State Round-Up: Federal Prosecutors Investigate Bid Rigging At New York Hospitals; Montana Prepares For Health Reform Implementation; And The Florida Budget Spares Medicaid Services

The Wall Street Journal: "Federal prosecutors are investigating allegations that bid rigging and fraud at Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital resulted in the hospitals awarding contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to outside contractors. Purchasing officials at the hospitals ... are alleged to have gotten more than a million dollars in payments from companies that were then given lucrative contracts to perform work such as re-insulating pipes and removing asbestos, according to documents filed in the Southern District of New York. Nine contractors are involved in the case. So far, eight people and three companies supplying the hospitals have pleaded guilty to charges including bid-rigging, mail fraud and tax fraud. Three more people have been indicted on similar charges" (Rockoff, 4/27).

The Associated Press/Seattle Times: "Montana's insurance regulator told lawmakers Monday that the state's first role in implementing federal health care overhaul will go into place shortly. State Auditor Monica Lindeen said her office will have a new high-risk insurance pool running this summer, paid for by a $16 million federal grant. An interim committee of lawmakers will be looking at legislation needed to implement federal health care overhaul, much of which will be run and administered by the states. Lindeen said that no new legislation is needed to set up the high-risk pool because Montana already has a similar state-run high-risk pool in place. Larger and more complex pieces -- such as setting up an insurance exchange for the uninsured by 2014 -- will require action from the state Legislature" (Gouras, 4/26).

The South Florida Sun Sentinel: "College will get more expensive, state roads might get a little more crowded and hospitals will have their finances squeezed once again, thanks to a budget deal reached Monday in the state Capitol." Florida lawmakers reached an agreement Monday on a $68 billion budget. Among its reductions are slashes in "funding for hospitals and nursing homes." But the "budget is also notable" because it does not include "cuts in Medicaid services, the health care program for 2.7 million low-income Floridians" (Hafenbrack, 4/26).

The Washington Post: "Suburban governments lag behind the District in efforts to help slow the spread of AIDS even though they are home to nearly half of the Washington area residents infected with the disease, according to a study released Tuesday. In what is billed as the first look at the scope of HIV/AIDS infection in suburban Washington, the study decries the lack of coordination that it says denies thousands of infected people the medical and support services they need and deserve, 'regardless of where they live.' The study calls on local governments to establish standards so that everyone gets tested for HIV during routine medical visits, unless they opt out. The study also suggests that everyone who goes to an emergency room be offered a quick mouth swab to test for the disease. The study, funded by the Washington AIDS Partnership, shows that 46 percent of the region's more than 17,000 AIDS patients live in the suburbs; 54 percent live in the District. In addition to those who have AIDS, about 13,000 people in the D.C. area are HIV positive." However, the suburbs' infection rates are much lower than in the district (Fears, 4/27).

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