Arizona Eliminates CHIP; Schwarzenegger Seeks To Reform California Prison Health Care System

The New York Times: "Arizona on Thursday became the first state to eliminate its Children's Health Insurance Program when Gov. Jan Brewer signed an austere budget that will leave nearly 47,000 low-income children without coverage." The state's budget woes are a stark depiction of "how the fiscal crisis afflicting state governments is cutting deeply into health care. The state also will roll back Medicaid coverage for childless adults in a move that is expected to eventually drop 310,000 people from the rolls. State leaders said they were left with few choices because of a $2.6 billion projected shortfall next year." Meanwhile, those who advocate for hospitals and advocates low-income people are "worried that emergency rooms would be overrun by patients who had few other options for care, and that children might suffer enduring developmental problems because of inadequate medical attention" (Sack, 3/18).

BusinessWeek: In the Arizona budget, "spending cuts include $385 million from the state's Medicaid program." The state's governor said she signed the legislation "because the spending cuts and other budget provisions are necessary to 'begin the Arizona comeback.'" (Davenport, 3/18). 

Los Angeles Times: "A proposal by [Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's] administration to overhaul the troubled medical care system for inmates could save $12 billion over a decade, officials say. But it would also cost jobs. The Schwarzenegger administration wants to put the University of California in charge of state prison inmates' medical needs in an overhaul of the troubled corrections healthcare system. ... The arrangement, similar to a centralized system of managed care, would dramatically expand the use of telemedicine, a technique by which patients are seen by doctors in remote locations over a screen with an Internet connection." It also would use electronic record-keeping. "And the plan, still being refined, could include the purchase or construction of a central hospital near several prison infirmaries for housing and treatment of the chronically sick" (Rothfeld, 3/19). 

[Waterville, Maine] Morning Sentinel: "Maine has signed onto a national $42.5 million settlement with pharmaceutical manufacturer, Alpharma Inc. Maine will receive over $405,000, while Medicaid programs nationwide will receive approximately $19.2 million of the total settlement, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills announced today. The agreement settles allegations of false or fraudulent Medicaid claims for the drug Kadian, a morphine sulfate product that manages pain" (3/17).

The Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer: In New Jersey, an "Assembly panel yesterday approved legislation that would make public-worker pension and health benefits less generous, a move designed to put the state retirement system on sounder financial footing for tens of thousands of future retirees. The Appropriations Committee approved the package of bills after hours of testimony from union leaders, who called the measures an assault on collective bargaining. The teachers, police and fire, and state-worker unions also mounted a behind-the-scenes effort to slow down or amend the bills; those efforts delayed the hearing for about two hours but failed to produce any amendments. The full Assembly is scheduled to vote Monday on the bills. The Senate previously passed three of the five bills without opposition. Two originated in the Assembly and still require Senate action. Gov. Christie has said he will sign them as soon as they reach his desk" (Santi, 3/19).

The Kansas City Star: "Health insurance coverage of autism spectrum disorders would be required under legislation passed Thursday in the Missouri Senate. The approval on a 26-6 vote shifts the bill to the House, which has passed similar legislation. To go into effect, one of the bills still must pass through both chambers and be signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon. But Thursday's progress indicates broad support for an autism insurance mandate and greatly increases its chances of passage, lawmakers said. ... The House and Senate bills would require state-regulated health insurers to provide coverage for autism, a neurological disorder that affects communication and social interaction. The mandate would apply to about 40 percent of the private insurance market" (Noble, 3/18).

The Associated Press/New York Times: "TennCare officials said Thursday that they will be able to use a federal refund of $121 million to postpone some cuts to the state's expanded Medicaid program for a year. Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the state can keep some of the reimbursements it makes to the federal government to pay for prescription drug benefits. Lawmakers have been waiting to hear how that money would be used, considering Gov. Phil Bredesen has said he needs to cut $201 million from TennCare, which has about 1.2 million enrollees, to balance the state budget" (3/18).

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