State Update

June 2013 State Policy Updates

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California

On May 24, the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee voted (see PDF, page 4) 14-0 to restore dental benefits for 3 million adult Medi-Cal recipients ($131 million in general revenue). However, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) did not restore Medi-Cal adult dental benefits in his initial 2013-2014 proposed budget. As you may recall, these benefits were eliminated as an optional Medi-Cal benefit in 2009, due to the state’s fiscal crisis. On June 11 a budget agreement was reached between the governor and the leadership in the Legislature to provide adult dental benefits under Medi-Cal. However, the exact funding amount and the list of adult dental benefits that will be covered under the budget deal have not yet been released to the public. The budget must be voted on by both chambers by June 15.  

Maine

LD 1230, sponsored by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-MA) and co-sponsored by more than 40 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, establishes the role of dental hygiene therapist. The bill also establishes the education, licensing, and scope of practice requirements. Under the bill, a dental hygiene therapist may provide services under the general supervision of a dentist. In addition, the bill requires a written practice agreement between the supervising dentist and the dental hygiene therapist. There were two amendments submitted for consideration by the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, and seven members of the committee supported one amendment, while the other six supported the other amendment, according to the committee clerk. Neither amendment has been made public. The bill, along with the two amendments, will be submitted to the full House for consideration.

Michigan

On March 1, 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) announced that the City of Detroit was in a financial emergency and determined that the appointment of an emergency financial manager (EFM) was needed to assist the city in its financial recovery. The governor reached his decision after reviewing a report and supplemental documentation that was issued on February 19 by the Detroit Financial Review Team. The report cited general fund deficits, a significant depletion of cash, and long-term liabilities, such as health care expenditures, as major issues affecting the financial stability of the city. The City of Detroit requested a hearing to appeal the governor’s decision; however, following the appeal hearing on March 14, Gov. Snyder confirmed that an EFM was needed for Detroit. The Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB) named Attorney Kevyn Orr as the EFM for the city.  

On May 12, Mr. Orr released a report describing the extent of the financial emergency faced by the City of Detroit. According to the report, the City had negative cash flows of $115.5 million in FY 2012 (which ended June 30, 2012) and borrowed a total of $80 million from Bank of America in March 2012 (of which $50 million was drawn by the General Fund) to avoid running out of cash. As of April 26, 2013, the City of Detroit had actual cash on hand of $64 million but had current obligations of $226 million to other funds and entities in the form of loans, property tax distributions, deferred pension contributions, and other payments. As a result, the city’s net cash position was actually negative $162 million as of April 26.

The City of Detroit provides health benefit plans to over 28,500 active and retired employees, as well as their dependents. As part of his comprehensive restructuring plan, the EFM will evaluate options to reduce or eliminate certain health care costs for both active and retired employees.

New Jersey

A3223, sponsored by Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-NJ), was reported favorably out of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee on May 6 by a vote of 5-2. The bill, titled the “Neighborhood Scholar Revitalization Pilot Program,” would establish a pilot program to encourage recent college graduates to relocate into declining neighborhoods of older cities for at least two years. The pilot program would allow 200 qualified individuals to participate in each pilot municipality. In order to qualify, an individual would have to graduate from a two- or four-year institution of higher education, have outstanding student loan indebtedness of at least $7,000, and agree to live in a targeted residential neighborhood for at least 24 months. At the end of the required residency period, the program entitles each qualified participant to receive a $7,000 student loan reimbursement payment. A similar bill, S2848, has also been introduced for consideration. 

Wisconsin

A.B. 110, sponsored by Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-WI), along with 17 co-sponsors in the Assembly and four co-sponsors in the Senate, has passed the Assembly by a vote of 68-26 and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services for consideration. The bill requires the Department of Health Services (DHS) to conduct a pilot program that limits the use of federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to only foods, food products, and beverages (foods and beverages) that have sufficient nutritional value. DHS must identify specific or categories of foods and beverages that do not have sufficient nutritional value and prohibit the use of SNAP benefits for those foods and beverages. If DHS determines that a federal waiver is needed to implement the pilot program, it must request the waiver and may not implement the pilot program unless the waiver is granted.

The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption, and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households. Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible under the program. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report detailing the implications of restricting the use of SNAP benefits to healthy foods and beverages. Specifically, the report outlines the USDA’s concerns regarding the feasibility and rationale for the proposed restrictions.