Top State Health Officials Confused Over National Reform's Effects On States

Stateline.org reports on confusion over health care reform at a quarterly meeting with top state health officials in Washington, D.C.: "The session exemplifies the overwhelming sense of confusion among state lawmakers and health care officials around the country as they scramble to figure out what exactly health care reform means for their governments, their citizens and, not least of all, their budgets. With estimates ranging from state savings of $1 billion to $27 billion in additional costs, the one thing clear about health care reform is that little, if anything, is actually clear." A main reason for the confusion "is the law's interaction with 50 very different situations around the country. Many state officials have labeled the entire initiative an unfunded mandate that will stress state fiscal systems already weakened under the weight of falling tax revenue. The health care overhaul uses states as a vehicle for approaching universal health coverage, and what's most important is the law's Medicaid expansion. ... But not all states are equal under the new rules" (Grovum, 4/8).

McClatchy/Wichita Eagle: "Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson said Wednesday that he supports Attorney General Steve Six's decision to keep the state out of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new national health care law. ... Parkinson, a Democrat, said he doesn't think Kansas participation would make a difference in whether the controversial law gets overturned by the Supreme Court. ... Six, a former judge, has said his legal analysis found the lawsuit is politically motivated and likely to fail in court. Like Parkinson, Six said he saw no reason to spend the state's money" (Lefler, 4/8).

The Associated Press: Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, "could use his veto power to create a state-funded public option health insurance plan ... that would extend coverage to virtually everyone, according to a memo by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The memo obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday was requested by the Republican leader of the state Assembly, Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, and delivered April 2. Doyle's office adamantly denied that the governor planned to do any such thing" (Bauer, 4/8). 

The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger: "The Mississippi Health Care Association, the Independent Nursing Home Association and dozens of nursing homes from across the state filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to stop the Mississippi Division of Medicaid from making a planned $14 million cut in payments to providers. The lawsuit filed in Hinds County Chancery Court late Thursday afternoon argues that state reserve funds can be used to shore up the Medicaid budget and the cuts are unnecessary. The suit seeks an injunction to stop the cuts over the uncertainty of 'adequate funding' for providers. The Mississippi Pharmacists Association and the Mississippi Independent Pharmacies Association joined the lawsuit. The cuts are pending federal permission" (Parker, 4/9).

Baltimore Business Journal: "The state's hospitals and health insurers are about to hash out a spending plan likely to increase the cost" businesses will face in "providing health care" to employees. "Specifically, the two sides — with the state's hospital rate-setting agency acting as referee — will resume later this month negotiating new fees for the care given to patients of Maryland's hospitals, beginning July 1. And when they return to the bargaining table — after settling April 6 a dispute over how to cover a Medicaid budget cut in the next fiscal year — hospital and insurance leaders may still be worlds apart in terms of health care dollars. That's because the hospitals have proposed a one-year rate increase of close to 3.4 percent, according to the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, the rate-setting agency. Insurers, on the other hand, would prefer a three-year agreement with a 1.5 percent hike in rates the first year and a 2 percent increase in the following years" (Graham, 4/9). 

BusinessWeek/Health Day: "Many states raised their excise taxes on cigarettes last year, but none are using that new-found money for controlling tobacco use, health officials report. In 2009, 14 states and the District of Columbia raised their excise tax on cigarettes, increasing the national mean tax from $1.18 a pack in 2008 to $1.34 a pack in 2009, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 'We know that increases in cigarette prices are one of our most effective and efficient strategies for both preventing youth initiating and helping young adults and other adults to quit smoking,' said report contributor Terry Pechacek, the associate director for science of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. But investing taxation-derived funds into tobacco prevention and control would further reduce smoking, Pechacek said" (Reinberg, 4/8).

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