Care
The cost of providing free or discounted hospital care for low-income Minnesotans rose 27 percent in 2010, driven by still-high unemployment and dwindling state coverage for public assistance, according to [the Minnesota Hospital Association]. ... The cost to hospitals for treating low-income and disabled patients getting Medicaid grew by 13 percent to $498.5 million because the care wasn't fully reimbursed by state and federal government (Crosby, 1/16).

The Baltimore Sun: Health Enterprise Zones To Target Disparities In State 
Gov. Martin O'Malley’s 2012-2013 budget will include funding to create Health Enterprise Zones, where doctors and community groups in areas with large health disparities, such as Baltimore, could add medical and support services for minorities. Tax credits and other financial incentives would be available to spur interest. The plan is designed to save lives and healthcare dollars, according to Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (Cohn, 1/16).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Since August, 88,000 Pennsylvania Children Have Lost Medicaid Benefits
More children lost Medicaid coverage in Pennsylvania in December than in the previous three months combined, according to new Department of Public Welfare numbers that show a total of 88,000 cut since August. Advocates for the poor and disabled say orders to quickly process a backlog of eligibility reviews, which has mushroomed to more than 700,000 cases, have pushed an already overwhelmed workforce over the edge (Sapatkin, 1/17).

Minnesota Public Radio: Diabetes Juggernaut Threatens To Overwhelm MN Health Care System
One-third of all adults in the state either have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, with blood glucose levels that are higher than normal. ... In human terms, diabetes is measured in heart failure, amputations and loss of eyesight. Measured in dollars, the cost is enormous: $2.6 billion a year in Minnesota alone (Benson, 1/17). 

Georgia Health News: A Sea Change In How Doctors Practice
Dr. Mitzi Rubin is glad she changed practices to become an employee of a large organization. Now she can concentrate on her patients, not on running a business. ... Rubin signed on with the WellStar Medical Group, a consortium of about 500 doctors in 30 specialties affiliated with WellStar Health System. The group runs physician practices around Cobb and several other counties in northwest metro Atlanta (King, 1/13). 

Boston Globe: Neighborhood Cancer Care
Cancer treatment centers with links to the most prestigious hospitals in the state are springing up in suburban communities. ... The proliferation of suburban cancer treatment centers reflects a new model of medical care, in which patients visit satellite offices near their homes for daily therapies, like radiation infusions, and cut down on trips to their hospital's main campus in Boston or Worcester, authorities say (Dyer, 1/15).

The Sacramento Bee: Kaiser May Face Sympathy Strike By Nurses Union
The union representing Kaiser Permanente's nurses says thousands of its caregivers may walk off the job Jan. 31 in an echo of mass demonstrations at hospitals in September if labor talks between Kaiser and a sister union stall. Kaiser and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents mental health professionals, therapists and optical workers in Northern California, have been in contract negotiations for months over pension benefits, health care coverage and staffing issues (Smith, 1/17).

The Miami Herald: Should Guns Be Banned In Hospitals?
The South Florida hospital association is once again asking the Legislature to ban guns in hospitals, but the gun lobby is adamantly opposed and legislators are showing little interest (Dorschner, 1/16).

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