KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Facing Budget ‘Cliff’; Medicaid Woes; Arizona Transplant Program; Another Florida Health Vote?

Bloomberg: U.S. States Face 'Cliff' As Federal Stimulus Ending Opens $38 Billion Hole
U.S. states are preparing for more budget cuts next year as tax revenue isn't likely to rebound enough to replace almost $38 billion in aid that will be gone as federal economic stimulus ends, according to a report. At least 31 states and Puerto Rico are forecasting deficits of $82.1 billion in the next fiscal year even as tax receipts are picking up, the National Conference of State Legislatures said today. Under a temporary mandate since 2009, the U.S. has provided economic aid to states, helping to pay government workers and shoulder the cost of the Medicaid program to provide health care for the poor. That aid will be gone, the group said (Selway, 12/8).

Minnesota Public Radio: For Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, Now Comes The Hard Part
The key issue in the first year of a Dayton administration will be how the governor and the new Legislature can tackle a rolling budget deficit that put Republican Gov.Tim Pawlenty at odds with a DFL-controlled Legislature over the past four years. The budget covers everything from school funding to health insurance for the poor and aid to cities and counties (Scheck, 12/9). 

(Twin Cities) Pioneer Press: Dayton: 'Now The Real Work Begins'
Dayton said he would reverse one of Pawlenty's policies as soon as he's sworn in by enrolling Minnesota in an early expansion of Medical Assistance. That will provide about $1.4 billion more in federal money for hospitals and health care providers to serve thousands of low-income Minnesotans. Pawlenty opposed the expansion because he thought it would cost the state too much money without reforming the system (Salisbury, 12/8). 

The Arizona Republic: Banner, Other Arizona Hospitals Brace For State Cuts
Banner Health said state cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor will prompt it to eliminate pay raises next year for more than 28,000 Banner employees in Arizona, the latest evidence that the state Legislature's budget cuts are hurting the state's health-care industry. Banner Health, Arizona's largest hospital system and second-largest private employer behind Walmart, said scheduled cuts in Medicaid reimbursements for treatment will cost the hospital system more than $100 million next year (Alltucker, 12/9).

The Associated Press: Dems Demand Restoration of Ariz. Transplant Fund
Democratic state lawmakers on Tuesday again criticized Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's cuts to a state health care program, calling the elimination of benefits for some medical transplants equivalent to setting up "death panels." They urged Brewer to either call a special session of the Legislature to restore the funding or to use federal stimulus funds she controls to do so. Brewer has previously rejected the calls (Christie, 12/7). 

Health News Florida: DOH [Department of Health] Critic Wins Powerful Post
State Rep. Matt Hudson has led a controversial effort to overhaul the Florida Department of Health. Now, he will help control the agency's purse strings --- and a whole lot more. The Naples Republican was named Tuesday as chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee ... Hudson, 44, will have to deal with a growing Medicaid budget shortfall, which his Senate counterpart said Tuesday could force as much as $2 billion in state-funding cuts (Saunders, 12/8). 

The Associated Press: Wis. Gov.-Elect Renews Calls For Union Concessions
Gov.-elect Scott Walker on Tuesday renewed his call for state unions to pay more for their health care and pensions, saying it would help the state deal with a possible budget shortfall of $150 million or more. The public employees who would be affected include many good workers, he said, but the group can't be considered "untouchable" when it comes to considering options to balance the budget (Ramde, 12/8).

The Seattle Times: Insurers, State Split Over Rules For Kids' Health Coverage
Families with individual health-insurance policies have until Dec. 15 to add children under 19 to their policies under new rules set in place this year. After that, insurers say they won't accept children on those policies, except in unusual cases... The issue may spur a clash between insurers and the state's insurance commissioner, who doesn't agree with their interpretation of a state rule set to expire Jan. 27 (Ostrom, 12/8). 

The Miami Herald: Voters Asked To Block Part Of Obama's Health Law
If the Republican-led state Legislature has its way, Florida voters will have two chances in 2012 to weigh in on President Barack Obama and his agenda. On Wednesday, the Florida Senate revived a proposed constitutional amendment designed to block a portion of Obama's healthcare plan that requires people to buy insurance or face a penalty. The proposed amendment for the 2012 ballot easily passed the Senate Health Regulation Committee along party lines, and is the first measure the Legislature has taken up in preparation for the spring lawmaking session (Caputo, 12/9).

Detroit Free Press: Lansing Firm's Purchase Of Out-Of-State Insurance Companies Legal, Court Rules
The Accident Fund, a Lansing-based worker's compensation firm and subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, was allowed by state law to buy four out-of-state insurance companies, Michigan's Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. … The case surrounds decisions by the Accident Fund in December 2005 through August, 2007 to buy United Wisconsin Insurance; CWI Holdings, a Delaware company; CompWest Insurance of California; and Third Coast Insurance, a now inactive Illinois company (Anstett, 12/8).

Kansas Health Institute News: State Employee Health Spending $32 Million Less Than Expected
Doug Farmer, outgoing director of the State Employees' Health Benefit Plan, had good news for his last meeting today with the Kansas Health Care Commission: Spending on state employee health care has been $32 million less than the commission's 2010 projections.'That's great news for the fund balance,' and gives the commission more flexibility in planning for 2012, Farmer said. On the downside, the windfall coincided with a 22 percent drop from 2009 in plan members' use of preventive services (12/8). 

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