Colorado Governor Moves Forward With Implementing Reforms; Nevada Community Health Centers Feel Financial Pinch

The Associated Press: In Colorado, "Gov. Bill Ritter signed four bills he promised will rein in skyrocketing health care costs on Tuesday and appointed a director who will oversee 10 state agencies to implement the Obama administration's new health care plan. Ritter said Colorado is ready to act on national plans to allow young people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, bar denying coverage to children for pre-existing conditions, and provide tax credits to small businesses to cover premiums. The changes will all go into effect in the next six months. ... The governor named Lorez Meinhold, his health policy analyst, to be his director of national reform" (Paulson, 4/20).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: The Connecticut "House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that allows Connecticut's cities and towns to buy prescription drugs through the state employee health insurance plan. The bill passed Tuesday, 144-0. It now moves to the Senate for a vote. House Speaker Chris Donovan ... says buying drugs through the state's plan will give cities and towns a new tool for managing their prescription drug costs, a major expense for local taxpayers" (4/20).

The Associated Press/BusinessWeek: "A state-run program to provide basic health insurance for thousands of low-income Wisconsin residents waiting for care would be created under a bill set to pass the Legislature. The Assembly is scheduled to pass the bill on Tuesday." The plan, which has been approved by the Senate, was proposed by the governor to provide basic health coverage for people without children who do not qualify for Medicaid (4/20).

The Las Vegas Sun: "The weight of the recession is pushing Nevada Health Centers, the medical safety net for tens of thousands of low-income Nevadans, to the financial breaking point, officials with the nonprofit organization say. The number of patient visits is up 25 percent to about 205,000 a year, and an increasing number of them — almost three in 10 — are uninsured, Nevada Health Centers CEO Tom Chase said. And when the uninsured agree to greatly reduced payment plans, they frequently stiff the agency. The result is what Chase diplomatically calls a 'cash pinch.' The organization is behind in paying its own bills, has had to restrict access for patients who don't pay their bills and came close to not meeting payroll, he said. This month the federal government gave Nevada Health Centers temporary reprieve in the form of a $1.7 million advance on a $35 million, five-year grant. Now the organization has about $750,000 in the bank, with expectations that it will increase, Chase said" (Allen, 4/21).

Health News Florida: "Today the Florida House took up a plan to shrink the state Department of Health, following Monday's passage of a Medicaid overhaul. It remains unclear whether either of those controversial proposals will become law with less than two weeks left in the legislative session. Talks on Medicaid between Senate and House leaders began this morning. The Department of Health bill appears to be in the most danger of dying, as Senate committees have not considered the issue. At the same time, House and Senate leaders would have to reach agreement on revamping Medicaid --- no small task when dealing with a $19 billion program that provides health care to 2.7 million people" (Saunders, 4/20). 

St. Petersburg Times/The Miami Herald: "Elderly Floridians who want to stay out of nursing homes would be forced into managed care under two bills passed this week by the House in an effort to pare Medicaid costs. But the Legislature's own policy analysts suggest that managed care may actually be more expensive for frail older people, based on the current track record of HMOs. A recent report examined a managed care program that provides home health care, housekeeping and many other at-home services, as well as assisted living when necessary. It did keep people out of nursing homes but was more expensive than two traditional programs, run by not for profit agencies, that cover the same services. The state could save money by beefing up the traditional programs, the analysts said. The House bills would do just the opposite -- wiping out the traditional programs and putting elderly clients into managed care" (Nohlgren, 4/20).

The Washington Post: "Hundreds of chronically ill District residents will be able to buy government-sanctioned marijuana by the end of the year under a measure that was unanimously approved by the D.C. Council on Tuesday. Without debate, the council authorized five medical marijuana distribution centers throughout the city, a number that could grow to eight in coming years. A patient who has HIV, glaucoma, cancer or a 'chronic and lasting disease' will be able to receive a doctor's recommendation to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period. Patients would not be allowed to grow marijuana but could buy it from dispensaries that are licensed and regulated by the Department of Health. Underprivileged residents who qualify will be eligible to purchase their drugs free or at reduced cost" (Craig, 4/21).

The New York Times: "Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo filed a civil lawsuit against the Senate majority leader, Pedro Espada Jr., on Tuesday, accusing Mr. Espada, his family and his political aides of siphoning more than $14 million from a network of nonprofit health care clinics he founded — money used for meals, vacations and campaign expenses. Mr. Espada used the network as a 'personal piggy bank,' the suit said, to pay for expenses over the last five years like $20,000 worth of takeout sushi and $50,000 to maintain a Bronx apartment where opponents have asserted that he does not live. He was also given a severance package now worth $9 million that would leave the clinics bankrupt if paid out, the suit said. Mr. Espada, a Bronx Democrat, was able to drain money from the organization, the Comprehensive Community Development Corporation, by stacking its board with relatives and Senate employees, the suit said" (Confessore, 4/20).

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