Texas And Arizona Prepare For Reform's Effects On Illegal Immigrants And Patients At Community Health Centers

The Houston Chronicle: "Illegal immigrants likely would become the largest patient pool of the Harris County Hospital District as a result of health care reform unless the taxpayer-funded institution can attract more insured patients than it currently serves, according to public health experts. Hospital district President David Lopez said he's optimistic the district can better market itself to capture a larger percentage of covered patients but acknowledged that even if the district is successful, it must prepare for major shifts that will come with the landmark legislation President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday. ... Illegal immigrants currently account for 18 percent of the district's patients" (Ackerman, 3/23).

The Arizona Republic: "Arizona's community health centers, a vital safety net for the uninsured and the working poor, are bracing for an onslaught of new patients and preparing to roll back their services after two state health-care programs were killed and the state's Medicaid spending was slashed. New patients cut off from government insurance programs could flood the centers, and the centers would not have reimbursements from those programs to cover the full cost of providing care. The 16 federally qualified centers, which are non-profits and operate more than 130 clinics in mostly rural and underserved areas, rely mainly on state and federal insurance and federal grants to operate. The losses will likely be far greater than the millions of dollars in additional federal money for community clinics that is part of health-care reform legislation, which was signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama" (Rough, 3/24).

Los Angeles Times: "California lawmakers who want to go further than the newly signed federal healthcare overhaul scored a victory Tuesday when a proposal to make insurance companies justify rate hikes sailed through the Assembly's Health Committee. The bill would put health insurers and health maintenance organizations under the same strict regulation that has covered automobile and other types of property insurance for the last two decades. It would require approval of some rate hikes by state agencies" (Lifsher, 3/24).

The Baltimore Sun: "State senators voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for legislation intended to combat Medicaid fraud, a year after rejecting a similar measure amid strong opposition from the state's hospitals. The bill approved Tuesday included a compromise with the hospitals that lawmakers said would protect them against frivolous lawsuits. It passed, 37-8. ... The legislation encourages whistle-blowers to bring fraud lawsuits, and allows them to share in damages awarded. But under the deal struck with the hospitals, the state would have to sign onto their suits for the cases to go forward. State officials estimate that up to 10 percent of the $6.2 billion in federal and state Medicaid funds, or $620 million, is spent fraudulently. The administration believes the bill would net $20 million in savings next year. The legislation now awaits approval by the House of Delegates, where Speaker Michael E. Busch said he was 'hopeful' about its chances" (Linskey, 3/24).

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