KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: N.M. Fraud Investigation Disrupts Mental Health Care

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, New Mexico, California, New York and Kansas.

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: In State Records, Little Evidence To Back Stricter Abortion Law
In their successful push this summer for strict new regulations on abortion facilities and the doctors performing them, proponents said the legislation was needed because conditions at existing facilities made it unsafe for women seeking to terminate pregnancies. But a Texas Tribune review of state inspection records for 36 abortion clinics from the year preceding the lawmakers' vote turned up little evidence to suggest that the facilities were putting patients in imminent danger. State auditors identified 19 regulatory violations that they said presented a risk to patient safety at six licensed abortion clinics that are not ambulatory surgical centers in Texas. None of the violations was severe enough to warrant financial penalties, according to the Department of State Health Services, which deemed the facilities’ corrective action plans sufficient to protect patients (Aaronson, 9/14).

The New York Times: Fraud Investigation Unsettles Mental Health Care In New Mexico
For weeks now, New Mexico has been in the midst of a sweeping criminal investigation into 15 of its largest mental health providers, suspected of defrauding Medicaid of $36 million over three years. Arizona companies have been hired to fill in, but many patients are struggling without regular treatment. The state behavioral health system is in turmoil, with the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez under sharp attack (Frosch, 9/13).

Los Angeles Times: Bills Would Give State New Powers To Fight Prescription Drug Abuse
Last week, state lawmakers passed an ambitious slate of reforms aimed at giving authorities better tools and broader powers to crack down on doctors who recklessly prescribe narcotic painkillers and other commonly abused drugs. The three bills, which garnered strong bipartisan support, await a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown that would make them law (Glover and Girion, 9/15).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Building Low-Cost Housing Under Medicaid
New York plans to create low-income housing for 5,000 Medicaid recipients with significant health care needs. The housing units are planned for Manhattan and the Bronx; Monroe, Broome and Erie counties; and in the Finger Lakes Region as well as in Long Island's Suffolk County (9/15).

Kaiser Health News: States Balk At Terminating Medicaid Contracts Even When There's Fraud Or Poor Patient Care
In Florida, a national managed care company's former top executives were convicted in a scheme to rip off Medicaid. In Illinois, a state official concluded two Medicaid plans were providing 'abysmal' care. In Ohio, a nonprofit paid millions to settle civil fraud allegations that it failed to screen special needs children and faked data. Despite these problems, state health agencies in these -- and other states -- continued to contract with the plans to provide services to patients on Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled. Health care experts say that's because states are reluctant to drop Medicaid plans out of fear of leaving patients in a bind (Bergal, 9/15).

Kansas Health Institute: Colyer Says KanCare Going Better Than Expected
Kansas' Medicaid managed care initiative is going well and is on track to achieve its promised $1 billion in savings, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said in an interview broadcast Thursday on Kansas City public television station KCPT. Portions of the interview with Colyer were featured in a segment produced by KCPT health correspondent Sam Zeff for the station’s Local Show (9/13).

California Healthline: Physical Therapist Bill Headed To Governor
The Senate and Assembly this week passed a bill that could change some of the rules regarding physicians, physical therapists and patients. AB 1000 by Assembly member Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), designed to increase patients' direct access to physical therapists, is headed to the governor's desk. "Patients will no longer need a diagnosis from a physician before beginning treatment from a physical therapist," Wieckowski said in a statement. "This is a great victory for health care consumers in California." The bill was co-sponsored by the California Physical Therapy Association, and yet the main opposition to the bill also came from physical therapists (Gorn, 9/13).

Healthy Cal: Bill Would Bring State Billions in Extra Federal Funds
The Legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Brown that would save hospitals from a major cut in reimbursements for treating disabled people under the Medi-Cal program. In exchange the hospitals have agreed implement a fee program that will bring the state $2.4 billion a year in federal healthcare funding. SB 239, by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-W Covina, creates a hospital quality assurance fee program imposed by hospitals upon themselves. That fee will go to the state, which will use the money to receive matching Medicaid funding from the federal government, according to Jan Emerson-Shea, Vice President of External Affairs for the California Hospital Association (Matthews, 9/15). 

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