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HHS Secretary says states must ask for additional Medicaid funding help

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON Enactment last week of a supplemental federal spending bill gave cash-strapped states a chance to share in $26.1 billion emergency funding for enhanced Medicaid spending, not to mention $10 billion in stopgap funds for teachers in danger of being laid off. But the states still have to ask for it.

That was the message from Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to all 50 state governors. In an Aug. 16 letter, Sebelius told every state chief executive that the emergency spending measure “can stave off the deep cuts to Medicaid that many had feared, and sustain jobs in hospitals, health centers and communities across the country.” However, she added, “These funds are only available for your state if you request them within 45 days of enactment, or by Sept. 24, 2010.”

The spending bill, passed quickly by both houses of Congress and signed by the president Aug. 13, extends for six months the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. “The FMAP increase was initially authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act … and is set to expire this December,” the HHS secretary told the governors. “Under the new law, states that request these funds will receive a 3.2 percentage point increase in their FMAP from January to March 2011, and a half percentage point increase from April to June 2011. Additional FMAP increases are available for each calendar quarter during this period for states with high unemployment rates,” Sebelius added.

“I encourage you to take advantage of extended Medicaid support available to you through the Education Jobs and Medical Assistance Act,” she told the governors. “This new law, along with the Affordable Care Act, will help support jobs and build a healthcare system with lower costs, more choices and higher-quality health care for all Americans.”

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Season six of the ‘The Office’ heads to Blu-ray, DVD

BY Allison Cerra

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. The sixth season of documentary-style comedy “The Office” now is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

As part of this groundbreaking set, the Blu-ray release of season six of “The Office” will allow fans to access content like never before via BD-Live. Through their Internet-connected Blu-ray player using BD-Live, purchasers now will have an opportunity to watch the latest five episodes from the seventh season after they air on their home televisions. Season seven episodes will be available in HD, pending individual Internet connection speeds.

This season of “The Office” focuses on the evolving lives of Dunder Mifflin’s hilariously irreverent employees, including Jim and Pam’s wedding and the birth of their daughter, Michael’s affair with a married woman and the acquisition of Dunder Mifflin by Sabre, a printer manufacturer.

The Blu-ray and DVD both are available on Sept. 7 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

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Dollar General looks to sell beer, wine in select markets

BY Michael Johnsen

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. Dollar General on Wednesday confirmed the company is test-marketing the sale of beer — and wine, where allowed — in select stores throughout the Southeast.

According to published reports, those initial test markets include Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Over time, Dollar General expects to offer beer and/or wine in about half of its 9,000 stores nationwide, the company stated.

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