Roundup: Brewer defends request for exchange funds; Calif. governor signs maternity benefit bill

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

The Associated Press/Arizona Republic: Brewer Defends Health Exchange Request
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona said Thursday that despite opposition from legislators from within her own party, she's seeking money from the federal government to implement a key part of the health care overhaul she opposes in order to prepare her state in case the law is upheld. Brewer told The Associated Press on Thursday that she didn't view her $29.8 million request for setting up a health insurance exchange as inconsistent with her opposition to the federal law. The exchange would be an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to shop for health insurance. The federal law requires states to either set up an exchange or face the prospect of one established for them by the federal government (10/6).

The Associated Press/Denver Post: Brown Signs Bills Ensuring Maternity Coverage
Thousands of women in California of childbearing age are now guaranteed maternity care after Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday he signed a pair of bills designed to close a loophole that denies women maternity services. Brown said the bills ensure that mothers who decide to take maternity leave will no longer have to worry about losing their medical coverage (Kumar, 10/6).

San Francisco Chronicle: Maternity Care A Must In Health Plans With New Law
In an effort to help improve the health of mothers and infants in California, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law a measure that will prevent health insurers from excluding maternity care as a covered benefit. The new law will require individual insurance policies, beginning July 1, 2012, to cover maternity just as any other condition that requires medical services. The legislation, SB222 by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, was one of several laws Brown signed Thursday affecting pregnant women and new mothers (Colliver, 10/7).

Texas Tribune: Texas Doctors Experiment With Care, Payment Models
At Village Health Partners, a comprehensive medical practice in this Dallas suburb, patients receive a year's worth of wellness exams in a single visit, get their e-mails answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and have their mammogram or MRI results logged into their electronic medical record by the time they pull out of the parking lot. ... As the United States grapples with spiraling health care costs and a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for how sick their patients get, not how healthy they become, Texas health care providers are increasingly experimenting with new payment and care delivery models -; joining forces to emphasize efficiency and outcomes (Ramshaw, 10/7).

The Miami Herald: Jackson Health System Employees Will See Health Insurance Switched Next Year
A year after forcing all 11,000 of its employees into the Jackson Health System insurance plan, Jackson executives reversed course Thursday, announcing that the system's employees will be moved next year into the same AvMed plans offered to other county employees (Dorschner, 10/6). 

The Miami Herald: Healthcare Swims Against Layoff Tide In Miami-Dade
Don't just be thankful for your health. Be thankful for the healthcare industry. For an upcoming story on construction employment, I calculated the jobs lost and gained during the last four years in Miami-Dade County. Almost all industries employ fewer people than they did in August 2007. The big exception: health care (Hanks, 10/6).

California Healthline: Process Opens To Get Federal EHR Incentive Money
The application process will be staggered over three months. Hospital registration opened Oct. 3. Physician groups are next in line, able to apply on Nov. 15. Individual physicians can file for the federal money beginning Dec. 15. Hospitals could garner as much as $700 million of that money, according to Pamela Lane, vice president of health informatics at the California Hospital Association. Hospitals have been applying this week through a state portal on the CMS website (Gorn, 10/7).

MSNBC: Group Pushes To Make Health Care Available Statewide
More than 100 people rallied in Adams County on Thursday to hear a plan to make sure health care is available to everyone. The group Health Care For All Pennsylvania advocated that health care reform should start in Harrisburg, rather than in Washington, D.C. The group called on state representatives to sponsor a bill that would take the private sector out of healthcare in Pennsylvania. "Our system is very broken," Carl Goulden, of Littlestown, said. Group members of Health Care For All Pennsylvania laid out their plan to switch health insurance in Pennsylvania to a state-provided system (10/7).

Kansas Health Institute: State Employee Health Plan Individual Rates Set To Jump 44 Percent
Starting in January, premiums for the State Employee Health Benefits Plan will increase 44 percent for individuals, while premiums for family plans will drop 7.4 percent. Costs for the health insurance program that covers most state workers and many local government employees came in 6 percent under projections last year, plan officials said. Members of the state plan -; which is self-insured and covers just under 100,000 people -; began receiving their Open Enrollment 2012 booklets listing the new rates late last month (Cauthon, 10/6).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Gets $9.5 Million To Help Pregnant, Postpartum Women Quit Smoking
Two federal grants totaling $9.5 million over five years aim to help pregnant and postpartum Wisconsin women quit smoking. Smoking during pregnancy affects the health of a mother and her baby, increasing the risk of a stillbirth, preterm delivery at a low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood cancers, respiratory and behavioral issues, and death. It also costs the state of Wisconsin tens of millions of dollars each year in expenses attributed to maternal smoking.The Wisconsin Women's Quit Project funded through the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services-Office of Women's Health will bring $300,000 to Wisconsin over two years to target smoking cessation among women of childbearing age (Herzog, 10/6).

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Lawmakers Vote To Cut Their Retiree Health Care Benefits
A bill to end retiree health care benefits for future and some sitting legislators is about to become the new law of Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder's spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said he would sign the legislation that passed the state House 96-11 on Thursday. ... The bill would prohibit retiree health care benefits, which legislators have been getting since 1957, for all future state legislators and end benefits for current House and Senate members who don't have six years of service before Jan. 1, 2013 (Gray, 10/7).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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