Texas Gives Disability Oversight To Quasi-Government Authorities; Colorado Rural Ambulance Services Face Crisis

Texas Tribune: "For years, the state paid private providers who care for people with disabilities to help the clients decide how many services they need and how intensive they should be. But an 11th-hour change state lawmakers inserted into the budget last session stripped the private providers of this case management responsibility, giving it instead to local, quasi-governmental Mental Retardation Authorities, who administer publicly funded services to people with disabilities. The goal, lawmakers said, was to avoid conflicts of interest — to ensure the 19,000 people receiving Medicaid waiver services at home and in the community had case managers who were advocating in their best interests and were not motivated by their employer's bottom line. The reality, the providers allege, is just the opposite" (Ramshaw, 11/29).

The Denver Post: "Morgan County Ambulance Service has been dipping into a reserve fund every year to cover losses but now faces a budget crisis hitting many rural ambulance services in Colorado. The Ambulance Service gets no tax revenue from the county, relying solely on its billing to patients. Other counties from Summit to Bent to Logan have searched for more permanent funding solutions to preserve their communities' links to emergency health care" (Booth, 11/29).

(Oregon's Mid-Willamette Valley) Statesman Journal includes an interview with John Kitzhaber who in January will become Oregon's 37th governor and is "the first Oregon governor to return for a third term." Kitzhaber discusses the current budgetary stress and how he will "unveil some plans on how to fit Oregon's health-care program into the national framework," saying: "The next phase of the transition is going to be balancing the budget. One of them is going to be compensation costs, as we just discussed. The second is developing a new set of budget and management tools to see how we can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the program-delivery systems we have. The third does involve changing the delivery of services" (Wong, 11/28).

Detroit Free Press: "The campaign to require Michigan health insurers to cover the cost of treating children with autism is getting an eleventh-hour boost from the man who will assume the office of lieutenant governor Jan. 1 — state Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland. Calley, whose 3-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with autism, is scheduled to meet with the Republican caucus in the state Senate when members return this week to the state Capitol. He is urging the Senate (where he will be the presiding officer beginning in January) to approve autism legislation adopted by the House in 2009" (Bell, 11/28).

Los Angeles Times: "State health officials question whether a lack of reports required by a 2007 law means a lack of incidents. California public health officials are scrutinizing hospitals that claim to be error-free, questioning whether nearly 90 facilities have gone more than three years without any significant mistakes in care. Eighty-seven hospitals — more than 20% of the 418 hospitals covered under a law that took effect in 2007 — have made no reports of medical errors, according to the California Department of Public Health. The high percentage has raised concerns that errors have gone unreported" (Hennessy-Fiske, 11/27).

Sioux Falls Argus Leader: "The state of South Dakota has launched a new website to provide residents and employers with information about provisions in the federal health reform act that Congress passed earlier this year. The website, healthreform.sd.gov, was designed as a resource for consumers, employers and stakeholders in the health care industry. The new health law, for example, creates a high-risk insurance pool for people who have been denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The new website includes eligibility information about how people can qualify for coverage" ( Ellis, 11/29).

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