First Edition: November 29, 2011

Today's headlines include reports about states' bleak economic forecast. 

Kaiser Health News: Colleges Face Challenges With Influx Of Military Veterans
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, and working in collaboration with The Washington Post, Sandra G. Boodman writes: "Propelled by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which took effect in 2009, 2 million veterans, many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are eligible for generous benefits that can amount to a full scholarship. At George Mason University, Virginia's largest public school with more than 32,000 students, for example, the number of veterans has almost doubled, from 840 in 2009 to 1,575 last spring. As a result, colleges are contending with adjustment problems and serious disorders far different from those for which their staffs have been trained: traumatic brain injury; post-traumatic stress related to combat and often accompanied by depression and substance abuse; and military sexual trauma, as sexual abuse in the service is known" (Boodman, 11/29).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Both Patients And Physicians Can Suffer When Test Results Aren't Reported
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews reports: "Medical tests can reveal critical information about a person's health, but only if the results are communicated to clinicians and patients. Sometimes, the ball gets dropped somewhere between the lab or the radiology department and the clinician who ordered the test and the patient" (11/29).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 2 States Survey Nursing Home Residents To Access Care; The Cost Of Treating A Scorpion Sting
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Susan Jaffe writes: "[A]t the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, researchers from Minnesota and Ohio explained how consumers in those states can find summaries of nursing home residents' online reviews" (11/28). Also on the blog, Jenny Gold reports: "Say you're trekking through the desert in Mexico, minding your own business, when all of a sudden a scorpion scrambles up your boot and stings your leg. You hobble over to a nearby clinic, where you're given a dose of anti-venom that brings you fast relief. The charge for the serum is about $100. Now imagine instead that you happen to be hiking in Arizona, and the same type of scorpion stings you. You make it to the emergency room, where the charge for a dose of the same anti-venom costs can cost as much as $12,000, according to a survey by The Arizona Republic" (11/28). Check out what else is on the blog.

Politico: Mandatory Budget Cuts After Supercommittee Failure Will Trigger Pain For Some
By any name, they mean pain, both for the Pentagon and for the weaklings among domestic programs. But there are winners, too: A protected class of individuals and programs -; including congressional pensions -; won't bear any burden. The writers of the August debt-limit deal ensured that the deficit wouldn't be closed with automatic cuts to Social Security or Medicaid, tax hikes or even changes to their own pensions or death benefits (Allen, 11/28).

The Washington Post: States Face Bleak Economic Forecast, Report Says
The report says that Medicaid, the combined federal-state health program for the poor and the disabled, will place the biggest budgetary burden on states. Because of increasing caseloads, declining federal help and spiraling health-care costs, state Medicaid spending is growing much faster than state revenue, crowding out funding for other priorities (Fletcher, 11/29).

The Wall Street Journal: State Budgets Improve Slowly
While revenue is projected to continue growing with the economy, albeit slowly, the cuts will likely continue because states' costs-;in particular their costs for Medicaid, the state and federal health-care program for the needy-;continue to outpace the growth in tax revenue (LaHart, 11/29).

Politico: Health Insurance Exchanges' Iffy Status
For state governments, the coming Supreme Court ruling on health reform isn't an abstract argument about the U.S. Constitution. It's a highly practical question about whether, when and how to proceed with one of the health law's most important and complicated pieces: setting up health insurance exchanges. Already facing political strife over implementation of health reform, some states are wondering if they should sit tight on exchange decisions until the court rules, probably in June (Millman, 11/28).

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog: Back On The 'Doc Fix' Watch As Medicare Cuts Loom
It seems like just yesterday that Congress passed a one-year fix for Medicare reimbursement cuts. Unfortunately, time has flown, and we find ourselves back on the "doc fix" watch -; though this year, there's a 24.7% cut looming (Hobson, 11/28).

The New York Times: Supreme Court TV? Nice Idea, But Still Not Likely
A couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a constitutional challenge to President Obama's health care law. The case is a once-in-a-generation blockbuster, and the court underscored its importance by scheduling five and a half hours of oral arguments, the most in any case since 1966. The day after the announcement, Brian P. Lamb, the chairman of C-Span, wrote to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. with a modest request. "We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument," Mr. Lamb said. The request is, of course, doomed. Yet it is hard to say why (Liptak, 11/28).

NPR: Mitt Romney's Evolution On Abortion
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been labeled a flip-flopper. And when it comes to abortion, the former governor of Massachusetts appears to have changed his position from being in favor of abortion rights to being opposed. But now some people are asking if Romney ever supported abortion rights at all? Backers of abortion rights don't think so (Rovner, 11/29).

Politico: Health Care Waivers Denied For Indiana, Louisiana
The Department of Health and Human Services has denied Indiana's and Louisiana's requests for temporary relief from health reform's medical loss ratio requirements, making them the third and fourth states to have their applications rejected outright (Millman, 11/28).

The New York Times: Panel Urges Sharp Change For Hospitals In Brooklyn
The New York State health commissioner should be given sweeping new powers to replace the executives and board members of private hospitals, a group appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recommended Monday in a report on how to restructure Brooklyn's failing hospitals and health system (Bernstein, 11/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Panel Seeks Hospital Reforms
A New York state panel called Monday for sweeping changes that expand the state's authority to assume control over troubled hospitals and also recommended the mergers of several troubled Brooklyn medical centers. The report was the culmination of a six-month effort by the state Department of Health to assess the finances of Brooklyn hospitals that have taken on staggering amounts of debt to remain open. The hospitals serve mostly the poor who use Medicaid insurance and patients who overly rely on costly emergency services for basic medical care (DeAvila and Gershman, 11/29).

Los Angeles Times: Prison Doctors, Barred From Seeing Patients, Collect Full Pay
California prisons have paid doctors and mental health professionals accused of malpractice an estimated $8.7 million since 2006 to do no work at all or to perform menial chores like sorting mail, tossing out old medical supplies and reviewing inmate charts for clerical errors (Dolan, 11/28).

Chicago Tribune: State Deal Reached To Keep Tinley Mental Health Center, Other Facilities Open For Time Being
Tinley Park Mental Health Center and six other state facilities would stay open in the short term and nearly 1,900 layoffs would be avoided under a deal struck Monday night, according to leading Democrats and Republicans. The outline of an agreement was worked out in the Capitol office of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who huddled with lawmakers from both parties for more than two hours (Garcia and Long, 11/28).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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