May 24, 2011
White House Objects to Indiana Planned Parenthood Law
By Christine Vestal, Staff Writer
PLANNED PARENTHOOD: The Obama administration has raised "serious objections" to a new Indiana law cutting off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide women's health care services, The New York Times reports . Federal law prohibits Medicaid dollars from being spent directly on abortion services, but lawmakers in Indiana — as well as many in Kansas , North Carolina , Oklahoma , Texas and Wisconsin — wanted to make sure that state and federal money was not indirectly supporting abortion by aiding organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, that provide a variety of women's health services. including pregnancy tests and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to performing abortions with other funding. The federal government has 90 days to approve or reject Indiana's law, which took effect May 10.
COST CUTTING: Some Texas lawmakers are promoting a bill that would require collaboration among health care providers as they test a variety of payment plans aimed at cost efficiency under the aegis of the state health agency. But the Federal Trade Commission has registered a complaint against it. In a May 18 letter, the FTC said the bill is anti-competitive and "likely to lead to dramatically increased costs and decreased access to health care for Texas consumers." The FTC also says existing antitrust laws already permit doctors to form collaboratives.
HOSPITAL TAXES: Facing tough budget choices, Oregon is negotiating with the state's largest hospitals to increase taxes on health care providers from the current 2.3 percent to as much as 5.5 percent of their net revenue. Governor John Kitzhaber supports the taxes as a way to ease what would otherwise be deep cuts to Medicaid payments for doctors and hospitals in 2012. The hope is that Oregon's health care cost-cutting reforms — to be rolled out next year — will eventually make it easier to balance the state's Medicaid budget, The Oregonian reports .
GLOBAL WAIVER: Rhode Island's nearly two-year old Medicaid agreement with the federal government, known as a "global waiver," has been touted by conservative leaders as a model for the rest of the country. But Governor Lincoln Chafee says he has doubts the program has saved money, The Providence Journal reports . While GOP leaders argue that the Rhode Island program shows how costs can be cut by converting federal Medicaid spending into a block grant — a key piece of the federal budget recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives — Chafee says most savings so far have resulted from shifting costs to the federal government. Under Rhode Island's waiver, federal rules were lifted to allow the state to design its own Medicaid program. In return, Rhode Island agreed to live under a $12-billion Medicaid spending cap between 2009 and 2013.