State Roundup: Employee Benefit Battles Heat Up; Mass. Cost Controls

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Senate Approves $25 Billion State Budget
The Legislature is close to wrapping up its work on the $25 billion state budget bill after the Senate made minor changes to the plan late Sunday before approving it by a lopsided margin. ... the spending plan for the budget year that starts July 1 would eliminate more than 2,000 state jobs and includes cuts in most state departments and agencies. It would leave health-care and education programs at standstill levels, and requires state workers to go without a raise for the second year in a row (Moller, 6/19).

Reuters: Humana Aims To Keep Illinois Workers On Health Plan
A dispute between health insurer Humana Inc and the state of Illinois heated up on Friday, as the fate of thousands of state employees' health coverage hung in the balance. Earlier this year, Illinois chose new health plans for 200,000 public workers and retirees that do not include Humana and several other insurers, with an effective start date on July 1. Humana had covered about 15,000 workers. Humana recently won a court injunction against the new plans to make a case for the contracts to be rebid. As the legal proceedings are worked out, Illinois has asked its prospective and current insurance providers, including Humana, to provide 90-day emergency contracts to make sure employees are covered (Pierson, 6/17). 

The Associated Press: Casualties Mount In NJ  Employee Benefits Battle
The struggle to legislate higher pension and health benefits contributions for 500,000 public workers in New Jersey is shaking up the political status quo: Organized labor is attacking its traditional Democratic allies and pro-union Democrats are pitted against colleagues who plan to vote to limit collective bargaining (Delli Santi, 6/19).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Budget Bill Gives Walker More Power Over Medicaid Programs
The new state budget bill grants broader power to Gov. Scott Walker's administration to remake BadgerCare Plus and other state health programs with little legislative oversight, a situation that worries advocates for the roughly 1 million people covered by those programs. The major question: how the governor's Department of Health Services will use that authority as it cuts a projected $466 million in costs from the programs over the next two years (Boulton, 6/19). 

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: The Great Divide: Policy Vs. Practice In Medicine
As the state tries to rein in costs by replacing its long-standing fee-for-service payment system with global payments, whereby insurers put groups of doctors "on a budget," it's important to remember that we really aren't sure if this new system will actually save money and provide top-notch care. As MIT economist Jon Gruber said to WBUR's Martha Bebinger: global budgets make a lot of sense in theory, "but in practice, what does it mean?" (Zimmerman, 6/17). 

The Lund Report: Transformation Bill Deal-Making Comes Down To The Wire
In the final weeks of the Oregon legislative session, negotiations on a monumental bill to transform the Oregon Health Plan have largely taken place behind closed doors. ... The bill aims to consolidate the roughly 40 managed care organizations that currently administer the Oregon Health Plan into regional organizations that can more effectively manage chronic conditions and deliver preventive care. ... Reportedly still holding up the legislation is a controversial aspect related to collective bargaining for home health workers, which are expected to play an important role in the newly revamped Medicaid program (Rosenfeld, 6/17). 

The Connecticut Mirror: DSS Trying To Keep 1-Year-Olds From Mistakenly Losing Health Coverage
The state Department of Social Services is revising and shortening the notices sent to families of infants in an effort to keep thousands of children from mistakenly losing Medicaid coverage after their first birthday. ... The changes come in response to findings that thousands of 1-year-olds are inadvertently removed from the HUSKY health insurance program because of a confusing process that occurs when the department changes the way the infants are categorized (Levin Becker, 6/17). 

The Connecticut Mirror: State Eliminating Medical Assistance Program, 2 Years After It Was Cut
Nearly 4,900 residents will lose their public health care coverage next month when the state eliminates a medical assistance program that lawmakers axed in 2009. The program was later reinstatated under a court order. The State Medical Assistance for Noncitizens program covers legal noncitizens who meet the criteria for Medicaid but have not been in the country long enough to receive it (Levin Becker, 6/17).

The Associated Press/The Washington Post: Emotional Debate Rises Over NJ Plans To Close Longtime Home For The Developmentally Disabled
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that it's unconstitutional segregation to keep in institutions people who want to move out, who are determined by guardians and caregivers as able to do so. New Jersey has lagged behind most states at moving people out of institutions. ... nearly one-fifth of the developmentally disabled people for whom New Jersey pays for housing remained in state-run institutions. That's a rate nearly three times the national average and higher than any state except Mississippi (6/19).

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