Roundup: State Lawmakers Urge Deficit Reduction

News outlets report on a variety of health policy issues across the country.

Reuters: States Once Again Worried About Budget Fights
On Wednesday, the National Conference of State Legislatures, which represents lawmakers from across the country, sent President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter urging them to "examine all possible avenues for deficit reduction, including discretionary spending, entitlement reform and revenue-related options. ..." They also said the federal government should not force states to maintain high spending levels for Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor administered by the states with partial reimbursements from the government (1/18).

Kaiser Health News: Washington State Bill Would Require Abortion Coverage
Democratic members of the state legislature introduced a bill earlier this month that would maintain or expand abortion coverage. The "Reproductive Parity Act," set for its first hearings on Thursday, would require private and public insurers that provide maternity coverage to cover abortion services as well. If passed, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation (Torres, 1/19).

Kaiser Health News: Vermont Moving Forward With Its Own Flavor Of Health Reform
Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration this week offered a bill to the legislature that lays out a plan for building the exchange, a type of marketplace for individuals and small groups to buy health insurance. The proposal would combine the small group and individual health insurance markets, would bar the sale of health insurance to individuals and small employers outside of the exchange and would define a small employer to be 100 employees or fewer instead of 50, which had been under consideration (Marcy, 1/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Virginia Aging Association Introduces Medicare Anti-Fraud Website
The Virginia Senior Medicare Patrol Program website provides information and education to older Virginians and caregivers, including how to prevent, identify and report health care fraud and abuse. Some examples of fraud include medical identity theft, billing for services that aren't provided or using improper codes for higher reimbursements (1/19).

Des Moines Register: State Will Seek $11 Million From Feds For Mental-Health Reform Effort
State leaders believe they've found an extra $11.2 million in annual federal money to help pay for reforming Iowa's mental-health system. The money would come from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is offering incentives to states to rely less on nursing-home care and help more people meet their medical needs at home (Leys, 1/18).

Bloomberg: J&J's Risperdal Sales May Have Violated Pact, Witness Said
A push by (Johnson & Johnson's) Janssen unit to increase Risperdal prescriptions for children and adolescents before 2006 may have broken the drugmaker's promises to "comply with all state and federal laws" in exchange for having the drug covered by the Texas Medicaid program, Billy Milwee, the state Medicaid director, told a jury today. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn't approve Risperdal for any pediatric use until 2006 (Feeley, Cronin Fisk and Voreacos, 1/18).

The Associated Press: Calif. Hopes For End To Court Oversight Of Prisons
Most of the prison system's core functions, from the care of mentally ill inmates to housing juvenile offenders, have been under the authority of federal and state courts for years. But the state appears to be emerging from more than a decade of lawsuits after a federal judge said Tuesday he is preparing to end court oversight of inmate medical care. ... State spending on inmate health care and related costs doubled to a peak of $16,565 annually for each inmate in the first five years after U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco seized control of the prison medical system (Thompson, 1/18). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Survey: Payment Cuts Would Lead Docs To Limit Access For Medicare Patients
Nineteen percent of doctors responding to a survey said their practices are already limiting appointments for patients with Medicare and the military health plan TRICARE, and nearly three-quarters said their practices would make changes to access for patients with the plans if a looming cut to the programs' payment rates takes effect in March (Levin Becker, 1/18). 

The Texas Tribune: Disability Rights Group Demands Perry's Attention
Disability rights activists gathered outside Gov. Rick Perry’s downtown campaign headquarters today to demand a meeting to discuss restructuring what they regard as a broken system of institutional care for disabled Texans. ... More money should be spent to create community-based living situations, or group homes, for the disabled, [Joe Tate, policy specialist for Community NOW!] said. ... Perry's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment (Ingram, 1/18). 

The Miami Herald / (South Florida) Sun Sentinel: Florida Law Would Ban Bias By At-Home Patients
Floridians receiving professional home healthcare could become among the few in the nation with their own bill of rights. Among the guarantees: Appointment times that are honored, disclosure of out-of-pocket costs and high-quality care. But under the proposal being considered by Florida legislators this session, home health agencies would have rights, too, including one likely to spark much debate: Clients would have to accept all qualified assistants in their home "regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation," according to SB 1370. Patients or their families also would need to tell agencies in advance which primary language is spoken in the home (Lade, 1/17).

The Miami Herald: Florida Lawmakers: Get Tough On ALFs
After years of stripping away critical protections at assisted-living facilities, Florida lawmakers are radically changing course in what could lead to one of the toughest laws in the nation against abusive caretakers. With rampant abuse across the state, key lawmakers are calling for homes to be shut down when residents die from shoddy care, and caretakers banned from the industry, in the biggest changes in state law since the creation of ALFs a generation ago. Unveiled this week by two Senate committees, the dual bills follow months of reports by The Miami Herald that showed frail elders were living in squalor and dangerous conditions while regulators failed to crack down on the worst abusers (Sallah and Miller, 1/18).

CBS/AP: Ohio To Invest $1 Million In Patient-Centered Care
Ohio plans to spend $1 million to expand an approach to primary care that encourages the family doctor to better coordinate with specialists and others to improve a patient's health, state health officials said Wednesday. The investment will help 50 facilities transition into so-called patient-centered medical homes around Ohio. The sites also will serve as a training ground for medical and nursing students who want to learn how to deliver care in the new model. Under the approach, primary care providers would coordinate patients' care so that there aren't duplicative tests or unnecessary hospital or emergency room visits, among other issues (1/18).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.