States Slash Budgets Including Cuts In Health Programs

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reports on budget cuts in Louisiana: "Obligated to close a $247.9 million gap in the current-year state budget, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced cuts across all agencies Tuesday, including $108.1 million in health dollars and $84 million from higher education. ... Slack tax revenue during the recession is leaving state coffers short of anticipated spending money for this year. ... The $108.1 million hit to the Department of Health and Hospitals will come partly from reductions in medical provider rates under Medicaid, Jindal said. The cut for higher education comes after a similar painful reduction for colleges during the budget-making process last spring" (Scott, 12/23).

Minnesota Public Radio: "Several progressive groups held protests across Minnesota this Tuesday morning to protest Gov. Pawlenty's line-item veto of a health care program for the poor. Earlier this year, Pawlenty cut funding for General Assistance Medical Care, which serves people who earn less than $8,000 a year. The Department of Human Services hopes to enroll those people into a separate health care program, but advocates say merging the program won't help the poor" (Scheck, 12/22). 

The Raleigh, (N.C.,) News & Observer: "State officials say the motivation behind a no-bid contract to provide diabetes supplies for people on Medicaid was the need to cut costs in difficult budget times. But critics -- from government watchdogs to health educators -- say North Carolina may have been too quick to embrace such contracts after awarding the diabetes contract to a company whose owners have a troubled business history. They also question whether the use of such contracts provides the sort of transparency in government that Gov. Bev Perdue promised. The state Medicaid office has signed Charlotte-based Prodigy Diabetes Care to a two-year contract to provide supplies for about 50,000 people on Medicaid who have diabetes. Prodigy is run by two brothers, Ramzi Abulhaj and Rick Admani, who have been involved in a string of legal battles involving companies they started in Florida, including a bankruptcy and lawsuits alleging patent piracy" (Bonner, 12/23).

The Boston Globe reports on national health care reform and Massachusetts: "The health care bill that the Senate is expected to pass on Christmas Eve has protections that ensure Massachusetts' pioneering health insurance overhaul will remain intact, and it also includes $500 million in extra money for the state, Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday during a quick visit to Boston between votes on the measure. The legislation also contains an additional $200 million for Massachusetts hospitals that say they have not been adequately reimbursed by the state for treating a large share of the poor. ... The Senate's bill is largely based on the Massachusetts plan and adopts some of its hallmark provisions, including a requirement that nearly everyone obtain health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty, and subsidies to help low- and middle-income residents afford coverage" (Lazar, 12/23).

The New York Times: "New York's Medicaid system, the state's largest single expense, lost at least $92 million to improper payments, billing errors and poor recordkeeping during the last five years, according to several audits released Tuesday by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli ... The audits were the latest blows to New York's troubled Medicaid system, which is both the most expensive in the country and one that earns consistently low ratings in terms of health care quality" (Confessore, 12/22).

The Chicago Tribune: "Federal, state and county officials swept two Chicago-area nursing homes Tuesday for felons with outstanding arrest warrants and identified 18 residents wanted on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to burglary to assault. The early morning raids ... [were] in response to Tribune investigative reports about Illinois nursing facilities that house high numbers of felons and sex offenders. Five people were arrested, including a sex offender wanted in another state for failing to register. In three cases, the residents were too sick to be taken into custody, and the other warrants were not immediately enforceable because they were issued in other jurisdictions ... The number of felons known to be living in Illinois nursing homes has grown as the state increasingly relied on the facilities to house younger psychiatric patients, thousands of whom have criminal records" (Marx and Jackson, 12/23).

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