State Roundup: S.C. Plan Would End Benefits To 30,000 Disabled Residents; Judge Bars Calif. From Cutting Elderly From Day Care; Mass. Faces Lawsuit On Immigrant Health Care

The Associated Press/CNBC report about legislative action in South Carolina: "Children with autism, people with spine and brain injuries and the long-term disabled in job programs are among the 30,000 people who would lose state help under a $5.1 billion spending plan approved by a House committee Thursday. The spending plan would leave the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs able to serve only about 4,800 people who live in five residential care facilities and other group homes around the state, agency lobbyist Lois Park Mole said. The House Ways and Means Committee voted 17-7 for the bill, sending it to the floor for debate next month. The House budget plan cuts $47 million, or 28 percent, from the agency's budget. But it also means losing $110 million in federal matching cash and stimulus money" (2/25). 

The St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Despite ongoing talks between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and top lawmakers over restoring state-run health care for the poorest Minnesotans, the DFL-controlled Senate voted Thursday to override a veto of a bill to rescue the program. The 45-21 vote came over the protests of Republicans, who urged DFL leaders to allow negotiations to play out. But Democratic lawmakers said that with a pending April 1 elimination of the program, called General Assistance Medical Care, time was of the essence. ... The Senate vote came along strict party lines. House action could come as early as Monday" (Hoppin, 2/25).

The Associated Press/Seattle Times: Minnesota's "General Assistance Medical Care covers adults with yearly incomes of less than $8,000, including many with chronic health problems, chemical addictions and mental illness. Hospital officials fear Pawlenty's proposed switch will cost them because they expect uncompensated care to rise, given projections that thousands wouldn't qualify for the MinnesotaCare coverage [in which people pay premiums on a sliding scale]. [Democratic Sen. Linda] Berglin, of Minneapolis, said the Legislature's approach is more efficient, costing the state an average of $457 per person per month rather than $937 under Pawlenty's plan. ... But the Democratic proposal would cost the state more money overall because more people would be covered. Republicans argued that lawmakers need to outline a comprehensive fix to the state's $1.2 billion deficit before passing bills that strain the budget more" (Bakst, 2/25).

The San Francisco Chronicle: "A federal judge blocked the state Wednesday from removing thousands of low-income Californians, most of them elderly and mentally infirm, from a program that provides them daytime care and supervision in local centers. The cuts would eliminate Adult Day Health Care for 8,000 to 15,000 people on Monday, forcing many of them out of their homes and into nursing homes or hospitals, said U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of Oakland. The program, part of Medi-Cal, serves nearly 37,000 elderly and disabled people who are at risk of serious physical or mental deterioration. They get nursing care, meals and psychiatric help at 328 centers in 34 counties. ... Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating the program entirely in his 2010-11 budget, saving $104 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1" (Egelko, 2/25).

The Orlando Sentinel: "For the first time in a quarter-century, Orange County's sole provider of outpatient psychiatric help and medication for the poor and uninsured is having to turn away new patients. ... Worse, advocates for those with mental illness say, other Florida counties may soon follow suit. ... Lakeside Behavioral Healthcare, the nonprofit mental-health facility that contracts with the state to care for the poor in Orange County ... is already treating about 10,000 people a year in its outpatient medication clinic, a 25 percent rise since January 2008. And a recent Government Accountability Office report cited hundreds of brand-name drugs that had 'extraordinary' price increases – as much as 1,000 percent – in the past decade. Part of the increase in demand can be traced to the recession: As more people have lost their jobs and employer-provided health insurance, they are turning to public programs for the indigent to help" (Santich, 2/26).

New Mexico Business Weekly: "New Mexico's health insurance companies will be required to put 85 percent of every premium dollar toward health care services, instead of to administrative costs and profits, under a bill passed by the state Legislature. Gov. Bill Richardson is expected to sign the legislation, known as House Bill 12, which was introduced by state Rep. John Heaton, D-Carlsbad. ... It's unclear how the measure will affect New Mexico's largest insurance companies. Heaton said that most companies are at or close to that 85 percent figure. ... The bill specifies what constitutes direct services. They include case and disease management, health education and promotion, preventive services and quality incentive payments to providers" (Domrzalski, 2/26). 

The Boston Globe: "Massachusetts' exclusion of thousands of legal immigrants from state-subsidized health coverage is unconstitutional and should be struck down by the courts, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by several of the affected immigrants. The lawsuit charges that the state's Connector Authority and its executive director, Jon Kingsdale, violated the immigrants' right to equal protection under the state and federal constitutions when the administrators last year cut their health coverage through the Commonwealth Care program because of a tight state budget" (Lazar, 2/26). 

The Associated Press/Fox News Milwaukee: Two bills passed by the Wisconsin Assembly, "doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists and other providers that operate in large groups would have to supply the median-billed charge for a service upon request. Hospitals would be required to list the charge information for treating 75 conditions they deal with the most frequently and insurers would have to provide an estimate of out-of-pocket cost for a health care service" (2/25).

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