Gov. Brewer signs health care, pension, welfare benefits bills - FOX 35 News Orlando

Gov. Brewer signs health care, pension, welfare benefits bills

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R)

Health cost transparency bill: Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill requiring hospitals and doctors to post the prices of their most common procedures and changing the way the state's Medicaid program determines what to pay hospitals.

The bill Brewer signed Wednesday will allow the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to pay hospitals by diagnosis rather than how long the patient stays in the hospital. The idea is to promote efficient patient care and cut expenses.

Brewer vetoed a bill requiring posted prices in April, saying it included tribal and federal hospitals that might not charge for services. Those provisions were stripped out of the language added to the hospital reimbursement bill.

Brewer said Wednesday the requirement will provide important information to Arizonans. Such information matters most to uninsured patients paying cash.

Officials' pension bill: A bill replacing pensions for new judges and other elected officials with a 401(k)-style retirement plan has been signed into law.

The elimination of the Elected Officials Retirement Plan was a top priority of Republicans in the Legislature and passed both the Senate and House of Representatives on party-line votes.

HB 2608 only applies to new elected officials and was amended to allow new judges who are already in the state's regular retirement system to remain there.

The plan is the smallest and most troubled among the four state retirement plans and only has assets to cover about 58 percent of its liabilities. It also has more retirees and their survivors drawing benefits than active members paying into the system, 992 to 845.

Restricting welfare benefits bill: A bill that prohibits the use of welfare benefits at liquor, gambling and adult entertainment businesses has also been signed.

Brewer said in a signing statement Wednesday that the bill will help ensure welfare benefits are not misused.

The measure received near unanimous support from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Welfare recipients are issued their benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards. They can be used like debit cards to buy things or to withdraw cash from ATMs. House Bill 2205 says the cards can't be used at certain adult orientated businesses.   

Welfare recipients can still use the cards at grocery stores located within casinos.  

Arizona is among a growing number of states that are blocking welfare recipients from spending their benefits on booze, gambling and strippers.

Bill banning OHV enforcement on fed lands: Gov. Jan Brewer has signed off on a mini-sagebrush rebellion by signing a bill barring state and local law enforcement officers from enforcing off-highway vehicle laws on closed federal lands.  
HB2551 was enacted in response to the federal government's closure of forest roads and trails. It makes state OHV laws unenforceable in those areas. County sheriffs normally enforce state laws in those areas under agreements with the federal government.  
The Senate approved the bill on a 19-10 vote on May 21 and the House passed it on a 34-25 vote a week earlier.
Republican Sen. Chester Crandell of Heber says he wrote the bill to protest closing roads to hunters and other recreational users. The U.S. Forest Service says closures are needed because of increasing off-road vehicle travel.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press modified.

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