State Round Up: Florida Considers Eliminating Popular Medicaid Plan; State Program For Low-Income Adults Changing In Minn.

Health News Florida: "This could be the year the state of Florida eliminates its popular MediPass program, which gives more than half a million Medicaid recipients, mostly aged and disabled Floridians, an alternative to HMOs. Hints of its demise showed up in the governor's budget and letters from a powerful lawmaker. The fight brewing in Tallahassee is over what service delivery system will take its place: commercial HMOs, hospital-run networks or a system that puts the primary care physician in charge. The Legislature is closely examining the MediPass program, which as of January had about 550,000 enrollees statewide, in an effort to control spending in the Medicaid program. Although it's considered a managed-care option, MediPass is actually a primary care case-management program, in which doctors are given a monthly $2 fee for managing a patient's care. The services, such as immunizations and checkups, are reimbursed at Medicaid rates" (Sexton, 2/2).

The Miami Herald reports on a different Medicaid program in Florida: "Former Gov. Jeb Bush's 'Medicaid Reform' experiment looks like it won't expand statewide ... as he had hoped. The HMO industry doesn't like parts of the plan. Liberals say the program hasn't been properly studied. And Republican legislators are concentrating on solutions of their own to control growing costs of the program. But not all the ideas behind Medicaid Reform ... are dead. On Wednesday, the state's reform expert, University of Florida researcher R. Paul Duncan, is scheduled to brief the Senate's Health Regulation Committee to help legislators assess the program as they conduct a top-to-bottom review of Medicaid and the Bush reform" (Caputo, 2/3).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Minnesota's General Assistance Medical Care program for low-income adults without children "is scheduled to disappear March 31, with most recipients transferring to another state health plan, MinnesotaCare. But GAMC recipients 'absolutely don't understand what's going to happen,' Ann Carlson said, sitting in the Dignity Center, a ministry at Hennepin United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. ... As a political battle rages over Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision to eliminate GAMC -- part of his plan to balance the state budget -- more than 35,000 people ... are caught in the crossfire. All are poor, some are homeless, many are mentally ill -- and many are confused, worried and uncertain about what their health care will look like eight weeks from now" (Spencer, 2/2).

The Des Moines Register: "Iowa legislators should expect many more patients to sign up for a health care program for the poor if the state makes the program more convenient to use, a top administrator said Tuesday. Lawmakers are considering changing the IowaCare program, which now can only be used at University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City or at Broadlawns Medical Center in Polk County. Possible changes include allowing patients to receive routine health care at safety-net clinics around the state, and allowing them to use local hospitals for emergency care. ... IowaCare serves poor adults who don't qualify for Medicaid because they don't have children" (Leys, 2/3).

The La Crosse Tribune reports on Wisconsin's new BadgerCare Core program. The plan is for adults without dependent children and participants "can pay $130 a month for a basic health plan that allows for doctor visits, three medications, 30 days of hospitalization and catastrophic coverage." Gov. Jim Doyle said the plan was one way Wisconsin has responded to the recession (Mial, 2/2).

Kansas Health Institute: "Budget cuts have taken a toll on the state's two nursing homes for military veterans" and that the "two facilities – Kansas Soldiers Home in Fort Dodge, and Kansas Veterans Home in Winfield – have taken steps to minimize the impact on resident care. Last year, budget cuts caused the ... Kansas Soldiers Home to lay off about 15 workers; Kansas Veterans Home laid off 26, Fowler said. Neither nursing facility is certified to receive Medicaid or Medicare payments. Instead, their budgets are underwritten by the State General Fund, federal support, and resident fees" (Ranney, 2/2).

Memphis Daily News: "Call it coincidence or bad timing, but many physicians in Tennessee began taking a 14 percent cut for seeing TennCare patients on the same day Gov. Phil Bredesen announced deep cuts in health care spending. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which operates one of two managed health care companies that contract with the state on the TennCare program, sent out a Dec. 31 letter notifying specialists of the rate cut that went into effect Feb. 1. Hospitals also received notices their payer rate would be cut. The cut is not a direct consequence of the state budget proposed by the governor, but is a harbinger of the difficulties facing the state's Medicaid managed care program. The state's budget cuts could cause more physicians to stop accepting TennCare patients" (Wilemon, 2/3).

Deseret News reports on Utah legislation: "A bill that would force health insurance firms to pay the health care costs of inmates — if the firms were getting premiums from the inmate or his family — failed in the House Tuesday. HB22 sponsoring Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said he did not know why 'big insurance firms' could refuse to pay for inmate health care just because the patient was in the state prison or jail. But most House members voted against the bill, saying state taxpayers should pick up the cost, even if the inmate is insured" (Bernick and Thalman, 2/2).

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