State Roundup: Appeals Court Says Ariz. Medicaid Co-Pays Violate Law
News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.
The Arizona Republic: Ruling: AHCCCS Copays Break Law
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that mandatory copayments charged to Arizona's poorest residents violate federal law. The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said federal health officials failed to show how the copays, imposed in November after a seven-year court battle, served any purpose besides cutting the state's Medicaid budget. … Raising copayments for more than 200,000 of Arizona's poorest residents and making them mandatory, the judges said, helped balance the state budget but didn't meet that federal standard. … The copays, which range from $4 to $30, were first approved by lawmakers in 2003 and were in place for about four months before a class-action suit was filed and a federal judge put them on hold (Reinhart, 8/25).
The Detroit Free Press: Could Court Ruling Be The End Of Medicinal Pot Shops In Michigan?
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan may have to close their doors after a potentially far-reaching court decision Wednesday declared Compassionate Apothecary in Mt. Pleasant a public nuisance. The unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals was declared a statewide precedent by Attorney General Bill Schuette, an opponent of the 2008 voter-passed law legalizing marijuana for medical use. .. At issue was whether certified users could store pot and sell excess to other patients (Wisely, Satyanarayana and Laitner, 8/25).
The Associated Press/ Washington Post: Justice Lays Out Vision For $250M Greenbrier Medical Institute, Health Care 'Think Tank'
The owner of The Greenbrier resort is teaming up with several prominent physicians and a health care developer to build a $250 million medical facility featuring a sports medicine and rehabilitation center, a cosmetic surgery center with a "lifestyle enhancement academy" and a boutique hotel with 20 VIP suites. Jim Justice announced the five-phase construction project for The Greenbrier Medical Institute on Wednesday in White Sulphur Springs alongside several physicians responsible for the concept, including Alabama orthopedic surgeon James R. Andrews (8/24).
Health Policy Solutions (Colorado news service): Vaccine Anxiety: Some Docs Booting Parents Who Refuse Shots
Dr. Gini Taylor, a pediatrician with Children's Medical Center in Denver, said encouraging immunizations is the most important job she does every day. "I let the parents know that there's overwhelming evidence in support of vaccines. I listen and I ask them, 'Why are you scared?' There's so much misinformation on the Internet. It’s scary for them," Taylor said. Often after two or three visits, she finds reluctant parents have changed their minds (McCrimmon, 8/24).
Health News Florida: DOH Layoffs Hit Some Harder
Department of Health lists of employee layoffs by county show a big difference in the effects on local health units following funding cuts ordered by the Legislature. Some counties are laying off a dozen or more employees, while others are not eliminating personnel at all, instead ending certain services, such as flu clinics (8/24).
California Watch: Dozens Of Groups Lobbying Insurance Bill
A bill that would give government agencies a strong hand in determining health insurance rates was lobbied by at least six dozen groups between April and July. This makes it possibly the most controversial of the bills before legislative appropriations committees as they move to clear their suspense files this week (Davis, 8/25).
New Hampshire Public Radio: Planned Parenthood Supporters Protest Council Meeting
Since losing funding, Planned Parenthood has continued to provide medical service on a sliding scale to low-income women at its six New Hampshire clinics, meaning many patients pay nothing. But starting next week, agency officials say they will have no choice but to begin charging copays (Grant, 8/24).
The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: Attorney General Recovers $24M In Medicaid Case
The Texas attorney general's (office) says it has recovered $24 million from a pharmaceutical company that misreported the price of prescription drugs for Medicaid patients. In a statement released Wednesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott said an agreement had been reached with Par Pharmaceutical Inc. of New Jersey. In 2008, Abbott's office filed fraud charges against the company for reporting inflated drug prices (8/24).
San Francisco Chronicle: Health Care Measure Seeks Public Option, Rollbacks
As Republicans try to make President Obama's landmark health care law a key issue in the 2012 election, a leading California consumer rights group wants to shift the debate by offering a groundbreaking state ballot measure calling for a public option, a 20 percent rate rollback and tough oversight of premiums. The initiative, aimed at California's November 2012 ballot, is being organized by Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica group responsible for Proposition 103, the landmark 1988 ballot measure that established regulatory and cost oversight of state auto insurance rates (Marinucci and Colliver, 8/25).
Denver Post: Hospitals Get Grant To Cut Readmissions
A top Colorado insurance company is granting $1.1 million to 16 hospitals around the state to cut expensive and unhealthy readmissions. The private grants by UnitedHealthcare of Colorado will attack an area highlighted by recent Medicare studies and the Affordable Care Act. Avoidable readmissions of patients who left a hospital less than 30 days before, cost the system billions of dollars and often signal a needless decline in patient health. Hospitals will use the UnitedHealthcare money to hire nurses trained in better discharge practices, buy software to manage discharge and followup steps, and pay doctors for extra time spent, officials said (Booth, 8/24).
Forbes: The Epidemic Of Florida Medicare Fraud
On August 23, 2011, Defendant Jose Nunez, 63, a physician who owned two medical offices, pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. According to his plea, Nunez admitted to having provided home health care and therapy prescription referrals to ABC and Florida Home Health from about January 2006 until March 2009, and that he knew co-conspirators at ABC and Florida Home Health had operated those agencies in order to fraudulently bill Medicare for expensive physical therapy and home health care services (which he and other doctors had prescribed) that were medically unnecessary and/or were never provided. Federal prosecutors alleged that Nunez furthered the scheme by falsifying patient files with descriptions of non-existent medical conditions, including hand tremors, unsteady gait and poor vision (Singer, 8/24)