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Walgreens Pharmacies Remain In Washington Medicaid Program; Talks Continue With State Of Washington

Walgreens (NYSE: WAG)(NASDAQ: WAG) will continue filling Medicaid prescriptions at its Washington state pharmacies through March 15. The company, which operates 121 pharmacies in Washington, announced on Jan. 13 it would stop filling Medicaid prescriptions in 64 of its stores because of continued reduction in reimbursement under the State of Washington Medicaid program. The decision to delay the withdrawal from the program comes as constructive talks continue between the state and the company. "We're encouraged by the state's willingness to continue working with us to find a solution that will allow all of our stores to continue serving our Medicaid patients, " said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens senior vice president of pharmacy.

Will Health Care Savings Be Used To Reduce The Deficit?

Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey writes: "In their effort to overhaul the health system, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats pressed hospitals, drug makers and other providers to accept billions of dollars in government payment cuts and new fees to help finance the legislation. ... But now, if the legislation fails, those savings, primarily cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid, might end up being used for something far different: reducing the federal deficit" (Carey, 2/16). Read entire article. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Possible State Cuts To Texas Seniors' Nursing Facility Medicaid Funding Imprudent In Light Of Worsening Facility Cost Squeeze

In testimony at a Health and Human Service Commission (HHSC) hearing on possible budget reduction options, the President of the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) warned that any cuts now to Texas Medicaid payment rates for nursing home care will confront the nursing home profession with dire financial consequences. The Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has already begun to implement $725 million in federal Medicare cuts, which Texas has historically relied upon to prop up the already inadequate funding of state Medicaid rates that have not met the state's own rate-setting methodology since 1999. "Before we engage in discussions about cutting Texas seniors' key Medicaid-financed programs, we absolutely have to look first at the fact that nursing homes are already having to deal with a state and federal funding environment that squeezes facilities' abilities to recruit and retain high quality direct care staff and to deliver the level of care that our frail and elderly residents deserve and expect.

Wyoming Lawmaker Pushes For Reform, Mississippi Governor Bans Certain Over-The-Counter Drugs

Associated Press/CNBC: "A veteran Wyoming state senator for the third time is pushing a bill he says would offer health insurance to people who couldn't afford it on the open market and also serve as an example to the rest of the nation of how to tackle rising health care costs. Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, has proposed a pilot program that calls for allowing 500 participants to enroll in Medicaid beginning in July. It would be limited to people whose family income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level - $55, 125 for a family of four. Enrollment could rise to 3, 000 participants by 2014. ... It would establish personal health accounts for each participant in which the state would match participant contributions.

2 Seattle Doctors Accused Of Medicare Fraud; CNN Offers Advice For Patients On Checking Out Their Doctors

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Two Seattle-area doctors are accused of stealing millions from Medicare through fraudulent billing. "In separate grand jury indictments filed in U.S. District Court, federal authorities contend both men followed identical schemes in setting up shell companies designed to defraud the Medicare system." Authorities say one of the doctors "used stolen identities of actual Medicare recipients to file nearly 1, 300 false claims in six months. In doing so, [one of the doctors] allegedly received $1.9 million in payments through the federal system while delivering nothing in return." The other doctor set up a bogus business and "used stolen identities to fraudulently draw $753, 000 in Medicare reimbursements" (Pulkkinen, 2/11).

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PhRMA's Tauzin Quits Amid Talk That White House Deal Caused Tension Within Organization

Former congressman and powerful lobbyist Billy Tauzin is resigning as head of the pharmaceutical industry trade group after a deal he helped broker with the White House on health reform strained relationships inside the group. The New York Times: Tauzin's deal with the White House, "to limit the drug industry's total costs under the proposed health care overhaul to $80 billion over 10 years, " sparked internal dispute in the trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "Like almost every other seasoned Washington player, Mr. Tauzin bet the health care overhaul was an unstoppable train, so he wagered it was better to get on board early - only to watch it come to a screeching halt.

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