North Carolina Lawmakers Consider Medical Tax; Georgia Insurance Commission Says State Should Reject High-Insurance Pools

The Associated Press/Bloomberg BusinessWeek: The North Carolina legislature "socked it to retail customers, smokers, drinkers and big earners with higher taxes last year to help close a budget gap calculated by Democrats at more than $4 billion. Could hospitals or doctors' offices be next? Legislative leaders are returning to Raleigh early to begin adjusting the second year of the state's two-year budget and they're intrigued by a hospital or provider tax or fee because it could draw down three times as much extra money in federal matching funds for Medicaid. It's one of several options they'll examine to help close another budget gap starting July 1 ... ranging from $700 million to $1.2 billion. Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor, is on track to be $475 million over budget in North Carolina next fiscal year as more -- and apparently sicker -- patients enroll, legislative staff members told budget-writers last week" (Robertson, 4/12).

The Associated Press: "Georgia's insurance commissioner will keep the state out of the first phase of a new federal health care law that would offer subsidized premiums to people with health problems. In a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Republican John Oxendine said Georgia should not take part in the creation of an insurance pool, backed by $5 billion in federal money, that would help high-risk people who have been uninsured for at least six months. Federal health officials said they will run a coverage program in the state if Georgia doesn't take part. In the letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Oxendine said he has 'no confidence' the program will not be a burden on Georgia taxpayers. The program is funded by all federal money, but Oxendine said he worries that down the road the state will have to foot the bill" (McCaffrey, 4/12). 

Kansas Health Institute reports on how Republicans have moved more to the right over health care reform by looking at a health care bill introduced last year by a conservative Republican and originally modeled after a plan suggested by an analyst at the Heritage Foundation that was touted as  '"market-based, consumer-driven," solutions to what ails the health care system." But following the political divide that erupted in Congress over the national health care overhaul, conservatives in Kansas are now calling that local effort the "Kansas version of Obamacare" (Shields, 4/12).

The Boston Globe: "Boston will spend almost $20 million more in next year's budget on health care coverage for employees and retirees than it did this year, a hefty increase that city officials say swallows up tax dollars that could be better spent. That $20 million increase, reflected in the budget Mayor Thomas M. Menino will present to the City Council tomorrow, is more than half the proposed budget of the Boston Public Library after closing four neighborhood branches. The figure also eclipses what the city appropriated this year for snow removal ($15.9 million), and for the entire budget of the Parks Department ($15 million). ... By releasing a sneak peek at the budget figures yesterday, the Menino administration, is trying to increase political pressure on state lawmakers to give cities and towns more control in designing their health care plans and on local labor unions to help Boston curb a fast-rising expense" (Ryan, 4/13).

Newjerseynewsroom.com: "At least the 134,789 older New Jerseyans who participate in the Senior Gold or PAAD prescription programs will be required to come up with $310 to cover the annual Medicare Part D deductible, the state Health and Senior Services commissioner Monday told legislators. In an appearance before the Assembly Budget Committee in Trenton, Commissioner Poonam Alaigh also said the co-pay for brand name prescriptions for those seniors in the programs will rise from $7 to $15 to be what she described as consistent with marketplace trends. The co-pay for generic prescriptions will decrease from $6 to $5. Another 40,000 low-income seniors will not be affected by the changes" (Hester, 4/12).

The (Delaware) News Journal: "Delaware is among a group of states that could turn a profit from the health care reform package recently passed by Congress, state officials and reform analysts say. One aspect of the massive reform bill alone could net the state an extra $95 million a year because the federal government will step in to pay most of the costs for insuring some poor childless adults. Those are people Delaware has expanded Medicaid programs to cover, picking up almost half of the bills in the process. Beyond that potential windfall, state officials leading efforts to implement the health care reforms are optimistic about the financial impact, even as they admit that enacting the bill's many provisions presents an overwhelming challenge for the next decade" (Starkey, 4/11).

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