State Highlights: More States Gearing Up To Combine Medicare, Medicaid

A selection of health policy stories from California, Texas, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Connecticut.

Stateline: States Meld Medicare and Medicaid
They are a diverse group of low-income people who are disabled or elderly. Many have multiple chronic illnesses, or are battling depression or substance abuse. Most will need long-term care at some point in their lives. In the nearly 50 years since Medicaid and Medicare were enacted, the two health care programs -- one for the poor and the other for the elderly and disabled -- have remained separate, with different rules, duplicative benefits and conflicting financial incentives. The result has been wasted money and disjointed care for more than 10 million “dual eligibles,” the Americans who qualify for both programs (Vestal, 2/12).

Los Angeles Times: Vaccination Exemptions Still On States’ Legislative Agendas
Eighteen state legislatures, including California's, have considered exemptions to immunization mandates in the last several years -- and the issue remains a topic of debate, researchers said Tuesday. Most of the bills introduced in those 18 states sought to expand the exemptions available to school immunization requirements, but none of those bills passed, researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. (MacVean, 2/11).

The Dallas Morning News: Wendy Davis Backs 20-Week Abortion Ban That Defers To Women
Wendy Davis said Tuesday that she would have supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, if the law adequately deferred to a woman and her doctor. Davis, a Fort Worth senator and the likely Democratic nominee for governor, told The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board that less than one-half of 1 percent of Texas abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most of those were in cases where fetal abnormalities were evident or there were grave risks to the health of the woman (Jeffers, 2/11).

Health News Colorado: Garfield County Moves Forward With Lawsuit Over Rates
Garfield County’s commissioners on Monday authorized their attorney to sue Colorado officials for placing them in the state’s resort region, which has the highest health insurance prices in the nation. County Attorney Frank Hutfless plans to file the lawsuit in U.S. District Court by April. “The Division of Insurance has violated federal law in establishing these geographic rating areas,” Hutfless said. “The rating areas should not discriminate against people. The rating areas should, to the extent possible, make (health) insurance affordable. People shouldn’t be deprived of the benefits that are intended to be conferred upon them by the Affordable Care Act” (McCrimmon, 2/11).

The Washington Post: Va. Legislators Push Flurry Of Bills At Session’s Halfway Point
Virginia’s General Assembly plowed through hundreds of bills Tuesday, reaching broad consensus on ethics, school testing and mental health reforms while also picking new partisan fights and bracing for a Medicaid battle that will test Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s ability to work across the aisle. Racing against a deadline to get bills out of one chamber and into the other, legislators put the final touches on measures aimed at limiting gifts to public officials, reducing standardized tests in public schools and improving the handling of psychiatric emergencies -- all priorities that enjoy bipartisan support (Vozzella, Laris and Weiner, 2/11).

The Associated Press: NC Lawmaker Blames Medicaid For Poor Communication 
The North Carolina agency running Medicaid said Tuesday it should have informed legislators and done a better financial review before accepting a temporary delay from the federal government on changes to recalculate patient eligibility. The decision by the Division of Medical Assistance in October to accept a three-month wait could cost the state up to $2.8 million, according to the agency, adding the amount could grow if the extension were to be lengthened (2/11).

Health News Florida: Nurse Bill Goes Too Far, Critics Say
Critics of a legislative plan that would increase the authority of Florida’s nurse practitioners pushed back Monday, wondering if the massive bill would give nurses all the privileges now granted to more-educated and more-skilled physicians. The plan -- which allows qualified nurse practitioners the ability to operate independently, without a physician’s supervision -- could be seen as a short-cut to those who want to treat patients but don't want to go to medical school, said Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood (Shedden, 2/11).

The CT Mirror: CT Hospitals’ Group Recommends Notifying Patients On Facility Fees, Costs
Responding to concerns identified by the state attorney general, the Connecticut Hospital Association has recommended that its members provide patients with specific information about “facility fees” they could incur if they get care at hospital-owned medical offices. Attorney General George Jepsen praised the hospital association’s new policy Tuesday and described it as the first of its kind in the country. But he said he will continue to pursue legislation that would require hospitals to give patients information about the fees (Becker, 2/12).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 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.