State Highlights: Trying To Save Care For Poor With Medicaid Budget Deals

A selection of health policy stories from South Carolina, Georgia, Minnesota, New York, California, Texas and Massachusetts.

The Associated Press: Education, Health Care Among Haley's Topics
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley asked legislators in her third State of the State address Wednesday to overhaul how public schools are funded, improve crumbling roads, and make prisons a safer place for those who guard the most violent offenders. She pledged to work to improve residents' health, especially in rural areas, without expanding Medicaid. For example, she said, next year the state's Medicaid agency will begin fully reimbursing rural hospitals for uncompensated care (Adcox, 1/17).

The Associated Press: SC Medicaid Director Touts Agency Savings
South Carolina's Medicaid director said Thursday his agency's savings initiatives are allowing tens of millions of dollars to be spent on the state's many other needs. Under the Department of Health and Human Services' preliminary budget request last fall, the escalating cost of Medicaid would have eaten up every dollar of additional revenue currently projected to come into state coffers next fiscal year. But Gov. Nikki Haley's executive budget proposal recommends spending an additional $156 million. That's about $40 million less on the government health care program for the poor and disabled than that initial request (Adcox, 1/17).

The Associated Press: Deal Cautious With Third-Year Plans
Gov. Nathan Deal presented Georgia lawmakers with a wide-ranging but cautious agenda Thursday, asking the new General Assembly not to divert from the path set during the Republican governor's first two years in office. The governor urged lawmakers to ratify his plan for an appointed state health policy board to assess fees on Georgia hospitals as a way to avert steep cuts to the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income residents, most of them children or disabled adults. That plan would replace a direct tax that expires at the end of the current fiscal year (Barrow, 1/17).

Georgia Health News: Provider Fee Bill Sails Through Senate
The state Senate passed legislation Thursday that would facilitate the renewal of the hospital provider fee, after soundly rejecting a bid to tie the bill's approval to Georgia expanding its Medicaid program. As envisioned by the 2010 federal health reform law, Medicaid expansion would add more than 600,000 lower-income Georgians to the program. Senate Democrats offered the amendment to allow the provider fee to fund expansion of the Medicaid program. The amendment failed on a party-line vote, 36-18 (Miller, 1/17).

Pioneer Press: MinnesotaCare: Legislators Ask Feds To Preserve Health Insurance Program
A bipartisan group of legislators is asking the federal government to help Minnesota tap funds that could preserve and improve the MinnesotaCare health insurance program. MinnesotaCare was created by the Legislature in 1992 as a way to provide coverage to lower-income people who don't get health insurance through their jobs (Snowbeck, 1/17).

The New York Times: Audit, Citing Mismanagement Finds SUNY Downstate In Dire Fiscal Straits
As SUNY Downstate Medical Center bled money over the past few years, 15 of the hospital's top administrators were paid taxpayer-financed salaries over $200,000, while nearly 500 lower-paid employees were sent layoff notices, according to a state comptroller's audit released on Thursday (Hartocollis, 1/17).

Los Angeles Times: California Ranks Low In Providing Special-Needs Care To Children
California children with special healthcare needs receive worse care than those in most other states, according to an analysis by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health. The foundation ranked California 46th in effective coordination of medical care and 50th for referrals to specialty care (Gorman, 1/17).

The Texas Tribune: Lawmakers Look To Medical Parole To Cut Prison Costs
As lawmakers deal with rising costs to provide health care for prison inmates around the state, some are looking to cut costs by re-examining a program that releases inmates who are deemed the oldest, sickest and most expensive. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, filed HB 512 this week, a bill that would change state laws governing which prison inmates are reviewed by the Board of Pardons and Paroles for release under a program called Medically Recommended Intensive Supervision (Chammah, 1/18).

Boston Globe: Longtime Advocate To Lead Mass. AARP
A former state representative and secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs has been tapped to lead the Massachusetts office of AARP, the state's largest advocacy organization for older people. AARP announced Thursday that Michael E. Festa, 58, a longtime Melrose lawyer and resident, will take over as director on Tuesday. Festa said in a phone interview that one of his top priorities will be to make sure the voices of 800,000 Massachusetts members are heard in Washington, particularly on the issue of protecting the future of Social Security. AARP figures show that Social Security accounts for 56 percent of the typical older Massachusetts resident’s income (Lazar, 1/17).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major 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.