State News: N.Y.C. Hospitals Face New Cuts; Vt. Bill Signing Expected Thursday

The Wall Street Journal: Vermont Health Plan Advances
Vermont is moving one step closer to a goal of its Democratic governor: a state-run health plan that would insure most of its 625,000 residents. The bill Gov. Peter Shumlin plans to sign on Thursday would create a panel whose goal would be to figure out how to pay for a new system intended to reduce the rate of overall health-cost increases (Adamy, 5/25).

The Wall Street Journal: City Hospital System Faces New Cuts
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. plans to cut costs by an additional $250 million, intensifying its belt-tightening even as it slashes $600 million in a restructuring. Alan Aviles, president of the nation's largest municipal health-care system, testified at a City Council hearing Tuesday that new state Medicaid reductions estimated at $174 million, a risk of possibly $100 million in increased pension costs and expected decreases in federal funding require the corporation to trim $250 million more to close its budget gap (Saul, 5/25).

The Baltimore Sun: Urgent Care Pushed In Howard; Emergency Room Crowds Drop
Crowding appears to be declining at Howard County's only hospital emergency room, and a citizens group is promoting the use of a dozen private urgent care clinics in the county as a cheaper, more convenient option to help keep that trend going. … To that end, the group hosted a meeting Monday night at the Hawthorne Community Center featuring the county's top medical officials (Carson, 5/24). 

Health News Florida: 'Turkeys' Include Health Projects
Some of the priciest projects listed in the Florida TaxWatch "Turkey Watch Report," which labeled $203 million worth of budget items as superfluous, are related to health and social services. An example: National Veterans Homeless Support Group based in Brevard County, $12 million added during budget conference. It was not requested by a state agency (5/24).

The Connecticut Mirror: As Insurance Chief Buffs Agency Image, Hearings Issue Cause A Rift
Since he became insurance commissioner in March, Thomas B. Leonardi has worked to dispel the public perception that the agency is unfriendly to consumers. ... a larger question about Leonardi's job [is]: Just how much can he please consumers when he is at times required to base his decisions on factors that have little to do with their requests? ... The department's responsibilities include ensuring that insurance companies remain solvent and able to pay claims. (Levin Becker, 5/24). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Insurance Department Rejects 35 Percent Rate Hike, Approves 10 Percent Cut
The Connecticut Insurance Department has rejected a request by The American Republic Insurance Company to raise premiums by an average of 35 percent for individual-market health plans, ruling that it would be excessive (Levin Becker, 4/24).

Stateline: State Workers To Pay More For Health Benefits
Almost every state that has dealt with public workforce issues in 2011 has made substantial reductions to the package of health care that employees will be getting in the future. ... public workers in many states will be asked to contribute more of their paychecks to the health services they receive. Underneath these debates is an argument about whether and how changes to health benefits should be collectively bargained (Maynard, 5/25). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mental Health System Overhaul Is Projected To Take Up To 3 Years
A comprehensive reform of Milwaukee County's mental health system could take up to three years to get under way while numerous committees examine community treatment alternatives, building a new and smaller Mental Health Complex and figuring out how to pay for it all. That's far longer than many who spearheaded a push to fix problems contemplated more than a year ago. … Some county supervisors are now pushing for faster implementation, saying the patients and taxpayers deserve it (Schultze, 5/24). 

Des Moines Register: States Move To Stop Remote Abortions
Nebraska and Kansas legislators have moved to block a remote-control abortion-pill distribution method pioneered in Iowa, but efforts to ban the practice here have failed to gain traction. Critics say the videoconferencing system allows Planned Parenthood to circumvent state laws requiring that all abortions be performed by physicians. Supporters say the system includes proper physician participation, and provides access to a legal medical treatment in rural areas where abortion services are scarce (Leys, 5/25).

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