KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Colo. Gets Federal Approval For New Patient Fees To Help Fund Medicaid; Ga. Senate Passes Hospital Tax

Denver Business Journal: "A federal agency has approved Colorado's plan to charge a per-patient fee to hospitals in order to expand Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus eligibility and insure more state residents. Gov. Bill Ritter's office said Thursday that it had received notice from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services that it had given its OK to the hospital provider fee. Receiving that approval means that the state can match each dollar collected by the fee with one from the federal government and double the amount it raises through the plan." The fee will go into place May 1 (Sealover, 4/1).

Macon Telegraph: "The Georgia Senate narrowly passed a new hospital tax to fund Medicaid and balance the state budget Thursday night, pairing it with an eventual tax cut and measures meant to soften the blow for some hospitals. The tax would amount to 1.45 percent on hospital revenues for the next three years. The estimated $216 million that it would raise each year would be used to draw down hundreds of millions more in federal money. That money - a total of nearly $870 million in state and federal funds - would be plowed back into hospitals, with those that serve the most Medicaid patients getting the largest cut" (Fain, 4/2).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The so-called hospital 'sick tax' was on life support Thursday when it reached the floor of the Georgia Senate. By the end of the day, after hours of debate, delays, backroom politics and hurt feelings, the Senate approved HB 307, which would impose a hospital tax to help fill a $600 million gap in Medicaid funding. … The key to the bill was a last-minute amendment that gives a tax cut to insurers on health insurance premiums when the state's revenue shortfall reserve is funded at the level of $500 million" (Suggs, 4/1).

The Las Vegas Sun: "At least three state legislators have used campaign donations to pay health insurance premiums, raising questions about what politicians can legally do with their war chests. The secretary of state is investigating expenditures Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, made using her campaign fund. From 2005 to 2009, McClain, who is running for state Senate, used thousands of dollars in campaign money to pay for health insurance and contribute to her public employee pension. ... A Las Vegas Sun review of other lawmakers' candidate expense reports found that while McClain most broadly interpreted what she was allowed to spend money on, she wasn't alone. In 2005 Assemblymen Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, used campaign funds to pay health insurance premiums. Both work for government agencies and have to pay out of pocket for the insurance when they take leave to serve in the Legislature, which is in regular session 120 days every two years" (Schwartz, 4/2).

The Associated Press/New York Times: "South Carolina's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax would increase by 50 cents under a bill that won key approval in the state Senate Wednesday. It faces long odds in becoming law and sparing state Medicaid programs from deep cuts. The 26-16 second reading vote came after more than five hours of debate as tax pledge signers repeatedly tried to kill the bill and supporters added an amendment that likely will kill it if Gov. Mark Sanford follows through on a veto threat. South Carolina's 7 cent-per-pack tax hasn't been increased since 1977 when a pack cost an average of 49 cents. The legislation calls for it to rise to 57 cents a pack, generating nearly $120 million for Medicaid programs, and $5 million each for efforts to curb smoking and cancer research" (4/1).

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