Mass. Focuses On Containing Health Care Costs, Gov. Schwarzenegger Seeks To Expand Coverage Of Uninsured In Calif.

The Boston Globe: "While the White House seems destined to spend the next two years fending off attacks on President Obama's health care law, the administration of Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts will push forward with the next stage of health care overhaul: trying to contain the escalating costs of medical care. That is likely to thrust the state back into the forefront of the national health care debate even as chastened Democrats skirmish with resurgent Republicans in Washington over implementing steps already taken here to expand access to health care. … As the governor's lieutenants draft a bill on payment overhaul to submit to the Legislature in January, representatives of medical care providers, insurers, employers, and consumers met yesterday to try to craft a workable cost-control plan" (Weisman, 11/5).

The Boston Globe: "When the New Year dawns, the Massachusetts Hospital Association will no longer hire people who use tobacco, a decision a Boston University public health specialist calls unfair. The trade organization already bans tobacco at its Burlington headquarters, but CEO Lynn Nicholas said the time has come to go further. The MHA employs 45 people, a small number of whom do smoke, Nicholas said. They were encouraged to quit and offered help while the new policy was discussed over the past several months, she said. After January 1, the new rule will rely on the honor system for enforcement" (Cooney, 11/4).

National Journal: "With only a few months left before his term is terminated, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has introduced a handful of measures preparing his state for the federal health care overhaul. Schwarzenegger announced a $10 billion agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday to expand coverage to the uninsured. The 'Bridge to Reform' Medicaid waiver will bring in about $2 billion per year over the next five years to prepare for and implement federal regulations in the Affordable Care Act" (Fung, 11/4).

El Paso Times: "The city attorney's office plans to cut health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees and for some retirees and some dependents of city employees. But a court challenge could stop the plan before it takes effect next Wednesday. The city's plan comes in the wake of El Pasoans' vote Tuesday to limit benefits to city employees, their legal spouses and their legal dependents. By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, voters passed an initiative saying, 'The city of El Paso endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children'" (Schladen, 11/4).

Bloomberg Businessweek/The Associated Press: "The administration of Gov. David Paterson on Thursday said closing the latest deficit may require cuts of perhaps 1 percent in every area including a midyear cut in school aid. … Budget Director Robert Megna said the $315 million shortfall in the current budget must be addressed by Dec. 31 … The rest of the problem is the increased number of New York's 19.5 million residents receiving the government's Medicaid health care coverage. Megna said the poor economy has driven 4.9 million New Yorkers onto Medicaid, compared to 4.2 million just three years ago" (Gormley, 11/4).

Bloomberg Businessweek in a separate story: "The director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health says if his agency's budget is cut by 15 percent next fiscal year it could have 'devastating' effects, including the closure of several facilities statewide. Agency Director Ed LeGrand outlined those possible consequences in a letter to Gov. Haley Barbour, who had asked all state agencies to submit to him a plan by Nov. 1 on how they could cut their budgets by 15 percent" (Byrd, 11/4).

Health News Florida: "House and Senate leaders today said they will use a special legislative session this month to try to override Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of money for Shands teaching hospital and to 'send a message' about overhauling Medicaid. Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon outlined a series of issues they hope to address during a brief session Nov. 16 when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for an otherwise ceremonial meeting. Overriding the veto of $9.7 million for Shands has long been discussed. But Haridopolos and Cannon also said they want to pass a resolution that would express their intent to revamp Medicaid and seek more leeway from the federal government about how the program is run" (Saunders, 11/4).

The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate: "Doctors and lawmakers questioned the wisdom of the [Gov. Bobby] Jindal administration's decision Thursday to scrap a program that helps provide a primary-care physician for Medicaid patients throughout the state. The 'CommunityCare' program, which mainly serves children, is scheduled to end Dec. 1 as the state health agency moves to avoid a deficit in the health insurance program for the poor. The program went statewide in 2003, during former Gov. Mike Foster’s administration, as a way to improve primary care, eliminate costly emergency room visits and shrink duplicative services. The program's demise would reduce spending by $16 million. It cuts the extra $3 per patient per month paid physicians to coordinate care of individual Medicaid patients" (Shuler, 11/5).

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