State Roundup: Poll Finds Satisfaction With Mass. Health Coverage

The Boston Globe: Health Connector Patients Mostly Satisfied With Service
The first survey of consumers who receive subsidized health insurance through the state's Health Connector shows most give it high marks, according to results released yesterday by the Connector Authority. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they were pleased with the range of services covered and the quality of care available, and 82 percent had similar feelings about their choice of doctors. A majority of patients, 81 percent, reported they had seen a doctor for regular care at least once since receiving coverage through the Commonwealth Care program, which is the state-subsidized health insurance program created for low- and moderate-income residents under Massachusetts' 2006 health care law (Lazar, 3/11).

Reuters: Massachusetts Health Plan Gets High Marks
A large majority of Massachusetts residents are satisfied with the commonwealth's subsidized health plan, which has components similar to the Obama administration's federal plan, according to a poll released on Thursday. The poll by Market Decisions, a research and consulting group, found that 84 percent of residents are satisfied with the Massachusetts plan, which requires most adults to have health insurance. A similar requirement in President Barack Obama's health plan has been challenged by a group of states in the courts and the case is working its way through appeals (3/11). 

Stateline: Texas Struggles To Fill A Texas-Sized Budget Hole
Keeping current services at the existing level for the next two years in Texas would cost $27 billion more than the state is projected to have available. ... All this has left the legislature grappling with massive cuts in services in a state that has tended to spend less than other states on services to begin with. ... Health and human-service agencies are facing $18 billion in cuts, when the loss of federal Medicaid matching funds is taken into account (Harrison, 3/11). 

California Healthline: It Pays to Adopt Electronic Health Records
Providers throughout California are about to get a significant amount of help in establishing their electronic health record systems, according to Raul Ramirez, chief of the state's Office of Health IT. "Our hope is to launch the incentive program on April 1," he said. ... If the launch goes as planned, providers could start seeing incentive payments starting in May, Ramirez said (Gorn, 3/11).

Kansas Health Institute News: Brownback Joins Other GOP Governors In Call For Medicaid Block Grant
Gov. Sam Brownback today made public a letter he sent to the federal government, essentially asking that it remove the strings attached to the Medicaid dollars it sends to Kansas. Kansas will receive almost $2 billion in federal Medicaid assistance this year. That money [is] matched by about $790 million in state dollars. ... when the Kansas Legislature last year tried to save the state money by raising the premiums paid by those enrolled in HealthWave, which in Kansas provides health coverage to children in Medicaid- and CHIP-eligible families, HHS said that wasn't possible due to the maintenance-of-effort requirements in the reform law (Shields, 3/10).

Related KHN story: States Seeking To Cut Medicaid Rolls Get Some Help – From The Feds (Werber Serafini, 2/16). 

The Des Moines Register: Answers On Taxes, Mental Health Services Must Wait Until Lawmakers Settle Differences
Iowans will have to wait for extra state money for mental health treatment, and for answers on what exactly they can claim as tax breaks on tax returns due next month. … Both parties agree they need to help mentally ill Iowans on waiting lists for treatment, but they're still arguing over the best way to do it (Jacobs, 3/10).

Health News Florida: Families Would Bear Brunt Of Cuts
[Gov. Rick] Scott's proposal, submitted to the Legislature in early February, would save Florida tens of millions of dollars each year by placing a greater share of health care costs on state employees and their families. Beginning in 2013, Scott wants to give each employee a flat amount of $5,000 a year to pay for insurance, which for family coverage would be about $7,000 less than the state currently provides. If the House and Senate go along when they put their budgets together, a single worker would receive the same $5,000 for coverage as a worker who needs to cover a spouse and children (Davis, 3/11).

Connecticut Mirror: Beyond The Budget: Health Exchange Another Major Task For Malloy
The state budget gets most of the public attention, but the Malloy administration has another major project to tackle this year: creating a health insurance marketplace known as the exchange. ... The exchange must be in place by 2014 and financially self-sustaining by 2015. It will have a wide range of functions, including offering a website for individuals and small businesses to compare insurance plans and certifying that the plans meet certain standards. ... the administration hopes to have a board of directors for the exchange in place by July 1 (Levin Becker and Shesgreen, 3/10).

The Texas Tribune: Will Texas Lawmakers Cut Their Own Benefits?
As they talk of cutting pension contributions and raising premiums for state employee health care, having state employees pay to park in state garages, and mandating layoffs and furloughs at state agencies, what are lawmakers doing to their own compensation and benefits? It's a mixed bag. They already trimmed their regular pay, in a roundabout way. Their health benefits work just like those for state employees, which means lawmakers shoulder the same added costs and/or lowered coverages they impose on state workers (Ramsey, 3/11).

Georgia Health News: Premium Increase At 20%; Health Cuts Eased
The health care budget news for many people in Georgia took a turn for the better Thursday. State employees and teachers, however, face a 20 percent increase in their health care premiums under a fiscal 2012 budget passed by the House Appropriations Committee. ... the Appropriations Committee budget – which goes to the House floor for a vote – gave some relief to doctors, dentists, nursing homes and other medical providers, who were facing a 1 percent cut in their payments for treating Medicaid and PeachCare patients. The panel lowered their reimbursement cut to 0.5 percent. In other changes, the committee restored dental, podiatry and vision benefits for adults on Medicaid, with $7 million in funding (Miller, 3/10).

WBUR: Vt. Gov. Shumlin Pushes For Single-Payer Health Care
Most lawmakers [in Vermont] have concerns about the federal overhaul — but not because they oppose reform. Their concern is that the law doesn't go far enough, and that the cost of health care is crippling the country's economy. "It's killing business, it's killing job creation and it's killing working families," Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin told Radio Boston's Anthony Brooks Thursday. Vermont is moving full-steam ahead with a plan to become the first state in the nation to adopt a European-style single-payer health care plan (Brooks, 3/10).

Related, earlier KHN story: Vermont Gov. Proposes Single-Payer Health Plan (Miles, 3/8). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Making Nice, And Not, At The Capitol
A circle of 20 legislators showed this week that partisan divisions don't have to impede work on important laws affecting the health and well-being of Minnesotans. With a handful of questions and suggestions, the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee unanimously approved proposals to start measuring the prevalence and treatment of Alzheimer's disease in Minnesota, and to refine how abuse of vulnerable adults is handled. The civility ground to a halt, however, as lawmakers considered House File 468, which would bar the state from spending money to implement the 2010 federal health care overhaul unless the Supreme Court finds it constitutional. The one-paragraph bill is likely to be approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature and vetoed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton (Wolfe, 3/10). 

Sacramento Bee: Kaiser Keeps Four-Star Rating In California Report Card
Most of the state's largest HMOs scored well in overall quality care and customer satisfaction, but even the highest scorers in the 2011 Health Care Quality Report Card had some shortfalls. The report released Thursday by the state Office of the Patient Advocate evaluates California's nine largest health maintenance organizations, which serve more than 12 million enrollees and more than 225 medical groups statewide (Glover, 3/11).

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