California Community Health Centers Face Potentially Crippling Budget Cuts

North Bay (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Business Journal: "While community health centers are widely seen as winners with the passage of a sweeping health bill in late March, such centers in California face potentially crippling state budget cuts, which could offset potential gains that won't take effect until 2014, according to clinic directors throughout the North Bay. In an attempt to offset portions of California's budget deficit of $20 billion, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed deep cuts to services at community health centers, while the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act promises to deliver scores of previously uninsured patients to clinics, thus increasing the need for services amid a dire state economy. Funding for clinics will increase significantly at the federal level, with $1.5 billion becoming available over the next five years for clinic expansions in California, according to the California Primary Care Association" (Verel, 5/3). 

The Boston Globe reports on sanitation and quality at Massachusetts General Hospital following the "hospital's newly imposed sanitation rules for dealing with Greater Boston's water crisis," caused by a massive water main break. "As the water emergency enters its third day, few places were as susceptible to potential trouble as hospitals, where sanitation is always an urgent priority. And few have as massive a challenge as Mass. General, the city's largest hospital. The mood at the hospital yesterday was one of calm adaptation, not chaotic alarm. The business of the hospital went on, but in some cases more slowly, as staff and patients struggled to avoid using tap water. … Tap water was now the enemy. The danger, from bacteria that could be in the water, was especially serious for the many patients whose immune systems had been weakened by disease" (Wen, 5/3).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: The Connecticut "House of Representatives has passed legislation authorizing a massive overhaul of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, as well as the development of a regional health network. ... It now awaits action in the Senate. The project's cost is estimated at $362 million" (5/1). 

The Portland Press-Herald: "Maine is starting an $8 million-a-year effort to provide health insurance to part-time workers who don't get coverage through employers and don't qualify for government plans. The state's Dirigo Health Agency is offering federally funded vouchers to help pay insurance premiums for qualified companies and workers. The first round of employees started receiving coverage May 1. ... However, access to the vouchers will be limited, partly because of program restrictions and partly because $8 million will go only so far in today's expensive private insurance market. Officials said the money should allow them to provide insurance to about 3,000 Mainers, including workers and their family members" (Richardson, 5/3).

The Associated Press/NorthJersey.com: The top two Democrats in New Jersey's legislature say "they won't approve a budget that requires higher deductibles and copays for [low-income] senior citizens enrolled in a subsidized prescription drug program. Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver want Governor Christie to cut the proposal from the $29.3 billion spending plan he proposed in March. It assumes nearly $40 million in savings by requiring seniors in the PAAD program to pay a $310 deductible starting Jan. 1. The budget also calls for copays to more than double for brand-name drugs, from $7 to $15. ... Administration officials have said seniors' access to discount medications has been preserved despite the tough economy and that New Jersey's program remains among the most generous in the nation" (5/2).

Green Bay Press Gazette: "Two Fox Valley lawmakers last week touted new state legislation aimed at improving mental health. The bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jim Doyle expands a 2009 federal parity law requiring most group health insurance plans to bolster coverage for the mentally ill and drug abusers. Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, and state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, discussed the new law during a news conference at the Thompson Community Center. The new law requires qualifying group health plans for businesses with 10 or more employees to offer coverage for the mentally ill and drug abusers equal to coverage offered for traditional medical and surgical care, including mandating access to physicians" (Wideman, 5/3).

Providence (R.I.) Journal: "Nationwide, about 23 percent of employers offer health insurance waivers, according to a 2009 survey by Hewitt Associates, of Illinois, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing services company. But waivers — sometimes called 'opt-outs' or 'buybacks' — are commonplace among Rhode Island cities and towns. And they have come under fresh scrutiny as the state tries to find ways to plug its chronic annual budget deficits. The waivers are typically not one-time deals; workers who opt out of coverage generally receive the payments every year — often for as long as they remain on the payroll" (Downing, 5/3).

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