Pennsylvania’s overdue budget included smaller cuts to hospital revenue than proposed, but redirected existing taxes and fees into the state’s $27.8 billion general fund from healthcare funds and added a Medicaid managed-care tax. The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania said the 2009-10 budget, signed by Gov. Ed Rendell earlier this month, scaled back $280 million in proposed cuts to state and federal hospital revenue for trauma and burn centers, academic medical centers, critical-access hospitals, medical education, community access and disproportionate-share hospitals to $40.7 million, a 12% reduction from the prior year’s budget. Roughly $215 million in revenue from cigarette taxes and motor vehicle surcharges that previously funded medical malpractice subsidies was shifted to the state’s general fund, according to the Pennsylvania hospital and health system association and Pennsylvania Medical Society. The budget also transferred $708 million and $100 million from the state’s Health Care Provider Retention Account and Mcare, which helped offset medical-malpractice costs. The newly adopted managed-care tax is expected to generate $528.5 million, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, an independent policy research group.
Some nurses in New York state are preparing to fight a state mandate that requires healthcare workers to receive the flu vaccine this year. Four nurses announced their plan after they were told they would lose their jobs in November if they did not get the vaccine, according to Terry Kindlon, an Albany, N.Y.-area lawyer representing them. The nurses expected to file their lawsuit this week in Albany County, he said. “The commissioner is attempting to enforce a rule that is in excess of his authority.” Organizations are also considering lawsuits, and the groups are considering consolidating their efforts, he added. Last month, State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, a physician, released an open letter to health workers in the state, saying the mandate would apply to the annual seasonal flu vaccine and the new H1N1 vaccine when it is available. Because of limited supply of the new vaccine, vulnerable patient populations have been targeted to receive it first, according to Daines. By ensuring that workers are vaccinated, healthcare providers can help protect all patients who do not have access to the H1N1 vaccine, Daines said in his letter. “Safety lies in being treated in institutions and by healthcare personnel with the nearly 100% effective immunity rates seen with other long-mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers, such as measles and rubella,” he wrote.