State Roundup: States, Cities Cut Retiree Benefit Budgets; Feds To Decide Georgia's Benchmark Plan

News outlets also report on health care developments in New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Florida.

Reuters: Local Governments Take Budget Knife To Retiree Health Plans
As cash-strapped U.S. cities and states struggle to address gaping budget holes, a long-honored benefit for public-sector workers has come into the cross-hairs of budget cutters: retiree health insurance. A growing number of states and cities are eliminating or reducing health coverage for retirees, a benefit that has long fallen by the wayside for most private-sector workers. ... because health coverage does not typically have the strong legal protections that hamstring changes to public pension benefits, it is easier for governments to scale back (Mincer, 10/15).

Georgia Health News: State, Faulting Feds, Won't Pick Benchmark Plan
More than 20 states have decided what their benchmark health benefits should be under the 2010 reform law. Georgia, though, has chosen to leave it to the federal government to make the decision on those benefits, the state insurance department says. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to offer a comprehensive set of benefits starting in 2014, when the law – if not repealed or gutted by Congress – is fully implemented (Miller, 10/15).

Modern Healthcare: N.Y. Digital-Health Initiatives Aims For Jobs, Better Care
The New York eHealth Collaborative and the Partnership for New York City Fund have selected eight early- and growth-stage companies developing healthcare technology products to participate in their digital health accelerator initiative. The goal of the New York Digital Health Accelerator is to make New York state a hub for digital health technology, the organizations said in a news release (Lee, 10/15).

The Hill: New York Lawmakers Want 9/11 Victim Funds Exempt From Fiscal Cliff
Members of New York's congressional delegation on Monday traveled to Ground Zero to demand that funds set aside to compensate victims of Sept. 11 not be cut if America goes over the fiscal cliff in January. … In a Sept. 28 letter to Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients, the members argued that Congress did not intend to cut the health and compensation programs given that lawmakers exempted six other similar health funds (Wasson, 10/15).

The Boston Globe: Assisted Death Plan Brings Tug Of Feelings
When Ellen was diagnosed with breast cancer at 49, she fought the disease into remission, only to see it return. Two years ago, she developed a rare gastrointestinal cancer that spread. Now receiving hospice care, she is putting her affairs in order, finishing up some genealogy work, and making plans to vote in November for a ballot initiative that would give a terminally ill patient the option to request a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug. ... Although the “Death with Dignity” ballot question has generated relatively little fanfare, the decision Massachusetts voters will confront in November has far-reaching ethical, medical, and personal repercussions (Johnson, 10/15).

Miami Herald: Rewards To Healthy Employees Ramping Up
In pushing for healthier employees, Florida Power & Light's parent company is charging well ahead of the pack, offering up to $1,640 a year to some employees for good behavior while punishing others by threatening to take away up to $30 out of each biweekly paycheck. As South Florida employers prepare to stage open enrollments for 2013 health insurance, the offering of carrots for healthy actions keeps ramping up, but Next Era Energy, owner of Florida Power & Light, is leading the way among the region's large employers with threatening with a stick as well (Dorschner, 10/15).

The Texas Tribune: Some Inmates Forego Healthcare To Avoid Higher Fees
As a result of HB26, which took effect last year, TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice] prisoners who seek medical care now pay a fee of $100 once a year, whether they see a doctor once or multiple times. But if they don't see a doctor at all, they can avoid the fee altogether. Critics of the new law, though, say the fee has had unintended consequences — including situations where inmates are refusing treatment and a complicated administrative process for inmates who say they have been charged incorrectly(Chammah, 10/16).

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