States Continue To Wrestle With Medicaid Spending, Budget Issues; Utah Legislation Would Criminalize Illegal Abortion

Cincinnati Business Courier: Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has signed a bill that will extend the state's mini-COBRA program from 12 to 15 months for small-business employees, according to a report in Columbus Business First (3/1). 

The Las Vegas Sun: "A bill to save the Medicaid program an estimated $760,000 a year is headed for the desk of Gov. Jim Gibbons after three prior failures. The Assembly Sunday voted 41-0 with one absent to allow the division to declare three drugs as preferred medication. Low-income citizens in the Medicaid program would have to take these preferred drugs unless their physician prescribed another brand. Senate Bill 4 permits Medicaid to list certain medication brands involving antipsychotic, anticonvulsant and antidiabetic drugs as preferred medication" (Ryan, 2/28).

The Salt Lake Tribune: "This January, the state stopped enrolling poor, disabled clients for short-term monthly cash payments known as General Assistance, intended to keep them afloat until they receive federal disability benefits. Being enrolled in GA also allowed people to apply for state money for one-time medical procedures. ... In the past few years, state budget cuts reduced GA by millions of dollars and shortened the amount of time clients receive aid, resulting in hundreds of people losing benefits. As of January, slightly more than 1,000 poor, mentally or physically disabled Utahns received the monthly $261 stipend. Client numbers are down by about 39 percent compared to last year's high in June" (Lyon, 3/1).

Kansas Health Institute: "Legislators are likely to find themselves in federal court if cuts to home and community based services are not restored, advocates for people with disabilities said Thursday [largely because] ... the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have an obligation to provide community based services. People with disabilities are not to be isolated in institutions such as nursing homes or state hospitals. ... Recent cuts in state spending – the 10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements, especially – have triggered an increase in nursing home admissions. ... Late in 2008, budget cuts caused the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to 'freeze' its waiting list for Medicaid-funded in-home services for the physically disabled. Today, more than 1,800 people are waiting for services" (Ranney, 2/26).

Health News Florida: "HMOs can pay 'fair market value,' less than the amount they're billed when their members get emergency treatment in hospitals outside their networks, an appellate court in Tallahassee has ruled. The eight-page decision, awaited for 13 months, could have major reverberations in Florida's health care industry, if it stands. The ruling, issued by a three-member panel of the First District Court of Appeal, didn't give managed-care organizations everything they wanted, but took a major bite out of hospitals' method of calculating 'usual and customary' charges" (Sexton, 2/26).

The Ledger: "As leaders in Congress wrestle with health insurance reform, the consequences of millions of uninsured Floridians loom threateningly over the 2010 Florida legislative session, which begins Tuesday. The state faces a $3 billion budget shortfall, and Medicaid is one of the main reasons for it. More than one-quarter of the cash-strapped $66 billion state budget now goes to Medicaid, and the cost is rising so fast that within a decade more than one-third of the budget will go to cover medical care for the poor and disabled, according to a House analysis" (Dunkelberger, 2/27).

The New York Times: In Utah, "Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, has said he agrees generally with the goals of legislation that would criminalize illegal abortions. The measure is now awaiting his signature or veto. Last May in a small town in eastern Utah, a 17-year-old girl, seven months pregnant, paid a man she had just met $150 to beat her up in hopes of inducing a miscarriage that would resolve her crisis. He obliged, taking her to a basement and kicking her repeatedly in the stomach." Despite the assault, the baby was born in August and the attacker was sent to jail. Since then, the girl "became the center of a legal debate — and the piece of legislation now awaiting the governor's signature or veto. The bill would formally criminalize what she did, that is, to seek an illegal abortion" (Johnson, 3/1).

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