State Roundup: Fla. Preps For Medicaid Overhaul; Funding Cut Fears in Mass., Texas; Calif. Exchange Board's Challenges

The Wall Street Journal: States Plan For Decline In Federal Assistance
Both President Barack Obama and House Republicans are moving to rein in federal spending by reducing aid to states and cities, which would deepen their fiscal woes just as economic-stimulus funds from Washington are drying up. ... Much of the stimulus went to fund state Medicaid programs, state departments of education and transportation and infrastructure projects. That freed up state funds for public safety, the courts, environmental protection and human service programs (Murray, 2/11).

Kansas Health Institute News: Amendment Protesting Federal Health Reform Easily Passes Kansas House
The Kansas House today approved by a wide margin, 93-26, a proposed amendment to the state constitution protesting the federal health reform law. Similar legislation sputtered and died last year, garnering only 75 votes, eight short of the needed two-thirds majority. ... House Resolution 5007 still must clear the Kansas Senate where Republican leaders have questioned its merits. Should it gain approval there it could then be placed on the next general election ballot for consideration by Kansas voters (Shields, 2/10).

The Kansas City Star: Kansas House Backs Vote On Health Insurance Amendment
Kansas residents would vote on a constitutional amendment seeking to block key provisions of the new federal health care law under a proposal endorsed Thursday by the Kansas House. The amendment would prohibit the federal government from requiring any Kansan to purchase health insurance — a cornerstone of the federal law. Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a similar change to their constitution last fall. The measure goes to a final vote in the House today. If approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, the amendment would go before voters in the November 2012 election (Klepper and Foster, 2/11).

The New York Times / The Texas Tribune: Community Colleges Are Uneasy As Ax Hangs Over State Aid For Health Benefits
The Legislature's initial state budget proposals calling for the closing of four community colleges caught many lawmakers off guard. But what largely escaped their attention — the slashing of health benefits across all such institutions — is what concerns community college officials the most. ... Like state agencies and public colleges and universities, community colleges receive state money to cover the premiums for employee health insurance. This financing is discretionary, meaning lawmakers can cut it (Smith, 2/10).

The Boston Globe: Mental Health Workers Decry Planned Cuts
Governor Deval Patrick's proposal to eliminate one-quarter of the beds in the state's mental hospitals has provoked strong opposition from mental health professionals who say it will increase the ranks of the mentally ill in the state's jails, homeless shelters, and emergency rooms. ... While the vast majority of patients pose no threat, advocates point out that two workers, one in a group home and one in a homeless shelter, were killed by mentally ill men last month, slayings that advocates say underscore the gaps in a system already weakened by budget cuts (Levenson, 2/11).

Health News Florida: It's All About Medicaid Next Week
Florida Senate leaders next week will release their first detailed proposal for overhauling the Medicaid system, calling for a shift of hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries to managed-care plans. ... Designed to cover low-income children, the elderly and disabled, Medicaid has been a lightning rod during budget discussions because of its growth in bad economic times. ... Meanwhile, aides to Gov. Rick Scott said he will not propose a detailed Medicaid overhaul but will work with the House and Senate to agree on a plan. Like Republican legislative leaders, Scott backs a major shift to managed care to help hold down spiraling costs in the program (Saunders, 2/10).

California Healthline: Maternity Mandate Bill Has Familiar Ring to It
According to the California Health Benefits Review Program, nine health-related mandate bills have been introduced as new legislation in this legislative session. ... SB 155 by Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), which would mandate coverage of maternity care, has pretty much identical language and intent to last session's AB 1825. That bill, which had been authored by former Assembly member Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, was passed by the Legislature, and then vetoed by former Governor Schwarzenegger. ... Only about 19% of individual policies offer maternity coverage, Evans said (Gorn, 2/10).

California Healthline: Daunting Challenges Await Exchange Board
The five people who will oversee the Health Benefit Exchange in California will be helping to set up an extremely complicated and far-reaching bureaucracy. ... They need to run an insurance exchange that is attractive to small-business owners, people on individual plans, safety-net patients, middle-class families, seniors and the so-called young invincibles. ... "The law in California is quite good," according to Jon Kingsdale, founding executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, the agency that runs the state exchange. ... It's the implementation of that law that's going to be challenging, he said. For instance, the California exchange will break new ground by incorporating a large market of individual purchasers of insurance. Kingsdale calls them the non-group market (Gorn, 2/10).

The Dallas Morning News: Senate Panel Approves Bill To Require Women To See Sonogram Before Abortion
Abortion opponents, saying they are seeking to ensure women are making well-informed decisions, sent a bill to the full Senate on Wednesday that will require women to either view or hear a doctor's description of a sonogram before the procedure. Critics called the bill a state intrusion into the relationships between doctors and patients — the kind of governmental interference they say many Republicans are denouncing in the federal health care law. The sonogram bill, which is backed by Gov. Rick Perry and has strong support in both the full Senate and the House, builds on state law requiring a 24-hour waiting period and providing state-produced educational materials designed to deter abortions (Hoppe, 2/9).

Boston's WBUR CommonHealth Blog: Better Dental Care For Kids
Eleven years ago when lawyer Clare D. McGorrian and others filed a class action lawsuit — Health Care For All v. Romney — against the state for providing inadequate dental care for kids on Medicaid, only about one-third of eligible children in Massachusetts were being treated by a dentist. ... Now, after five years of court-ordered oversight and sometimes tense negotiations, the dental program is free to function without a guardian. And McGorrian, now in private practice, concludes that the Medicaid dental program is in far better shape than it used to be. For one thing, about half of eligible kids now get dental care (Zimmerman, 2/10).

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