KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Arizona’s Hospital Industy Decides Not To Push Tax To Help Poor, Maryland Health Programs Struggle Financially

MSN Money: "Arizona's hospital industry has decided not to push for an income tax increase on the state's wealthy to help the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System," the Medicaid program in the state. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association announced Tuesday that it will not file "a ballot measure asking voters to impose an additional 1 percent tax on individuals' income over $150,000 and couples' income over $300,000. The hospital industry group had been looking at a referendum for the November ballot to help fund AHCCCS, which faces budget cuts because of state deficits" (Sunnucks, 4/6).

The Baltimore Sun: "Maryland's hospital rate-setting authority voted Tuesday to make patients and insurance companies shoulder most of $123 million in Medicaid expenses that the budget-strapped state can't cover. That will hit insurers, self-insured employers and the uninsured starting in July, when the next fiscal year begins. Eventually, insurers said, the costs will show up in health insurance premiums that employers and workers pay. The increase of about three-quarters of 1 percent will add about $110 to the average hospital bill of $11,500, but the bottom-line effect on premiums is unclear" (Smith Hopkins, 4/7). 

The Baltimore Sun, in a separate article: "Local health officials from across Maryland say this year's state budget will lock in crippling cuts that will weaken food inspections, pregnancy clinics, chronic disease prevention and other services provided by front-line workers. ... The spending plan that lawmakers are poised to adopt this week contains $37 million in state funds for local health departments -- about the same amount they received in 1997. As recently as two years ago, the local departments got $73 million in state money for their operations. Local governments also contribute to local health departments, which are technically state agencies" (Carson, 4/7).

The Durango (Colo.) Herald: "A Durango couple's lawsuit against their health insurance company is back in court for a third time after a federal appeals court handed them a small victory last week. The case could affect how the law treats employees of tribal-owned companies like the Southern Ute Growth Fund. Stephen Dobbs worked for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe when he tried to get treatment for his son's rare skull condition. Anthem Blue Cross, the tribe's insurance company, initially forced Dobbs and his wife, Naomi, to pay expensive out-of-network rates for the specialist who treated their son. Their out-of-pocket costs reached $100,000. The boy's surgery was successful, and Anthem eventually repaid much of the money. But the Dobbses alleged shoddy treatment by Anthem, so they sued the company to make it think twice about treating others in the same way. Anthem argued that the lawsuit is blocked by a federal law known as ERISA, a law that attempts to set up a single standard for employee benefits nationwide. It also makes it difficult to sue insurance companies. The Dobbses argued that because Stephen Dobbs worked for the tribe -- a sovereign government -- ERISA does not apply" (Hanel, 4/7).

Health News Florida: "Seeking dramatic changes in Florida's Medicaid program, House leaders late Monday released a proposal that would require almost all beneficiaries statewide to enroll in managed-care plans --- including seniors who need long-term care. The proposal would take years to carry out, but Medicaid managed care would become mandatory in 2011 in Miami-Dade County. The state's most-populous county would join five other counties in a controversial pilot program formerly known as 'Medicaid Reform.' If approved, the proposal would save little money for the state during the next two years. But House Health Care Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, said moving to a fully managed-care system would provide 'long-term budget predictability' in the Medicaid program, which is expected to cost more than $19 billion in the upcoming fiscal year" (Saunders, 4/6).

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