Roundup: Arizona Medicaid Waiver?; 'Sweeping' Texas Budget Cuts; Wisconsin Tort Reform; Aspen's 'Dismal' Health Coverage

The Arizona Republic: Gov. Jan Brewer Calls Special Session On Medicaid
The Legislature will meet in special session today to give Gov. Jan Brewer authority to seek a Medicaid waiver from the federal government, the first step to cutting health care for 280,000 Arizonans. Brewer and Republican lawmakers say the move is needed to balance the state budget and keep the rest of the state's Medicaid program intact. The waiver seeks a two-year exemption, effective Oct. 1, from a requirement under federal health-care reform that states maintain current eligibility levels (Reinhart and Pitzl, 1/19).

The Texas Tribune: Texas House Budget Proposes Sweeping Cuts
The health and human services portion of the proposal would cut Medicaid provider rates — what doctors and hospitals and others are paid — by 10 percent. … There's also a $4.3 billion cut included to account for the federal stimulus money used in the current budget that's not available for the next budget. The proposal would cut a total of $16.1 billion in health and human services spending. That's a 24.6 percent cut (Staff, 1/18).

The Connecticut Mirror: Lawsuit: Medicare 'Improvement Standard' Illegally Denies Coverage To Thousands
A group of patient advocates, including the Mansfield-based Center for Medicare Advocacy, has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to end what it calls a "clandestine policy" that leads thousands of people to be wrongly denied Medicare benefits. The lawsuit, filed against U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, alleges that a so-called "improvement standard" is used to deny coverage of care such as physical, occupational or speech therapy to patients if their conditions are not improving, even though the standard is not supported by Medicare statute or regulations (Levin Becker, 1/19).

Minnesota Public Radio: Minn. Could Still Get $1M Health Care Grant From Feds
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen [Sebelius] says Minnesota may still get a $1 million health care grant that former Gov. Tim Pawlenty passed up last fall. Last September, Pawlenty ordered state agencies to stop applying for discretionary federal health care reform grants. That included a planning grant for Minnesota to set up a so-called health insurance exchange. ... [Sebelius] says she's working with Minnesota's new governor, Mark Dayton, on extending the deadline for Minnesota to apply (Stawicki, 1/18).

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Doctors' Group Says Ranking System Is Flawed
A new consumer tool from Minnetonka-based Medica is drawing fire from the Minnesota Medical Association. The health plan is set to unveil today a system for ranking doctors based on the quality and cost-effectiveness of the care they provide patients. Called the Premium Designation Program, the Medica product is based on a computer program developed by Minnetonka-based United Healthcare that is used in about 140 markets across the country (Snowbeck, 1/18).

Solutions [A Colorado Health News Service]: Posh Aspen Provides Dismal Health Coverage
Welcome to Aspen, land of the haves and have-nots where Gucci meets Grizzly Adams. As the national debate over health coverage takes center stage in Washington, Aspen provides a portrait of one of our nation's deepest health care divides. Poverty rates are among the lowest in Aspen, but exorbitant living expenses have made health care a luxury for many (McCrimmon, 1/18).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Senate Passes Tort Reform Measure
The state Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would offer individuals and businesses more protection from lawsuits -- a measure praised by the business community but condemned by advocates for the elderly and disabled as a shield for abusers (Marley, 1/18).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Patient Advocates Object To Nursing Home Liability Limits
Tia Cheney, a 26-year-old diabetic, died in November 2009 purportedly because she was not given enough insulin while at a Port Washington nursing home. Christine Larson, her mother, is among those opposing a bill that would limit punitive damages as well as extend the current cap of $750,000 on damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases to nursing homes, hospices and assisted living facilities (Boulton and Stein, 1/18).

Kansas Health Institute News: Disability Groups Hatch Waiting-List Plan
Disability groups have come up with a two-fold plan for significantly reducing the state's years-long waiting list for home and community based services for adults and children with developmental disabilities. ... [The plan] calls for closing two state hospitals for the developmentally disabled -- Kansas Neurological Institute and Parsons State Hospital -- and using the savings to underwrite services in the community (Ranney, 1/19).

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