State Highlights: Minn. Democrats Propose Cuts To Health Services

A selection of health policy stories from Minnesota, Maryland, Louisiana, Colorado, Nebraska and Florida.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota Lawmakers Call For Deep Cuts To Health, Human Services Budget
House and Senate [Democrats] are eyeing Minnesota's health and human services budget and sharpening their knives. "It's going to swallow up our entire budget," said House Speaker Paul Thissen, who this week proposed cutting $150 million from the budget, shrinking the governor's proposed $11.3 billion budget for health and human services to $11.2 billion. "It's the part of the budget that’s growing too quickly to keep up with the revenues that are coming in" (Brooks, 3/21).

MPR News: DFL's Plan To Cut Health, Human Services Spending Comes As A Surprise
With Minnesota House and Senate Democrats proposing $2 billion in new taxes to erase the budget deficit and spend more on schools, economic development and other state services, one area -- health and human services -- is getting left out. In fact, [Democrats] propose a spending cut. But some advocates for the poor say they can't handle any more spending reductions. Democrats in the House and Senate want to cut $150 million in spending from health and human services programs (Scheck, 3/21).

Baltimore Sun: Advocates, Insurers Duel Cover Cost Of Child Dental Coverage
Like most 3-year-olds, Mariah Venable is a climber and a jumper. And sometimes she lands on her face instead of her legs. Her acrobatic attempts have cost her two baby teeth already — and have left her mother thankful she has good dental insurance. "You have to start on their teeth early so they don't have issues when they get older," said Cheryl Venable, who recently took her daughter — smiling wide through the gaps — to a city clinic that offers dental care to low-income and uninsured families. Health advocates are concerned that new guidance from the Obama administration could make it more expensive for some low- and middle-income parents to pay for dental insurance for their children once the new health care law takes effect next year (Fritze, 3/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Jindal Administration Cancels Medicaid Contract That Is Subject Of Federal Grand Jury Subpoena
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration announced Thursday it is scrapping a lucrative state Medicaid contract that is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols issued a statement announcing the cancellation of the more than $185 million contract with Maryland-based CNSI, which was supposed to take over Medicaid claims processing next year (3/21).

Kaiser Health News: In The Emergency Department, Gunshot Fatalities Often 'Hard To Forget'
In Colorado, where more people die from gunshots than car crashes, the victims have a profound effect on the physicians who treat them. For some of the doctors on the front lines, the experiences lead to a strong opposition to guns, questions about gun laws and even activism (Whitney, 3/21).

The Associated Press: Nebraska Lawmaker Revives Prenatal Care Debate
A long-shot attempt to repeal state-funded prenatal care services for illegal immigrants drew criticism Thursday from a variety of Nebraska groups. Advocates for children, immigrants and medical clinics convened at the Capitol to oppose a bill by Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont. Several people said Janssen, a Republican candidate for governor, was exploiting the issue for political gain (Schulte, 3/21).

Health News Florida: Judge Orders Universal Into State Receivership
A bankrupt Medicare plan based in St. Petersburg will be turned over to the State of Florida's Division of Financial Services  by April 1 under an order issued Thursday by a circuit court judge in Tallahassee. The decision on what to do with thousands of Medicare and Medicaid members enrolled in the plans marketed by sister companies Universal Health Care Inc. and Universal Health Care Insurance Co. is now up to state and federal officials (Gentry, 3/21).

Health News Florida: Courthouse Steps Getting Steeper For Patients, Families
In Florida, medical-negligence cases already take more time, money and evidence to bring than any other kind of civil suit. Now the Florida Legislature is considering raising the bar again. ... Shannon Lawley was a healthy 31-year-old when she got sick and sought help at a Brevard County emergency room last year. Her father, Michael, says she died there because of mistakes (Gentry, 3/22).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Hospital Drug Thefts To Get More Scrutiny
Jerold L. Mullins stole meds from a hospital where he worked, went through drug treatment three times and was disciplined once after testing positive for a powerful painkiller while working as a nurse. Yet the state board that licenses nurses in Minnesota didn't find out for 15 years. Mullins' case is one of several high-profile incidents in recent years that have led to a proposal that would force more scrutiny of medical drug thieves. The legislation, which is scheduled for a House committee hearing Friday, would require hospitals and other health care employers to report employees to the state's professional licensing boards if they steal medication intended for patients (Schrade, 3/21). 

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