State Roundup: State Spending Drops $290 Billion In 5 Years

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News outlets examine a variety of state health policy issues, including articles from California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Reuters: Revenue Wilted, States Rely On Cuts To Meet Budget Trapped in a revenue wasteland, U.S. states have cut spending by $290 billion over the last five years, with the largest reductions coming this year, according to a think tank that tracks state fiscal conditions. In fiscal 2012, which for most states began last July, cuts totaled $140 billion, “almost as much as the combined total for the previous four years,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. … More than half the 50 states cut higher education spending this year, and at least 20 states have “made identifiable, deep cuts in healthcare,” CBPP said (4/18).

The Fiscal Times: Taxing Drugs, Doc Visits And Even Surgery? One of the major flaws in the nation’s health care system is that most resources go to treating people with chronic diseases, while little goes to preventative care. So, what to do? One controversial idea being promoted by a team of health care experts is to impose a tax on every doctor visit, surgical procedure and prescription. … The [Institute of Medicine] study said that a medical transactions tax could be a key ingredient in bolstering public health care services enough to bring down long-term health costs (Hirsch, 4/19).

Boston Globe: Another Take On “Budget Buster” Report: Health Law Was More Expensive, One Analyst Says Josh Archambault appreciates that there are other people in the state, besides him, trying to calculate the overall cost of the 2006 Massachusetts law requiring most residents to have health insurance. And, he said, he thinks a report out last week from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation mostly got it right. But one figure in the report, putting the annual increase in state spending for health reform between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2011 at about $91 million, just struck him as odd (Conaboy, 4/18).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Patient Data Missing For 315,000 Emory Patients Personal and health information for about 315,000 patients is missing, Emory Healthcare announced Wednesday. The hospital system has been unable to find 10 computer discs containing the data. The missing discs held information on all patients who had surgery at Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown and The Emory Clinic Ambulatory Surgery Center between September 1990 and April 2007. The discs contained protected health information, including patient names, along with the diagnosis, the name of the surgical procedure and the surgeon (Teegardin, 4/18).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: HIV/AIDS Confab At Morehouse Tackles Ongoing Epidemic Nearly 500 low-income, uninsured Georgians with HIV/AIDS have gained access to life-saving drugs with the help of federal emergency funding in recent months, though nearly 1,000 remain on a waiting list. The improvement reflects a nationwide decline in the number of people waiting for drug assistance, which dropped by more than 3,700 since last fall, according to the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (Williams, 4/18).

Boston Globe: Senate Power Struggle Fuels Maine Race Former (Maine) independent governor Angus King strolled into a barbershop, an insurance agency, and a pub on a recent afternoon, reintroducing himself to voters, one handshake at a time, in his bid for a US Senate seat. But those introductions ignored the one thing most people want to know: would King caucus with Senate Democrats or Republicans if he wins? … King would pass a general Democratic litmus test: He is prochoice on abortion, supports gay marriage, backs President Obama’s health care law, and opposes GOP efforts to transform Medicare into a voucher program. Indeed, he has endorsed Obama for reelection. But he insists that he has conservative values when it comes to fiscal responsibility (Calvan, 4/19).

NPR: Few Answers In Abuse Probes At Homes For Disabled Fairview is one of five state-run developmental centers in California — homes for people with developmental disabilities who are unable to care for themselves. An investigation by member station KQED and the nonprofit group California Watch has uncovered patterns of abuse at a number of these institutions, including Fairview (Montgomery, 4/19).

HealthyState/WLRN: Gov. Rick Scott Vetoes Millions Of Dollars In Health Programs [Fla.] Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida’s budget Tuesday – and more than three dozen health-related programs across the state were casualties of the governor’s veto pen. Health programs represented more than a quarter of Scott’s $142 million in line-item vetoes to the $70 billion state budget. Among the cuts: medical school projects, rape crisis centers, devices for people with epilepsy and childhood vaccination programs (Mack, 4/18).

Denver Post: Colorado Community Health Centers Show Mixed Results In New Screening Of Federal Quality Measures The 15 clinics listed for Colorado do better in some places and worse in others. In diabetes control, the patient populations at 11 of the 15 state clinics are better than the national average. In hypertension control, 8 are better than average. For immunizations, 9 of the 15 top the average, which could be a success given that Colorado has fared badly in immunization rankings in recent years (Booth, 4/18).

Earlier, related KHN coverage: Community Health Centers Under Pressure To Improve Care (Galewitz and Monies, 4/17).

The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: NH Senate Considers Health Compact Bill A Senate committee is weighing the merits of forming an interstate compact to assume control for health care within New Hampshire’s boundaries. The House passed the bill last month that proposes that New Hampshire join with other states in delivering health care to its residents. Under the bill, the states would receive block grants from the federal government and would take over Medicare and Medicaid. Congress would have to approve the compact for it to take effect (4/19).

Related, earlier KHN story: Some States Seeking Health Care Compact (Gugliotta, 9/18)

Boston Globe: President’s Exit Stirs Fears On Hospital’s Fate Dorchester community leaders are worried about the future of Carney Hospital after last week’s abrupt departure — some say firing — of its president, Bill Walczak, a longtime neighborhood activist hired by Carney’s new corporate owner only 14 months ago. Walczak took issue with a spokesman for Steward Health Care System, the parent company of Carney, who said Friday that Walczak had quit (Weisman, 4/19).

Modern Healthcare: La. Reaches Meaningful-Use Milestone For physicians and other eligible professionals, payments for the second year of the Medicaid electronic health-record incentive program—this time for meaningful use of an EHR—have begun to flow, according to the CMS. Louisiana is the first state in the country to issue an incentive payment to an eligible professional that has achieved meaningful use under the Medicaid program, according to an e-mailed CMS statement (Conn, 4/18).

Georgia Health News: Shortage Of Emergency Drugs Alarms Doctors Georgia emergency physicians say a shortage of drugs to treat critically ill and injured people poses a “real danger to our patients today, without relief in sight.” … A spokesman for Public Health said Tuesday that the agency is aware of the shortages and is taking steps to deal with them. The Georgia situation is part of a nationwide gap in availability of EMS medications (Miller, 4/18).

Kansas Health Institute News: Tobacco Settlement Money Received The state this week received $56 million as its latest installment payment from a national settlement with the major tobacco companies. Children’s advocates say that’s a reason to fully fund a range of programs for youngsters. The Legislature apparently agrees. But the Governor’s Office said the fresh payment was no reason to back away from the administration’s “conservative” approach to the tobacco funding, which would mean a cut of about $16 million for programs paid for from the Children’s Initiative Fund (4/18).

California Healthline: Pre-Existing Condition Reform Passes Committee The Senate Committee on Health yesterday passed SB 961 by Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), which would change the individual health insurance market in California, in part by halting insurer denials based on pre-existing conditions. It is similar to a bill — AB 1461 by Bill Monning (D-Carmel) — approved by the Assembly health committee one day earlier. Both measures are designed to conform to the federal Affordable Care Act, Hernandez said, in advance of many other states (Gorn, 4/19).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Patient Physician Cooperative Offers Discounted Fees Without Insurance Portland is home to numerous co-operatives. … So a healthcare co-op model allowing patients to choose a naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist as their primary care provider might seem like a uniquely Portland idea. But actually, the Patient/Physician Cooperative (PPC) – which started advertising in Portland last May – is an import from Houston, Texas. … Members pay a base fee each month that entitles them to reduced costs for provider visits and prescriptions and tele-doc services for online consultations, or pay a larger fee that covers one primary care visit per month without copay (McCurdy, 4/18).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colorado news service): Colorado’s Exchange Progressing, But IT Problems Loom Colorado has made substantial progress in implementing a health insurance exchange, but significant work remains in part because of Colorado’s flawed computer systems, a new report from the Urban Institute has found. … Colorado was the first state where a divided legislature voted to create a health insurance exchange (Kerwin McCrimmon, 4/18).

HealthyCal: Creative Movement: Transportation And The Elderly When Aghavni Davis gave up driving because of failing eyesight, she never imagined the strain it would put on her ability to stay healthy. … Davis’ story illustrates a growing fear among aging adults: finding transportation to medical appointments. As the population ages and an estimated 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65 every day, governments, senior agencies, and non-profits are devising creative solutions to help with “Driving Miss Daisy” (Perry, 4/18).