News outlets report on Medicaid dental payments in Utah, student insurance in Florida, Illinois budget woes and emergency rooms in Massachusetts. The Salt Lake Tribune
: "Utah's Medicaid program may be forced to ratchet up its payments to dentists if a federal agency decides pregnant women and children's access to care is threatened. Under the Social Security Act, Medicaid payments have to be high enough to draw in providers and give beneficiaries the same access to care as the general public. But last session, state lawmakers -- strapped for cash after revenue plunged -- erased the one-time 24 percent jump in pay that dentists received in 2008, on top of rolling back their 4.5 percent cost of living raise" (Rosetta, 12/12). The Associated Press/Miami Herald
: "Florida's public university students would benefit overall if they were required to have health insurance, but that would raise the cost of going to school for students who now lack coverage by 5 to 7 percent, legislative analysts said in a report Friday. That added expense, though, would be far less than costs an uninsured student can face due to illness or injury, and mandatory insurance would be covered by financial aid for those who qualify, university officials said in written responses published with the report" (Kaczor, 12/11). The New York Times
: "Todd H. Stroger, the president of the Cook County [Illinois] Board… [last week] warned about the consequences of the board’s vote to roll back the county's part of the sales tax to 1.25 percent from 1.75 percent on July 1. Mr. Stroger said the board’s action created a $75 million hole in the county health care budget, necessitating deep service cuts, hundreds of layoffs and posing a risk that county hospital patients might 'needlessly die'… Whether his forecast is valid, it is clear that the public health safety net is becoming increasingly tattered, not just in Cook County but also across the country. Public hospitals from New York to Los Angeles are being flooded with the uninsured and the underinsured as double-digit unemployment persists" (Terry, 12/12). The Boston Globe
: "A new state policy requiring crowded hospital emergency rooms to accept all patients delivered by ambulance has not worsened conditions, as some doctors had feared. According to an analysis by state public health officials, the average time patients spent in 75 of the state’s emergency rooms remained about the same since the rules went into effect in January. Patients who were admitted to the hospital spent between 5 and 5 1/2 hours in the emergency room, while patients who were sent home spent about 2 1/2 hours" (Kowalczyk, 12/14).