Roundup: State Legislatures Consider Nursing Home, Insurance Exchange Bills

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kansas, Missouri, California, Michigan, Oregon and Louisiana.

Boston Globe: After Lull, Premiums Poised For Quick Rise
Even as Massachusetts business and government leaders celebrate the most modest premium rate hikes in years for small employers and individuals, speakers at a health insurance seminar here yesterday warned that the main trend restraining bigger increases - fewer people seeking health care in the past year - already may be changing (Weisman, 2/8).

The Sacramento Bee: Job Cuts Leave More California Residents In Medical Debt, UCLA Study Says
Some 2.6 million non-elderly California residents carried medical debt in 2009, about 400,000 more than in 2007, according to the report released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Recession was the prime suspect, as job cuts forced more Californians onto the unemployment line, stripping their employer-supplied health benefits in the process (Smith, 2/8).

Kaiser Health News: Minnesota Plans For Exchange, Even Without New Law
Minnesota lawmakers are grappling with a new question: How close can they get to setting up a health insurance exchange without passing a new state law? The state, which has a Democrat in the governor's mansion and Republicans in control of both houses of the legislature, saw exchange legislation fail in the last session (Stawicki, 2/7).

Boston Globe: Proposal Would Set Standards For Dementia Care
Patient advocates called on state lawmakers yesterday to close a loophole in Massachusetts law that allows nursing homes to advertise specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care units, even though their workers may have no training in caring for such patients. About 200 supporters gathered at the State House to back a proposed law that would require the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which regulates nursing homes, to establish minimum standards (Lazar, 2/8).

Kansas Health Institute News: Advocates Disagree Over Former Offenders In Nursing Homes
A representative of the state's largest senior-citizen organization told legislators today that a person convicted of a serious crime should not be allowed to live in a Kansas nursing home.  ... [Toni Wellshear, a member of the AARP Kansas executive council] was testifying against House Bill 2583 ... Lobbyists for the state’s nursing homes said they didn't oppose the bill but cautioned committee members against creating an environment in which few, if any, facilities would accept former inmates who are elderly, in frail health or  demented (Ranney, 2/7).

The Dallas Morning News: Perry Accused Of Mischaracterizing Closed Planned Parenthood Facilities As Abortion Clinics
Women's health advocates assailed Rick Perry on Tuesday for what they called a "patently false" assertion that state budget cuts have forced a dozen abortion clinics to close. They accused the governor of purposely misstating the law, which requires abortion clinics to use only private funding, by saying that state budget cuts have shuttered 11 Planned Parenthood clinics that provided cancer screenings and contraception for women. No abortion clinics in Texas have closed (Hoppe, 2/7).

Detroit Free Press: MSU Is Requiring Freshmen To Have Health Insurance Or Join Its Plan
If Michigan State University freshmen don't prove they have health insurance by the end of the month, the university will automatically enroll them in a plan and tack the cost onto their tuition bills. The state's largest public university is the first in Michigan to make such a move -- and it isn't going over well with Republicans in the Legislature. They've set a hearing next week on the matter (Jesse, 2/8).

Kansas City Star: Facing Rising Demand, KC Free Clinic Now Asks Patients For Donations
On an outside wall of the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, a large sign reads: "Providing free health care to the uninsured for 40 years 1971-2011." Make that "almost free." Recently, the clinic began asking its mostly poor and working-poor clientele to pay $10 for each office visit. … By no means is the clinic facing extinction should patients fail to pony up something for their care. Nor is anyone being turned away (Hendricks, 2/7).

Kansas Health Institute News: Compact Would Take Kansas Out Of Federal Medicaid And Medicare Programs
Dan Tripp, national field director for the nonprofit Health Care Compact Alliance, testified Monday to the House Health and Human Services Committee in support of a bill that would authorize Kansas’ membership in the Health Care Compact. Similar bills have passed and been signed into law in four states: Georgia, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma (McLean, 2/7).

Related, earlier KHN story: Some States Seeking Health Care Compact (Gugliotta, 9/18/11).

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Mental Health Agencies Face Budget Pressure to Work Together More Efficiently After emerging from a private meeting with about two dozen behavioral health care authorities around the region, the city's top physician said Tuesday that the disparate system has little choice but to improve communication and efficiencies in response to announced cuts in inpatient and emergency services now provided by Louisiana State University's New Orleans hospital (Barrow, 2/7). 

The Lund Report: Advocates Insist Psychological and Social Factors Integral to Coordinated Care Organizations’ Goals Legislation that would require coordinated care organizations (CCOs) to take into consideration psychological and social factors impacting a patient’s health received a lukewarm reception in the Senate’s Healthcare Committee yesterday afternoon. ... About 600,000 people on the Oregon Health Plan are expected to receive healthcare services under CCOs if legislators pass Senate Bill 1580 and state officials receive the necessary federal waivers (Waldroupe, 2/7).

KCUR: Cerner Sees Record Growth
The North Kansas City-based health IT company, which employs more than 6,000 people in the region, brought in record profits and sales, according its year-end earnings report released today. Total revenue last year topped $2 billion, up 19 percent from 2010. ... Cerner's growth comes at a time when hospitals and health providers are increasingly going electronic (Gordon, 2/7). 

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.