State Highlights: Tenn. Gov. Hesitates On Medicaid Expansion

A selection of health policy stories from Tennessee, California, Michigan, Minnesota and Texas.

The New York Times: Tennessee Governor Hesitates on Medicaid Expansion, Frustrating Many
Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee describes it as "trying to thread a needle from 80 yards." Mr. Haslam is only the latest Republican tailor trying to figure out whether to expand the state's Medicaid rolls as prescribed by President Obama's Affordable Care Act. In his case, it involves trying -- so far unsuccessfully -- to balance some sharply conflicting concerns: struggling hospitals, local business groups, dwindling state resources and fierce conservative opposition to the new health care law. And it has left him hanging out there, with no resolution in sight (Lyman, 11/16).

Los Angeles Times: Health Measures To Dominate 2014 Voter Ballot
Obamacare's troubled rollout -- and its more successful California start -- may be dominating the news now. But wait till next year. An election year ballot full of health issues awaits California voters next November. And the lineup could spur a campaign free-for-all that may prompt hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending (Lifsher, 11/17).

The Texas Tribune: Abortion Opponents Draw Attention To Remaining Clinics
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia weighs Texas abortion providers' request to reinstate an injunction on strict abortion regulations that took effect in November, abortion opponents are calling attention to the availability of abortion procedures across the state, hoping to prove new regulations haven't created an undue burden on women (Aaronson, 11/15).

Kaiser Health News: Uninsured In Mich. County Can Pay For Dental Care With Volunteer Work
Kelly Price knows too well the pain of infected teeth and how they become so sensitive it hurts to eat or drink. He has suffered with that in the past and still has several teeth that need to be extracted, but the 51-year-old unemployed machinist can't afford to see a dentist. That's why on a morning last month he was helping out at the Food Bank of South Central Michigan filling bags for weekend meals for needy children with Special K cereal, cans of spaghetti and meatballs, green beans, and a juice drink (Galewitz, 11/17).

California Healthline: As Stimulus Money Ends, Summit Looks At Future Of Health Information Effort
Health information exchange leaders [Friday] will meet in Sacramento for the industry's annual summit. The HIE effort in California has been a success in part because it's publicly funded and privately driven, said Pamela Lane, deputy secretary of HIE for the state's Health and Human Services agency. Federal stimulus funding for HIE will end in February 2014. Lane said the summit is an important bridge to the next wave of HIE innovation. … Although federal funding is ending, the effort to expand the use and exchange of electronic health information will continue in California, Lane said (Gorn, 11/15).

Minnesota Public Radio: 21 Minn. Hospitals Penalized For Poor Quality Scores
Twenty-one Minnesota hospitals will receive slightly lower Medicare reimbursement payments because they failed to meet federal quality benchmarks, according to a compilation by the non-partisan Kaiser Health News. Medicare also gave bonuses to 21 Minnesota hospitals that scored high on quality. The hospitals are penalized or rewarded based on a small fraction of their Medicare payment reimbursement (Stawicki, 11/15).

Stateline: Grants Help States Combat High-Cost, Low-Quality Health Care
The key to cutting costs and improving quality, many experts believe, is to reward health care providers for keeping their patients healthy and keeping costs down, instead of giving them a financial incentive to provide as many services and procedures as possible. That’s where states come in. Under an ACA program called the State Innovation Models Initiative, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont this year began testing new health care financing models. Another 19 states are in various stages of developing similar experiments (Vestal, 11/18).

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