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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Start A Rye-ot'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Start A Rye-ot'" by Hilary Price.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


A lesson to learn:
Treating mom as a mom and
Not as an addict.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Summaries of the News

Administration News

5. Obama To Announce Plan To Combat Opioid Epidemic

The proposed rule would double the number of patients to whom physicians can prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to help addicted people reduce or quit their use of heroin or painkillers.

The Associated Press: Obama To Address Nation’s Growing Opioid Problem
The Obama administration will issue a proposed rule Tuesday that aims to increase medication-based treatment for tens of thousands of people addicted to opioids. The proposed rule, along with a commitment from 60 medical schools to heighten training for prescribing opioids, will coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to Atlanta where he will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. (Freking, 3/29)

Reuters: Obama To Announce Steps To Fight Heroin, Opioid Epidemic
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to announce steps on Tuesday to expand treatment for people addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers, the White House said. Obama will travel to a summit in Atlanta to meet addicts in recovery, family members, medical professionals and law enforcement officials to talk about the opioid epidemic, which has become an issue in the 2016 presidential election campaign. (3/29)

Los Angeles Times: Vilsack, At Drug Abuse Summit, Recalls His Mother's Struggles
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remembers his adoptive mother struggling with alcohol and prescription drug addictions when he was growing up. She tried to commit suicide a couple of times. And he nearly flunked out of high school as his parents separated. The former Iowa governor and former Democratic presidential candidate said his mother eventually got help from a 30-day treatment program and never drank again. Vilsack's grades shot up and he landed on the honor roll when his parents reunited. The experience, he said, taught him drug and alcohol addictions are diseases not character flaws that require responses from whole communities. (Redmon, 3/28)

The Huffington Post: The Young Woman Whose Addiction Story Touched Obama’s Heart Just Died
On Oct. 21, Jessica Grubb flipped open her laptop and watched a live stream of her father telling President Barack Obama about her addiction to heroin. Obama was in Charleston, West Virginia, Jessica’s hometown, to discuss the opioid epidemic. When the local newspaper solicited questions for the president from its readers, Grubb’s parents asked their daughter if they could tell her story. (Grim and Stein, 3/28)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. HHS Touts Drug Treatment, Mental Health Benefits Of Medicaid Expansion

A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services says there are 2 million people with either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder that could be helped in the 20 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Media outlets from Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Idaho and Utah also offer coverage of report.

The Wall Street Journal: Officials Emphasize Drug Treatment, Mental Health In Medicaid Push
In its latest effort to get more states to states to expand their Medicaid programs, health officials are emphasizing its role in paying for treatment of opioid abuse and mental health issues. Federal health officials are still pressing to get more states to agree to extend Medicaid eligibility to all low-income residents under the Obama health law, in the wake of a 2012 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave governors and state legislators a choice over whether to do so. To date, 30 states have opted in; 20 are sitting out. (Radnofsky, 3/28)

Georgia Health News: Feds: Medicaid Expansion Would Help Thousands Of Mental Health, Drug Patients
Expanding the state’s Medicaid program could bring tens of thousands of low-income Georgia into treatment for mental health and substance use problems, federal officials said Monday. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report said 159,000 uninsured Georgians with mental illness or a substance use disorder had incomes that would qualify them for expanded Medicaid coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. (Miller, 3/28)

Winston-Salem Journal: Federal Regulators Tout Behavioral Health Benefits To Medicaid Expansion In North Carolina
Federal health regulators made another pitch Monday about the benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage in North Carolina and 18 other states, this time focusing on behavioral health issues. Legislators have debated for more than three years about whether to expand Medicaid coverage to an additional 500,000 North Carolinians. ... “Medicaid expansion under the ACA can greatly improve the quality of life for state residents by improving access to treatment for behavioral health needs,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials said in a 17-page report. “Among this population, there is great need for treatment, as about 30 percent (144,000) have either a mental illness, substance use disorder or both.” (Craver, 3/28)

Miami Herald: Report: Medicaid Expansion Could Boost Access To Treatment For Mental Illness, Substance Abuse
Expanding Medicaid could allow more than 300,000 Floridians to gain access to treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, according to a new federal government report. Some 726,000 people living in Florida have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder but don’t have health insurance, according to the report, released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. States are allowed to expand Medicaid health coverage to households that earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $16,284 for an individual or $33,534 for a family of four. (Auslen, 3/28)

Memphis Commercial Appeal: Medicaid Expansion Would Provide Behavioral Health Coverage For 114,000 Tennesseans
An estimated 114,000 low-income uninsured residents in Tennessee would get access to care for mental illness and substance use disorder if the state accepted a federal offer of Medicaid expansion dollars, federal officials reported today. In Mississippi, 61,000 uninsured residents would gain coverage for behavioral health and drug and alcohol disorder services if that state accepted the Affordable Care Act’s offer of expanded Medicaid. (McKenzie, 3/28)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Medicaid Expansion Could Mean Better Mental Health Outcomes: Federal Study
Louisiana residents who need mental health treatment are likely to see improved health care outcomes after Medicaid eligibility is expanded on July 1, according to a policy brief released Monday (March 28) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ... In Louisiana, as many as 81,000 people who need mental illness or substance abuse treatment will likely qualify for Medicaid expansion, according to the brief. The full number of people without insurance who need mental illness or substance treatment in Louisiana is about 176,000. (Litten, 3/28)

7. Idaho Governor Rules Out Special Session Or Executive Action For Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Butch Otter says instead he will work with a legislative committee studying the issue. Also, news on expansion issues in New Hampshire and Virginia.

Idaho Statesman: Idaho Gov. Otter Says No Special Session, Executive Action On Health Care For Poor
Gov. Butch Otter Monday ruled out calling a special legislative session or taking action on his own to advance an Idaho-designed, federally-funded health care program for 78,000 poor and uninsured Idahoans. Instead, he said his administration would work with a forthcoming interim legislative committee that will study how Idaho should proceed, likely via a federal waiver that would permit the state to implement an alternate approach to Medicaid expansion to cover the uninsured group. (Dentzer, 3/28)