Wash. Regulations Would Restrict Pain Killer Prescriptions; Texas Lt. Gov. Bemoans Costs Associated With Health Law; Fla. Insurance Pilot Project Shows Early Success

The New York Times: "In an unusual move, a state government is developing regulations meant to stop doctors from prescribing higher doses of powerful — and often dangerous — pain killers for patients who are not benefiting from them. The effort, in Washington State, represents the most sweeping attempt yet to stem what some experts see as the excessive use of prescribed narcotics, and it is being closely watched by medical professionals elsewhere. Among other things, Washington would apparently become the first state to require a doctor to refer patients on escalating doses of pain killers for evaluation if they were not improving" (Meier, 7/28).

The Connecticut Monitor: "Congress has squashed hopes for a $10 billion rescue fund to save teacher jobs. Emergency Medicaid funding for the states is teetering on a political cliff. And the talk of extending health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers has gone quiet. As Congress inches toward a five-week August recess without passing any of these funding measures, public officials in Connecticut are growing increasingly jittery about the financial fall-out at home. In Connecticut, the impact would translate into a $376 million budget gap -- $266 million in expected Medicaid funds and $110 million in hoped-for education money -- an eye-popping sum at a time when the state is already facing difficult fiscal decisions" (Shesgreen, 7/29). 

The Miami Herald: "Introduced a year ago with great fanfare as affordable health insurance for the masses of uninsured, Miami-Dade Blue has signed up 3,600 customers. That's less than 1 percent of the county's 600,000 who have no coverage. … But Janet Perkins, director of the Office of Countywide Healthcare Planning, said she's 'very excited' about the program's start, and the county is planning to expand the project this year, using state-federal funds to subsidize some premiums and marketing more to small businesses. Miami-Dade Blue is a partnership between the county and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida" (Dorschner, 7/29).

Dallas Morning News: "Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst warned this morning that the new federal health care legislation will bust Texas' budget – saddling state taxpayers with $27 billion in extra costs over the next decade. … Doubling the state's Medicaid rolls, he said, will mean that health care claims an ever-bigger share of the state budget. And that segment has already grown from one-quarter of the budget to one-third in the last seven years. … Backers of the new health care law consider the figures Dewhurst cited wildly inflated. Texas has 6.1 million uninsured, the most of any state, and leads the nation with roughly 27 percent of adults younger than 65 lacking health insurance. Health policy analysts say Texas will see a spike in costs, but mainly because until now, it made it so hard to qualify for Medicaid compared to most states" (Gillman, 7/28).

Kansas Health Institute: Kansas Health Solutions Chief Executive Michael Goldberg predicts the state's Medicaid population could grow by half when it is required to expand in 2014 under the new health law. "Citing studies of what happened in Massachusetts after the state expanded its Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the poverty level, Goldberg predicted that the now-unserved population's mental health needs will be greater than found in the population that has private insurance but less than those currently enrolled in Medicaid." He also predicted that new Medicaid beneficiaries will be more likely to have substance abuse problems than those in current commercial plans or Medicaid. (7/28).

Florida Sun-Sentinel: "About 36,000 Medicaid patients can no longer use the tax-assisted South Broward Hospital District or its doctors as a result of a contract dispute between the district and an HMO. The Hollywood-based district this month withdrew its five Memorial Hospital locations and its doctors from the network of the Medicaid HMO Better Health, after the HMO refused to pay a new $1.7 million-per-year fee the district has proposed. Hospitals and HMOs regularly fight over the terms of contracts, such as prices that HMOs pay for medical treatments and services. But state regulators and Florida hospital industry officials said they had never heard of a hospital trying to charge a fee to be included in an insurer's network" (LaMendola, 7/27).

The Denver Post: "Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday marked a health care milestone, announcing that more than 100,000 children have been added to state health coverage rolls since he took office. But Ritter, a Democrat who isn't seeking re-election, did not rule out cuts to state health programs when his administration draws up the 2011-12 budget this fall. The state is facing what could be a $1 billion shortfall in that budget year, which begins in July 2011 … In addition, Colorado could end up making more than $200 million in cuts in the current fiscal year if Congress doesn't approve an extension of enhanced funding for Medicaid" (Hoover, 7/28).

Quad-City Times: "About 60,000 more Iowa children are covered by government-based health care now than three years ago, according to an analysis issued Tuesday by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership. The children benefit from coverage through Medicaid or the state's Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa, or HAWK-I, programs, Carrie Fitzgerald, senior health policy associate with the Child & Family Policy Center, and center executive director Charles Bruner said in a a two-page report. They said many children would not have access to quality and affordable health care otherwise" (Boshart, 7/27).

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