States Face Health Care Budget Cuts, Seek Health-Related Legislation

The Times-Picayune: "Parents, caregivers and advocates joined hospital executives and legislators Tuesday to complain about the potential impact of [Louisiana] Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposed budget cuts and privatization initiatives on Louisiana's most vulnerable residents. In hours of sometimes-emotional testimony, members of the public told the House Appropriations Committee that the latest proposed cuts, coming after three rounds of budget reductions, could force some providers of Medicaid services to close their doors. ... The administration is proposing to cut $475 million from the Department of Health and Hospitals budget and wants to privatize a range of services for the mentally ill and people with developmental disabilities" (Moller, 3/30).

The St. Augustine Record: A rise in Medicaid enrollment in Florida has led to lawmakers in the state considering a bill to restrain spending. "The state's Agency for Health Care Administration said total Medicaid enrollment ... was 2.13 million in January 2008, but had risen to 2.72 million by December 2009," and is expected to keep rising. Though the health reform law would boost support to Florida's Medicaid, "getting the money to do that was not clearly explained." State Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine said: "Medicaid is the Pac-Man in the state budget. It is taking an increasing amount of the state budget" (Guinta, 3/31).

The Arizona Republic: The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association will file an initiative that would raise the state income tax rate on high-earning residents to "help pay the health-care tab for the state's neediest kids and adults." The association says they will need the money to pay for residents about to be dropped from state coverage programs. "The Arizona Legislature already approved budget cuts that would eliminate the KidsCare program that provides health insurance for nearly 39,000 low-income children and purge 310,000 adults next year from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program. ... Anti-tax groups already have taken aim at the plan" (Alltucker, 3/31).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: In Maine, a bill that would bar "annual and lifetime" caps on health insurance payments has passed the state House and Senate and is ready to be signed by the governor. "The bill protects health care policy holders from having to go into debt because they've been denied payments for medical treatments. It eliminates limits on payments, with exceptions for several specific types of health plans. It applies to policies issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2011" (3/30).

The Boston Herald: A group of pharmacists, patient advocacy groups and biotechnology associations are backing a bill in Massachusetts that would allow "drug makers [to] provide a coupon to a patient who has already been prescribed a medication by a doctor. The patient then redeems the coupon at a drugstore, which is reimbursed by the drug maker. Patient co-pays can be cut by as much as 75 percent." Critics of the bill, however say "the coupons provide an incentive for people to use the most expensive drugs, even when lower-cost treatments are available" (McConville, 3/31).

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