News services report on a variety of state health policy issues.
Stateline: States Balance Budgets With Cuts, Not Taxes
As 2011 began, the budget situation in state capitals looked more dire than just about anybody could remember. ... With Medicaid, the states had their hands tied. The new federal health care law prohibits states from cutting eligibility or making it harder for people to apply for coverage. So states had to find other ways to control costs. Idaho reduced the amount paid to hospitals and doctors to treat Medicaid patients, an idea that some 30 governors proposed this year. Another strategy was to move more Medicaid patients into managed care. Illinois, a state where most Medicaid patients still receive care through a traditional fee-for-service model, passed a law to move half of all enrollees into managed care by 2015. Florida, where managed care already is common, decided to expand it to all patients, including the elderly and disabled (Prah, 6/15).
The Associated Press/Birmingham News: Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Signs Bill Banning Abortions At 20 Weeks
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill that bans abortions from being performed at 20 weeks or later into a pregnancy. Bentley said he signed the legislation Wednesday because he made a commitment "to protect the life of an unborn child." The new law will take effect on Sept. 1 (6/15).
The (New Jersey) Star Ledger: NJEA Attacks Party Bosses Over Pension and Health Benefits Reform Proposal
From the television airwaves to the streets of Trenton, the New Jersey Education Association yesterday launched a scathing attack on a couple of unlikely opponents in its battle against a proposed overhaul of health and pension benefits for public workers. The union — the largest in the state representing nearly 200,000 teachers — released a television advertisement that highlighted the relationship between the bill’s architect, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), and the South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross to try to discredit the legislation as politically tainted (Renshaw, 6/16).
The Associated Press: New Lawsuit Filed Against Wisconsin Union Law
Wisconsin state employees will start paying more for their health care and pension benefits in late August, state officials said Wednesday as a coalition of unions filed a new lawsuit against the GOP-supported plan that strips away collective bargaining rights from most public workers. The announcement came a day after the state Supreme Court ruled that a lower court judge overstepped her authority when she voided the governor's polarizing plan to prohibit workers from collectively bargaining over anything except base pay increases no greater than inflation (Bauer, 6/15).
Dallas Morning News: House Advances Bill That Would Put Texas In Charge Of Medicare, Medicaid
The House tentatively approved a controversial "health care compact" bill Wednesday that would try to turn Medicaid and Medicare into block grant programs run by the states. The vote, almost entirely along party lines, was 97-43 (Garrett, 6/15).
Texas Tribune: House Gives Early Nod To Health Care Compact
House lawmakers gave early approval today to a bill designed to let Texas take control of Medicaid and Medicare from the federal government after a high-decibel argument between the measure's Republican author and Democratic lawmakers. Rep. Lois Kolkhorst's HB 5, which died on the clock during the regular session, would allow Texas to join with other states in a so-called "health care compact," in which state leaders would ask Congress to grant them control of the purse strings and authority to operate Medicare and Medicaid (Ramshaw, 6/15).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Dayton Outlines 'Painful' Shutdown
Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday proposed a broad government shutdown that would touch every corner of the state and reach deep into Minnesotans' homes. ... The Department of Human Services would keep 5,165 workers at their desks to run the state's health care, welfare and child support services, although they would not take on any new clients after this month. That would include Medicaid, General Assistance, MinnesotaCare, refugee cash assistance, group residential housing, food support, adoption assistance and other programs (Stassen-Berger, 6/16).
The Seattle Times: Group Decides Fate Of Medical Care, Item By Item
If you want trouble, try telling a mother that insurance will no longer pay for her diabetic teenager to test his blood-sugar levels as often as she thinks he should. Or tell a man who was crushed in a workplace injury that he can't have the spinal injections for pain control he says are the only thing keeping him going. That's the job of the state's oft-vilified Health Technology Assessment committee, a group of 11 health professionals charged with deciding whether taxpayer dollars should be spent on certain types of medical care for injured workers, people on Medicaid and state employees (Ostrom, 6/15).
The Wall Street Journal: Some City Unions Balk At Budget Bailout
City Hall's negotiations with New York's municipal unions hit a snag Wednesday after some labor leaders balked at a proposal to offer the city a one-time bailout from a union-controlled health care fund. … Members of the mayor's administration, along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, had opened negotiations with an umbrella organization of municipal unions about the possibility of tapping the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund to alleviate pressure on the city budget. On Monday, Harry Nespoli, chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, said he received overwhelming support from the group's steering committee to move forward with the negotiations (Saul, 6/15).
Kansas Health Institute: SRS Advisory Group Discusses Drop In Child Psychiatric Admissions
Officials at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services have started gathering information on what's happening to mentally ill children who have been referred to psychiatric residential treatment facilities. The case-by-case reviews are in response to a sharp drop in Medicaid-funded admissions to the facilities (Ranney, 6/15).
Modern Healthcare: Three-Year Accountable Care Initiative Starting In Calif.
A California health plan, a Tenet Corp. hospital and an independent physician association have entered into a three-year "accountable care initiative" to run from Jan. 1, 2012, through 2014 to provide integrated health care for some 8,000 HMO members. The agreement between the 500-doctor, Modesto, Calif.-based AllCare IPA, Blue Shield of California and the 441-bed Doctors Medical Center of Modesto announced that the initiative will last a minimum of 36 months and will result in "little to no increase" in costs to Blue Shield HMO members in 2012 and then "low single-digit increases" the following two years (Robeznieks, 6/15).
The Baltimore Sun: Over Objections, State Will Lease Land To Catholic Hospital
Over the objections of Maryland women's rights groups, a state panel agreed Wednesday to lease land to a Roman Catholic hospital that does not generally perform abortions or provide birth control. The proposed Holy Cross Hospital would be the first in three decades to be constructed in fast-growing Montgomery County. The project has drawn controversy because it would be built on public land but follow Catholic doctrine barring some types of care (Linskey, 6/16).
The Miami Herald: State Moves To Shut Down Money To ALFs
Florida health administrators are slashing hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars to a troubled Tampa Bay assisted living facility chain in a move that could jeopardize the homes' ability to keep their doors open. The action by the Agency for Health Care Administration leaders to stop Medicaid dollars to the homes comes two weeks after a caregiver at one of the facilities was arrested for rape, and one month after The Miami Herald profiled the homes in a series, "Neglected to Death," which showed the state had allowed scores of problem homes to remain open — sometimes for years — despite a litany of abuses (Miller, Barry and Sallah, 6/15).