State Roundup: Medicaid Costs Slow States' Recovery

A selection of health policy news from Kentucky, California, Minnesota, Virginia, Vermont and Kansas.

Stateline: States In Recovery: Revenues
Like a bad hangover that won't go away, some states are still suffering from the effects of the recession that technically ended three and half years ago. … Some states, including Iowa, Indiana and Tennessee, started the new session with surpluses, but none are planning to embark on new spending. States are saving much of their surpluses for anticipated cuts in federal funding, a critical revenue source for many states; increases in Medicaid costs; or to provide a cushion to cut income taxes. Overall, Medicaid is still the biggest budget worry for most states in the coming year. Medicaid spending continues to be the single largest component of total state spending at nearly 24 percent, easily surpassing K-12 education at less than 20 percent (Prah, 2/28).

The Associated Press: Panel Oks Second Bill To Resolve Medicaid Disputes
Two bills gained traction in the [Kentucky] Legislature Wednesday that would address millions of dollars in Medicaid disputes between hospitals and the organizations that provide reimbursements. Each proposal takes a different approach to an issue that hospitals say has compromised care for some of Kentucky's low-income residents. But one organization that provides Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals has concerns about the proposals' cost and workability (Finley, 2/27).

Los Angeles Times: Insurers Not Covering Behavioral Therapies For Autism, California Says
Insurers have been skirting their obligation under recently enacted state law to provide costly behavioral therapies for autism, according to the Department of Insurance, which is proposing emergency regulations aimed at enforcing the law. In July, California joined more than two dozen other states in requiring private insurers to cover such treatments when medically necessary (Zarembo, 2/28).

MPR News: Hundreds Stuck In Mental Health System, Says Legislative Auditor's Report
Hundreds of people in Minnesota with mental illness remain stuck in state-run psychiatric facilities for months or years after they are ready to leave, according to a report released today by the state Office of the Legislative Auditor. The failure to discharge patients or provide community housing options may violate patients' legal rights and likely puts the state at risk of lawsuits, the audit found. More than one-third of patients at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center are ready to be discharged but remain hospitalized, in part because of a lack of community resources, according to the 136-page report (Baran, 2/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Va. AG, Pharmaceutical Company Agree To $223,000 Settlement Over Unapproved Drug
Virginia's Medicaid program will receive more than $223,000 under a settlement that resolves allegations that a Texas-based company submitted false claims for an unapproved drug. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced the settlement Wednesday (2/28).

The Associated Press: Vt. House Panel Oks Tax On Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
A state House committee reversed itself on Wednesday and approved a penny-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to pay for health care subsidies, but the idea appears still to have a bumpy road ahead. The House Health Care Committee had defeated the measure on a 5-5 tie vote on Friday. But on Wednesday, the panel voted in two 7-4 tallies to advance the measure after a motion to reconsider from Rep. George Till, who had set up Friday’s tie vote by unexpectedly leaving during committee deliberations (Gram, 2/28).

Kansas Health Institute: Committee Votes To Shelve Bill That Would Beef Up Nursing Home Staffing
A House committee today voted to shelve a bill meant to increase staffing levels in Kansas nursing homes. "There's no time," said Rep. Daniel Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita. "Everybody felt like we needed more time to think about this, so it's easiest just to table it and take it up next year." Hawkins, a member of the House Committee on Children and Seniors, opened the panel's hearing Wednesday with a motion to table House Bill 2348. The motion passed on a voice vote that was close to unanimous (Ranney, 2/27).

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