State Roundup: Single-Payer Bill Advances In Vt. Legislature

The Boston Globe: Insurance Seller Settles Case With AG
A unit of American International Group, the New York-based insurance giant, agreed to pay restitution and a fine totaling $760,000 for selling faulty health insurance products in Massachusetts, under a settlement reached with state Attorney General Martha Coakley. United States Life Insurance Co., an AIG subsidiary known as U.S. Life, sold products in Massachusetts that didn't cover state-mandated benefits such as mental health, maternity care, infertility care, mammography, pap test screening, and preventive care for children up to age 6, according to the attorney general's office (Weisman, 4/26).

The Boston Globe: Insurers' Ambulance Bill Practice Protested
Cities and towns could be forced to sue their own residents, eliminate life support services, and pay higher health care bills unless the Legislature reins in an attempt by health insurers to slash ambulance costs, said lawmakers, fire chiefs, and municipal officials yesterday. "We're not asking for a handout, we never are. We're asking for a fair deal," said Mayor Robert Dolan of Melrose, speaking at a State House press conference. "All we ask is not to be victimized by needless cost-shifting by Blue Cross Blue Shield" (Cheney, 4/26). 

NPR: Vermont Legislature Tackles Single-Payer Health Bill
The Vermont Senate has given preliminary approval to a health care initiative that puts the state on a path to become the first in the country to adopt a single-payer system. Critics say the legislation could drive physicians out of state, limit patient choice and raise taxes. Once the Senate's action is complete, the measure goes back to the House (Dillon, 4/26). 

California Healthline: Aged, Blind, Disabled Moving Into Managed Medi-Cal
Last month, state officials began informing more than 380,000 aged, blind and disabled Californians receiving subsidized health coverage that they need to choose a managed Medi-Cal plan in the coming months. Mandatory managed care for this "high-touch" population of seniors and persons with disabilities (known as SPDs in the acronym-prone world of health care) is part of a sweeping Medicaid waiver negotiated last year between California and CMS. ... State officials think shifting SPDs into managed care will save money and improve care simultaneously (Lauer, 4/25). 

California Healthline: Four Rallies for Children's Health Across California
Enough is enough, according to Kelly Hardy, director of health policy at Children Now. First there was the $12 billion in state budget cuts that will hit the Medi-Cal, First Five and Healthy Families programs. More recently, a federal proposal would trim $480 billion nationally from Medicare and Medicaid. ... Children Now is part of an organized protest scheduled Wednesday in four California locations (Gorn, 4/25). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Hospitals Facing A Double Hit From Hartford, Washington
Even before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy unveiled a budget plan that included a new levy on hospitals, Connecticut institutions were focused on a federal proposal to pare back Medicare payments. ... Last week, CMS released a proposal to slice nearly $500 million from its Medicare payments to hospitals across the country. The Connecticut Hospital Association said it will file a formal protest against the rule in June. ... hospitals failed in their efforts to soften a similar cut imposed at the start of this fiscal year (Shesgreen and Levin Becker, 4/25). 

The Texas Tribune: Has Texas Patient Privacy Bill Hit a Snag?
Rep. Lois Kolkhorst's bill to further protect Texans' private medical information looks stuck; it's been three weeks since it passed out of committee, and it hasn't yet been set for a House vote. But the Brenham Republican says she's confident the measure — one of her top priorities this session — will move soon. ... "It's incumbent on us to set the bar very high because we're moving into a new era," [she said] ... Opponents, like the life and long-term care insurers, say the measure adds "duplicative and possibly conflicting requirements" to existing federal law (Ramshaw and Smith Gonzalez, 4/26).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona's Plan To Cut Medicaid Program Is Decried
Opponents of Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to cut the state's health-care program for the poor say it's unconstitutional, cruel and costly in both human and economic terms. They spoke out at a public hearing Monday in Phoenix, telling administrators with the state's Medicaid program that adding co-payments and fees, limiting hospital stays and respite care, and eventually eliminating health coverage for more than 136,000 people won't pass constitutional muster. "These are the most vulnerable people. They are on the periphery of society. They have so many challenges," said Anthony Hernandez of Happy Kids Pediatrics. "Really, we can do better." (Reinhart, 4/26). 

Denver Post: State Pension, Health Care Funds Face Serious Shortfall
The state funds that pay pension and health care benefits to retired teachers, corrections officers and millions of other public workers faced a cumulative shortfall of at least $1.26 trillion at the end of fiscal 2009, according to a new report. The study, to be released today by the Pew Center on the States, found that the pension and health care funding gap increased by 26 percent over the previous year. Pew officials said the growing shortfall was driven by inadequate state contributions, an aging population and market losses that accompanied the recession (4/26). 

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