State Roundup: Legislatures Tackling Abortion Restrictions, Medicaid Cuts/Revamps, Rx Drug Abuse

The Associated Press: Va. House GOP Muscles Through Abortion Curbs
A Republican supermajority has muscled two of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in years through the Virginia House, including one that would all but outlaw the procedure in the state by declaring that the rights of persons apply from the moment sperm and egg unite. The bills passed over bitter yet futile objections from Democrats. And one GOP delegate caused the House to ripple when he said most abortions come as "matters of lifestyle convenience." ... The bills now go to the Senate (Lewis, 2/14).

Georgia Health News: State Health Budgets Bring Relief
Usually at the midpoint of a Georgia General Assembly session, health care industry groups are scrambling to prevent deep cuts in the budgets of Medicaid and other government programs. Not so this year. Hospitals, doctors and other medical providers ... see no major reductions in the Medicaid or PeachCare programs, either in services, benefits or payments (Miller, 2/14).

The Associated Press/Bangor Daily News: Budget-Cutting Plan Gets First House OK, LePage Says It Doesn't Go Far Enough
The Maine House yesterday gave initial approval to Medicaid cuts that are intended to help close a $120 million state budget shortfall, but the governor says they do not go far enough ... in reducing costs of MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, which cost more than $552 million in state funds in fiscal 2011 (Adams, 2/15).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Senate Votes Unanimously To Lift Cap On Family Care Program
The enrollment cap on a state long-term care program for the elderly and disabled would be lifted, under a measure approved unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday. Gov. Scott Walker announced the $72 million plan to expand Family Care in December following an order from President Barack Obama's administration. Walker and Republican lawmakers had capped the program on July 1 as part of the state budget to hold down rising costs, but now say they've come up with other ways to control them (Stein, 2/14).

The Lund Report (Oregon): Transformation Bill Passes Senate in Party Line Vote
After lengthy, impassioned discussion and procedural votes from Senate Republicans in a last ditch attempt to amend Senate Bill 1580 and send it back to committee, the Senate passed the bill allowing for the complete overhaul of the Oregon Health Plan’s delivery system ... [The bill] allows the Oregon Health Plan to move forward with implementing the creation of coordinated care organizations (CCOs) throughout the state (Waldroupe, 2/14).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feds Look Into Minnesota’s Premium Rates For Poor
The federal government has launched an investigation into whether Minnesota has set premium rates too high on health insurance coverage for low-income people, officials said Tuesday. The probe came to light at a state House committee hearing, at which one critic of the state's nonprofit plans said they earn more on the state plans for Medical Assistance than they have on commercial plans, even as doctors and hospitals collect less reimbursement (Crosby, 2/14).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Feds Investigating State Over Medical Assistance Program
This year, the state and federal government are spending $3.3 billion to provide care for low-income and disabled residents on Medical Assistance; next year, they are budgeted to spend $3.6 billion. For more than a year, [former lobbyist David] Feinwachs has been raising questions at the Capitol about whether state dollars have wrongly inflated the profits of four HMOs that have contracts with the state to manage care for many Medical Assistance recipients (Snowbeck, 2/14).

KQED/The California Report: Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Facing Cuts
This is a story about what can happen when no one is looking. ... More Californians die from overdosing on prescription drugs than from illegal street drugs. To root out pill-shopping patients and unscrupulous doctors, dozens of states, including California, electronically track the prescriptions for powerful narcotics like Vicodin and OxyContin. Now, California's unrelenting budget cuts are threatening to close the system down (Varney, 2/13). 

Stateline: States Struggle With Prescription Drug Abuse
Governors and lawmakers in a handful of states are taking steps to tackle a growing scourge — prescription drug abuse. All but two states and the District of Columbia have enacted some kind of prescription drug monitoring program, but many state officials argue that this is not enough (Clark, 2/15).

San Francisco Chronicle: Despite Pleas, Burlingame Care Center Closing
Anna Tupou, 76, has lived at the Burlingame Long-Term Care center for the past four years, a resident of one of only five county-run facilities in the state like it. On Tuesday, she was put on notice that she would soon have to find somewhere else to live….Burlingame Long-Term Care is a victim of state and local budget constraints, including a proposed 23 percent reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates (Colliver, 2/15).

Kaiser Health News: Despite Best Intentions, Californians Don’t Talk About End-Of-Life Wishes 
Sixty percent of Californians said it is “extremely important” that their family not be burdened by tough decisions about their care, but 56 percent have not communicated their end-of-life wishes to the loved one they would want to make decisions on their behalf (Barr, 2/14).   

California Watch: Researchers To Examine Revamp Of Public Health
As California continues to forge ahead implementing health reform, state Medi-Cal leaders and UC Davis researchers announced an agreement to examine public health system transformation efforts that may serve as models for the nation. The researchers will evaluate public hospital systems as they revamp daily operations in ways meant to simultaneously reduce health costs and improve patient health (Jewett, 2/15).

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