What We're Reading: Senate Passes Spending Bill; Maine Court and Medicaid; CalPERS Wields Data

The Senate approved an $854 billion spending measure, including a 5% boost for the National Institutes of Health; Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court said 2 lower-court rulings ordering the state to implement the voter-approved Medicaid expansion stand; the chief information officer of California’s public employee benefits and retirement system (CalPERS) is trying to use data to analyze trends and recommend policies to stem rising costs.

NIH Gets 5% Increase as Senate Passes Spending Bill in Hope of Avoiding Shutdown

The Senate approved an $854 billion spending measure, including a 5% boost for the National Institutes of Health, the Associated Press reported. The bill passed 85-7 and would hike spending for Alzheimer disease research to more than $2.3 billion and provide a $145 million increase for treatment of opioid addiction, bringing spending to $3.7 billion. Besides HHS funding, the bill combines military spending with disbursements for the departments of education, labor, and others. With the vote, the Senate has passed 9 of the 12 mandatory spending bills for the budget year that begins October 1, but the Senate still does not have assurances from President Donald Trump that he will sign the bill by September 30 to avoid a shutdown, Politico reported.

High Court in Maine Blocks Governor’s Attempt to End Medicaid Expansion

Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court said 2 lower-court rulings ordering the state to implement the voter-approved Medicaid expansion stand, blocking the latest attempt by Republican Governor Paul LePage to curtail the expansion, The Wall Street Journal reported. The legal battle appeared set to continue, as the court decision was procedural and did not address the merits of the administration’s arguments. The court said there are still issues for the lower court to resolve. An administration spokesman said the governor’s legal team is studying the decision and weighing options.

CalPERS Information Officer Uses Data for Cost-Cutting Initiatives

The chief information officer of California’s public employee benefits and retirement system (CalPERS), the second-largest purchaser of healthcare in the nation, is trying to use data to analyze trends and recommend policies to stem rising costs, California Healthline reported. The decisions Liana Bailey-Crimmins makes ripple far beyond the state. One of her initiatives ties some members’ deductibles to cost-saving behaviors like getting flu shots or seeking second opinions on elective surgeries. Some of these changes have contributed to reduced premium hikes, Bailey-Crimmins said. CalPERS will raise rates for its 1.4 million retirees and public employees by an average of just 1.16% next year, the smallest increase in more than 20 years.