KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Wis. Study Finds Low Medicare, Medicaid Rates Shift Costs

A number of states are looking for ways to deal with their budget problems and the resulting Medicaid issues.

Arizona Republic: Plans For Arizona's Budget Surplus Vary
Here's something Arizona hasn't seen in a while: a state budget surplus. Estimates range from $416 million to as much as $650 million when the new budget year starts in July. ... "We'll fund population increases in K-12, AHCCCS (the state's Medicaid program) and prisons," said [House Appropriations Chairman John] Kavanagh, who's starting his fourth year as budget chairman (Pitzl, 12/17).

Denver Post: Colorado Lawmakers Gather For Legislative Forum, Brace For Charged Session In 2012
[There] is a budget standoff brewing between (Gov. John) Hickenlooper and Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other. To help balance the budget, Hickenlooper is recommending lawmakers again suspend a senior property-tax break that costs the state $100 million a year. But Republicans, who control the House with a 33-32 majority, say they oppose suspending the tax break again and say the governor should look to cut Medicaid (Hoover, 12/17).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Low Medicare, Medicaid Rates Shift Costs to Insurers, Study Finds
An estimated $851 million is added to the cost of commercial health insurance to make up for the lower fees that Medicare and Medicaid pay hospitals in southeastern Wisconsin, according to a study released last week. The study, commissioned by the Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health, supports the long-standing position of the hospital industry that the government health programs don't cover their share of costs and that the shortfall is passed on to employers and individuals through higher prices for commercial health plans. Yet that contention — widely held in the business community and among elected officials — is challenged by most health economists (Boulton, 12/17).

California Healthline: Mental Health Services Heading To DHCS
It's a big and complicated task, though, to integrate health care for the 7.5 million Californians on Medi-Cal. The state is taking a big step toward that goal by shifting Medi-Cal mental health benefits away from the Department of Mental Health and into the Department of Health Care Services by July 1 of next year. The idea is to incorporate mental health care and substance abuse treatment into people's overall health care, so that it's not a segmented benefit. The tricky part is the transition, because you don't want a disruption in care while you're changing that organizational structure, according to Toby Douglas, director of DHCS (Gorn, 12/19).

Bloomberg/Stateline: Million-Dollar Nurses Show California's Struggle to Cut Payroll
California has paid Lina Manglicmot $1.5 million since 2005, an average of $253,530 a year, to work as a prison nurse in the agricultural town of Soledad. Manglicmot is one of 42 state nurses who each made more than $1 million in those six years, mostly by tapping overtime, according to payroll data compiled by Bloomberg News. ... The extra pay that allows some nurses to triple their regular compensation underscores a broader trend in California, where government workers are paid more than in other states for similar duties and civil-service job protections hamper efforts to close budget gaps. Governor Jerry Brown said this week that revenue will fall short of expectations, triggering $1 billion in cuts to school busing, libraries and care for children, the elderly and the disabled, among other programs (Marois, 12/16).

Bangor Daily News/Stateline: Doctors' Group Suggests Tax Increases To Pay For MaineCare
Public hearings on proposed MaineCare cuts continued into the third day Friday and included a call to resurrect a once-unpopular beverage tax. Gov. Paul LePage ruled out the possibility of any tax increase at a Thursday press conference, but a representative of the Maine Medical Association urged lawmakers to consider new revenue sources rather than radically restructure the MaineCare health insurance program (Farwell, 12/18).

Health News Florida: Medicare To Dock Pay For 72 FL Dialysis Centers
Six dozen Florida dialysis centers that failed to make the grade on some Medicare measures of quality last year will take a slight hit to the pocketbook next year. But overall, Florida centers' performance was above the national average, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In Florida, 20 percent of clinics will get pay cuts compared with 30 percent nationally (Davis, 12/16).

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