State Roundup: Minn. Officials Eye Health Cuts To Avert Shutdown

News outlets examine a variety of state health policy issues.

Minnesota Public Radio: Budget Talks Focus On Health And Human Services Spending
With just two days to negotiate an agreement with Republican lawmakers before a potential government shutdown, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders are trying to find additional cuts in health and human services spending, the fastest-growing part of state government (Pugmire, 6/28). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Shutdown Could Devastate Critical Mental Health Programs
Advocates for the mentally ill say a government shutdown could be devastating for people who rely on state medical assistance to pay for care. Some groups who care for the mentally ill say they are prepared to deal with a government shutdown using county funds and reserves. But as they look down the road, mental health providers also fear that a budget compromise — once it comes — could leave critical programs underfunded (Sepic, 6/29).

Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Stateline: Governor Signals Veto Of Health, Other Bills
Gov. Neil Abercrombie informed state House and Senate leaders Monday that he might veto nearly two dozen bills, including a bill intended to protect the state's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act. Lawmakers agreed to delete a provision that terminates the Prepaid Health Care Act on the effective date of federal legislation that is as good or better than the 1974 state law. The state law requires businesses to provide health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week or more, which has put Hawaii among the national leaders in health insurance coverage (DePledge, 6/28).

The Boston Globe: Health Plans That Cut Costs By Limiting Choices May Be On The Rise
More state employees chose this spring to enroll in plans that limit which providers they can see. Among the 78,000 people who had to renew their coverage in April and May, the percent who chose limited network plans increased this year from 19 to 31. Those plans, first offered by the Group Insurance Commission in April 2010, exclude some of the most popular but most expensive hospitals, such as those in the Partners HealthCare network. Enrollees were rewarded with lower annual costs and a three-month holiday on premium payments. Those who switched saved between $600 and $1400, said Executive Director Dolores Mitchell (Conaboy, 6/28).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Fewer Families Get Health Coverage From Workplace
The number of Minnesotans who get health insurance through employers has dropped 10 percentage points in the past decade, outpacing the decline nationwide, according to a study released Tuesday by the University of Minnesota. A decade ago, about 8 in 10 workers and their families received health benefits from a company-offered plan. By 2009, the most recent year available, 71 percent of Minnesotans were covered through the workplace. The shift parallels a trend in which growing numbers of Minnesotans earn lower wages and the ranks of those living in poverty swells (Crosby, 6/28). 

California Healthline: Trying To Quiet Rate Regulation Debate
AB 52 would require health insurers to submit an application for a health insurance rate increase, and the state could reject any increase it determines is excessive or unfair. Proponents argue that it's the same level of regulation faced by every other insurance industry, and that the recent spate of double-digit increases in some premiums cries out for state intervention. ... Opponents say Californians don't need anything of the kind, and that the bill scapegoats health insurers for the high cost of medicine by playing off of the emotional issue of recent steep increases in the volatile individual insurance market (Gorn, 6/29).

California Healthline: Decision Due On Fate Of Adult Day Health Care
The state of California wants to eliminate its current adult day health care network by Sept. 1, and given the 60-day period required for implementation of that, federal approval for axing the program is expected to come this week -- specifically, by midnight on Thursday (Gorn, 6/28). 

The Wall Street Journal: California Budget Deal Leaves GOP Out In Cold
The plan includes $15 billion in what the Democrats call "expenditure reductions," including $1.7 billion in cuts to higher education and $1.6 billion in cuts to health care for low-income Californians, but also including moves such as collecting $1.7 billion from community redevelopment agencies. In addition, the budget assumes $8.3 billion in additional state revenue will come in since a January estimate—some of which has already appeared as the economy has improved (Vara, 6/29).

Stateline: Lawsuit Limits Find Success In Two More States
Winning a lawsuit will become more difficult in Florida and Pennsylvania under measures recently approved by both states. ... Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation on Monday (June 27) that makes it trickier for patients to succeed in medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors, The Associated Press reports. The new law, which was the top legislative priority of the Florida Medical Association, restricts some of the testimony that patients can use to make their case, and makes it easier for doctors — rather than insurance companies — to decide whether to settle out of court, the AP notes (Gramlich, 6/28). 

Georgia Health News: Feds To Keep Fighting Albany Hospital Deal
The Federal Trade Commission says it will appeal a federal judge's ruling Monday that rejected a request for an injunction to block the sale of an Albany hospital. The FTC, in a statement Tuesday, reiterated its position that Phoebe Putney Health System's proposed purchase of Palmyra Medical Center would cause higher costs for area residents (Miller, 6/28). 

Texas Tribune: In-Home Nursing Companies Facing Cuts Again
Companies that provide intensive in-home care to patients who might otherwise be in nursing homes could face big cuts under a cost-saving budget proposal the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will consider today. A provision in the recently adopted 2012-13 budget directs the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) to trim $15 million from the Community-based Alternatives, or CBA, program, but without cutting wages for direct care workers. Instead, the provision directs the program to dramatically lower administrative costs, which takes a direct hit at the businesses that care for the program's clients (Makris, 6/29). 

Connecticut Mirror: Keeping Kids Enrolled Is Key To Reducing Ranks Of Uninsured
[A]fter examining research and consulting with experts, (Khadija Gurnah) determined that the effort needed a new focus: Keeping kids in HUSKY from being dropped from the program. ... At the root of the refocused effort is a relatively new premise: One of the most effective ways to reduce the number of uninsured children is to make sure those who are already covered stay covered (Levin Becker, 6/29). 

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