KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: HIV Staff To Be Cut In Ga.; Abortion News In N.J., Mo.; Wis. Medicaid Coverage In Limbo

Georgia Health News: State To Cut Staff For HIV Prevention
A loss of $3.7 million in federal funds is forcing Georgia to reduce its workforce for HIV prevention. After an inquiry by Georgia Health News, the Department of Public Health this week acknowledged that 20 people in state health districts have been notified they will probably lose their jobs in January, and that an unspecified number of staffers at the department level have received the same notification. The statement said the reduction in funding "will have a substantial impact on the state’s HIV prevention work." The agency said it is working to soften the blow as much as possible (Miller, 12/22).

California Healthline: State Says IHSS Court Order Kept Counties In Dark
There are three levels of exemption for some Californians from the 20 percent trigger cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, according to officials from the Department of Social Services. Counties, which administer IHSS programs through county welfare departments, haven't heard about any of these exemptions because a federal temporary restraining order halted the implementation of those cuts, according to Michael Weston of DSS (Gorn, 12/22).

California Watch: Residents Of Coachella Valley Suffer High Rates Of Sickness
Although they live near the trappings of a fit and healthy lifestyle, close to lush golf courses and luxury day spas, Coachella Valley residents are sicker and in poorer health than other Californians, according to a new analysis of multiple health studies. In a comparison of research released last week, the Palm Desert-based Health Assessment Resource Center found that residents in the Coachella Valley had higher rates of diabetes, binge drinking and smoking than people living in other parts of the state and country. They also were more likely than other Californians to report being in only fair or poor health by more than 9 percentage points (Yeung, 12/22).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Feds Bolster High Risk Insurance Funds In Two States
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports: "The federal government this month increased funding to New Hampshire and California to make sure their new high-risk pools that provide coverage to uninsured people with pre-existing condition don’t run out of money before 2014" (12/22). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Lund Report (an Ore. news service): Oregon's Insurance Exchange To Determine Essential Benefit Package
In Oregon, the insurance exchange is working with the Oregon Insurance Division and the Oregon Health Authority to determine what sort of process the three agencies will undergo to create this package of benefits, said Lisa Morawski, the exchange's spokeswoman, adding that a timeline has not been developed. Such a benefits package will not be included in the business plan presented to the February legislative session, Rocky King, the exchange’s executive director, told Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City) on Tuesday (Waldroupe, 12/22).

St. Louis Beacon:  Amendment 2 Opponents Seek To Re-engage In Battle In 2012
Missouri Roundtable for Life, an anti-abortion group, is seeking to launch a 2012 ballot effort aimed at revisiting the 2006 fight over Amendment 2, which protects all types of embryonic stem cell research allowed under federal law (Mannies, 12/23).

The Associated Press/ABC News: Deal: NJ Nurses Can Skip Aiding Hospital Abortions
Twelve nurses who sued one of the state's largest hospitals after claiming they were forced to assist in abortions over their religious and moral objections reached a deal Thursday with their employer in federal court. Under the agreement, 12 nurses in the same-day surgery unit of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey can remain in their current positions and not be compelled to assist in any part of an abortion procedure. The nurses must only help in a life-threatening emergency if no other non-objecting staff members are available and only until which time one can be brought in to relieve them, according to the agreement (Henry, 12/22).

The Associated Press: Colorado College Sues Over Birth Control Provision
Colorado Christian University has a filed a lawsuit challenging the Barack Obama administration's health care legislation requirement that the morning-after pill be provided by health insurance plans. The emergency contraception pill that can prevent pregnancy and can be taken the day after having unprotected sex is considered tantamount to abortion by the suburban Denver, multidenominational school, which has 3,900 students (12/23). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Might Not Cut 53,000 From Medicaid By Year's End 
Even if a year-end deadline runs out, the state won't automatically move to drop health care coverage for tens of thousands of low-income adults as previously expected, Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday. In a second change in direction by the Republican governor, Walker said the state is suspending plans to implement the federal health care overhaul in Wisconsin while the nation's highest court considers whether to uphold that law. A law the governor and GOP legislators enacted says the state must drop 53,000 adults from health care coverage in July if the federal government doesn't act by Dec. 31 to approve the Walker administration's plan to cut more than a half-billion dollars from health programs such as BadgerCare Plus (Stein, 12/22).

Des Moines Register: Actuaries Say Costs Justify Wellmark Rate Increase
Iowa's main health insurer is justified in raising its premiums by 9.4 percent for people who buy their own policies, two experts say. The actuaries examined the proposed rate increase from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and reported back to Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss that the increase was justified by rising health care costs. The reports, released Thursday, counter scores of complaints from Wellmark customers, who told Voss in a public hearing this month that they shouldn’t have to pay so much more for their insurance (Leys, 12/22).

The Lund Report (an Ore. news service): Regence BlueCross BlueShield Seeks 4.5% Rate Increase For Small Businesses
Small businesses in Oregon will find themselves paying more for health insurance if a 4.5% rate request by Regence BlueCross BlueShield is approved by the Oregon Insurance Division. … Earlier this year, Regence asked small businesses to pay 10.8% in higher rates, but the Insurance Division reduced that request to 9.1%, which took effect in July. The proposed increase could be as high as 8.5% or a decrease as much as 6.6%, depending on the age of people covered, where they live, whether family members are covered and when their policy renews. In its filing to the Insurance Division, Regence indicated that medical costs had increased by 10.8% since April 2011 (Lund-Muzikant, 12/22).

Boston Globe: 1 Donor, Missteps, 3 Infected Patients
A child contracted hepatitis C through a blood vessel transplanted in September at Children's Hospital Boston from an infected donor who was not known to have the disease. Two people in Kentucky who received kidneys from the same donor were also infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday. The agency traced the transmission in Massachusetts to a testing error at an unnamed tissue bank and delayed communication between the Kentucky transplant center and public health officials (Conaboy, 12/22).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.