Roundup: Calif., Fla. Differ On Health Law; Texas Gov. On Medicaid 'Flexibility'; Ariz. Mental Health

Politico: California Wants To Lead The Way On Health Care
While Republicans open debate Tuesday on repealing health reform, leaders in California are sitting down to a completely different discussion: how they can most aggressively implement the new law and remain among the Obama administration's model states on the reform — without stumbling over the significant challenges that stand in their way (Kliff, 1/18).

The Texas Tribune: Rick Perry on the Budget, the Border and the Feds
[Gov. Rick Perry has] been talking to California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, to trade ideas about Medicaid and other federal programs. ... I had a conversation with Jerry Brown this week," Perry said. ... "He's a thoughtful, wise fellow, and I've asked him to really look at some ways that we could, in a bipartisan way, go to Washington and say, 'Hey, listen, we need some flexibility in our Medicaid program'" (Ramsey, 1/18).

Bloomberg: Texas Republican Lawmakers Put State's $9 Billion Rainy Day Fund Off Limits
The two-year budget plan that the Texas House of Representatives will release today may eliminate more than 8,000 jobs and cut spending on schools, universities and social services by 11 percent. It will not tap $9.4 billion set aside for deep economic stress, Republicans say. ... Legislators used $3.2 billion from 2003 to 2007 to help pay for children's health insurance, cover shortfalls in the Medicaid and retired teachers' health insurance programs (Mildenberg, 1/18).

The Dallas Morning News: Texas Agency Says New Health Care Law Will Help Families Get Coverage
Even as Texas leaders rail against the national health care law and call for its repeal, the state Department of Insurance has issued a report that says the law will make it easier for many Texas families to get health coverage. The report also helps make the case that the current system is not working, as the number of Texans with health coverage through their employers has dropped nearly 18 percent in the last eight years (Stutz, 1/17). 

The Associated Press: ND Regulator Wants Authority Over Health Care Law
Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm asked state lawmakers Monday to grant him explicit power to enforce provisions of the new federal health care law, even though Hamm and the GOP-controlled Legislature are skeptical of the overhaul. Hamm told the North Dakota House's Industry, Business and Labor Committee that he expects the state's insurers will follow the law. However, he should have legal backup should an insurer balk at complying with a provision that state regulators would normally oversee, Hamm said (Wetzel, 1/17).

Health News Florida: Insurers: FL Needs An Exchange
Insurance executives who spoke to 200 worried health underwriters Thursday called on them to help lobby state officials to start building a health exchange, part of the new federal health law. It's an uphill battle to get state officials moving, the insurers said, given that both the legislative and executive branches are fighting implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Gentry, 1/14). 

PBS NewsHour: State Budget Cuts Slash Mental Health Funding
Arizona has long offered mental health services, such as case workers and prescription drug coverage, to residents who don't qualify for Medicaid, but also don't have private insurance that covers mental health services. But since 2008, the state has had to slash a whopping $65 million from that program, affecting as many as 28,000 people last year (Bowser and Winerman, 1/17).

San Francisco Chronicle/California Watch: Oakland, L.A. Schools To Add Health Centers
Two of the state's largest school districts are undergoing a major expansion of health centers on school campuses after promised help from Sacramento never came. To build new facilities, Oakland and Los Angeles are tapping voter-approved bond money, fees from Medi-Cal and health insurance reimbursements, and philanthropic dollars (Freedberg, 1/16).

The Kansas City Star: Clinics For City Employees Cut Costs, Improve Health
(An Olathe city-funded wellness) clinic, which officials believe was the first of its kind in the nation, is one of three for city employees in the metropolitan area that reduces costs while improving health. Kansas City and Lenexa have copied Olathe's model. The city clinics are free, with no co-pay for city workers and retirees who participate. Olathe’s clinic is expected to save the city government about $2 million this year in health care costs. Kansas City officials envision their clinic saving more than $5 million, and Lenexa officials say they think their facility will save $1.4 million (Sullinger, 1/16).

Kansas Health Institute News: Will Kansas Be Able To Find Enough Rural Pharmacists?
At least 30 of Kansas' 105 counties are considered "underserved," because they have only one pharmacy. Six counties have none, according to statistics from the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy. And here's another troubling fact: A third of the state's independent pharmacists are ages 54 or older, which means a wave of retirements and necessary replacements looms on the horizon (Shields, 1/17).

(South Florida) Sun Sentinel/Miami Herald: Floridians Finding Alternatives To Nursing Homes
Florida nursing homes are steadily losing their traditional elderly patients to more personal — and less costly — alternatives, leading to a drop in nursing home beds and the closing of a few nursing homes. Health officials and industry executives say the wave of baby boomers now reaching age 65 may have trouble finding a spot in a nursing home when their time comes, starting in five to 10 years (Lamendola, 1/18).

The Texas Tribune: Where Texas Life Expectancy Is High and Low
Along the state's impoverished border with Mexico occurs a phenomena researchers call "the Hispanic paradox." Despite conditions that should have the opposite effect — desperately low incomes, a widespread lack of health insurance and poor high school graduation rates — the predominantly Hispanic residents of Hidalgo County live to be 80 years old, two years longer than the United States or Texas average (Ramshaw and Wiseman, 1/18).

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