State Roundup: Iowans And Wellmark Premium Hikes; Fla. Medicare Audit
News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.
Des Moines Register: Wellmark Customers Grill Executive Over Premium Increase
The Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield vice president faced dozens of angry customers and tried to explain why the health insurer wants to increase their premiums by 9.4 percent. ... Barbed questions flew throughout the hearing before the state insurance commissioner, who will decide whether to grant Wellmark's proposed increase for 86,000 Iowans who buy their own insurance policies (Leys, 12/10).
Bloomberg: Texas Pension Predicts Health Shift Will Save $20M A Year
The Texas Employees Retirement System, the state's second-largest public pension, figures it will save about $20 million next year by shifting most of its retirees to a Medicare Advantage health-insurance plan. ... [Catherine Terrell, a pension spokeswoman] said about 70 percent of the plan's more than 71,000 retirees and dependents have accepted coverage managed by Humana Inc. (HUM) starting next month (Mildenberg, 12/12).
Health News Florida: Audits Chill FL Doctors
The Medicare contractor for Florida has announced that as of Jan. 1, it will hold up all hospital payments for joint replacements, pacemakers and other common procedures until audits show they were necessary. The 15 types of procedures affected are "high dollar claims at great risk for payment error" ... The Florida chapter of the American College of Cardiology has posted a letter calling the maneuver "unfair and unprecedented" (Gentry, 12/9).
The Associated Press/Des Moines Register: DHS: State's Mental Health System Should Be Overhauled
Iowa Department of Human Services director Chuck Palmer recommended Friday that the state spend $47 million to help pay for a redesigned system of mental health care. ... The redesigned system would take five years to put into place, he said (12/10).
The Texas Tribune: Democrats Fight Insurance Agency Plan To Delay Reform
Texas Democrats and some public policy groups are pushing back against the Texas Department of Insurance for requesting a delay in the implementation of insurance changes required by federal health care reform. They say such a delay will cost Texans $260 million in rebates that insurance providers would be forced to pay out over the next three years (Aaronson, 12/9).
Minnesota Public Radio: Allina Receives Nearly $10 Million For End-Of-Life Care Project
Twin Cities-based Allina Hospitals and Clinics has received nearly $10 million for a project aimed at improving so-called late life care. The Robina Foundation will fund a multi-year program designed to better coordinate support for patients in the later stages of illnesses such as cancer, heart failure, and Alzheimer's. ... The study will also look at controlling costs while improving end-of-life care for patients and their families (Stawicki, 12/12).
The Detroit Free Press: Nursing Homes With Good Staff, Stopgaps Still Can Fail
In nursing homes, where life is already so fragile, a single lapse can be life-threatening. Yet neglect is all too common, according to a Free Press analysis of state inspection reports. Three out of four homes were cited in the last three years for serious violations that harmed residents or put them in immediate jeopardy (Erb and Tanner, 12/11).
Los Angeles Times: Students Learn To Help Elderly Cope With Chronic Conditions
A pilot program at a Valencia college, said to be the first of its kind in the nation, teaches what it's like to grow old and offers practical skills for helping seniors remain healthy as they age. ... The aim is to "bring some standards to the profession for persons who work with the aging," said Bette Dow, senior program officer at the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (Simmons, 12/11).
California Healthline: Clashing Views of Transition for Seniors, Disabled
At a joint oversight hearing last week, convened by the Senate and the Assembly committees on health, government officials outlined a generally positive picture for the effort to move Medi-Cal seniors and people with disabilities (SPDs) from Medi-Cal fee-for-service to managed care. ... Advocates begged to differ (Gorn, 12/12).
MedCity News/MinnPost: Mayo Clinic's Lab For Senior Healthcare Innovations Finds Another Partner
The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation's new lab devoted to researching healthcare technology and services that will help seniors remain at home, healthy and independent now has its second founding consortium member. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society — the nation's largest not-for-profit provider of senior care and services — has signed on to support Mayo's Healthy Aging & Independent Living (HAIL) Lab (Pogorelc, 12/9).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Access To Taxpayer Funds Made Easier For Grady
Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars soon will be handed over to Grady Memorial Hospital with less control by elected officials over how it's being spent. ... For the past three years Grady has had to first make a case for Fulton County's money, which helps cover the care of indigent Fulton residents (Edwards and Williams, 12/12).
The New York Times: Thousands Sterilized, A State Weighs Restitution
Although North Carolina officially apologized in 2002 and legislators have pressed to compensate victims before, a task force appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue is again wrestling with the state's obligation to the estimated 7,600 victims of its eugenics program. The board operated from 1933 to 1977 as an experiment in genetic engineering once considered a legitimate way to keep welfare rolls small, stop poverty and improve the gene pool (Severson, 12/9).