Poorer Patients Wait Months For Basic Services In Minn.; Calif. Unions Criticize Plan For State Workers To Pay More For Benefits; Neb. Medicaid Study Questioned

Minnesota Public Radio: "Three months after the state implemented a scaled-back health care coverage program for its poorest residents, many patients are waiting months for basic medical services and hospitals have lost millions of dollars in uncompensated care. … The restructuring of the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program has forced thousands of low-income residents … to leave their medical providers and receive care through one of four Twin Cities-area hospitals. Many enrollees report waiting months for an initial appointment, and even longer for appointments with specialists. Another 18,000 GAMC clients across the state are either receiving charity care or no care at all" (Baran, 9/15). In a related story, Minnesota Public Radio looks at some hospitals innovative strategies to pay for patients who no longer have GAMC coverage.

Los Angeles Times: "As the University of California seeks to fill a potential $21-billion gap in its pension and retirement health plans, labor leaders Wednesday alleged that lower-income employees would unfairly feel the brunt of proposed changes in benefits and contribution levels. …The regents Thursday are expected to approve increases in the amounts employees and the university must pay toward retirement benefits. For employees, the figure is expected to rise over the next two years from the current 2%, to 5% of their paychecks and for the university, from 4% to 10% of payroll. Until this year, neither side had made any payments for 20 years, turning what had once been an over-funded system into one with potentially huge deficits" (Gordon, 9/16).

The Modesto Bee: "About 43,500 Kaiser Permanente employees in California have started to receive their ballots for a vote that should decide a yearlong struggle between a powerful health care workers union and a new rival. Former leaders of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West broke away from the group last year and formed the National Union of Healthcare Workers. Now, they want a large percentage of Kaiser's unionized work force to join the NUHW" (Carlson, 9/16).

The Palm Beach Post: "Lower property taxes, but spend more. A lot more. That's the stance taken by the newest board appointee to the Health Care District of Palm Beach County today. State Rep. Joseph Abruzzo of Wellington was named to the district board in July by county commissioners. The district runs a public hospital in Belle Glade, manages school nursing and trauma programs, operates a nursing home and provides health coverage to working poor who don't qualify for Medicaid. Abruzzo shook up the budget and tax-setting meeting by trying and failing to lower the proposed property tax rate and tack a costly new spending measure onto the tentative budget. Doctors have repeatedly told the Health Care District that a change it made in 2009 was crushing younger doctors, who typically are the ones on call at emergency rooms" (Singer, 9/15).

Lincoln Journal Star: "A report that says Nebraska's Medicaid costs will soar under federal health care reform is seriously flawed, according to a national Medicaid researcher. The Milliman report, being used by Gov. Dave Heineman to bash federal health care reform, seriously overestimates the net costs of Medicaid expansion to the state, wrote Leighton Ku, professor of Health Policy at the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University and director of the Center for Health Policy Research. The Milliman report's high cost estimates are based on the assumption that every Nebraskan who is eligible will use Medicaid" (Hicks, 9/15).

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