State Highlights: N.C. Lawmakers Still Talking About Medicaid Revamp
A selection of health policy stories from North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, New York, Maryland and Colorado.
The Associated Press: NC Lawmakers Talking More About Medicaid Overhaul
Legislators who couldn't agree this year on how to overhaul North Carolina's Medicaid program plan to spend more time talking about the issue before the General Assembly reconvenes early next year. A legislative oversight panel subcommittee charged with examining Medicaid reform and reorganization scheduled its first meeting Wednesday. Another oversight panel also examining Medicaid governance held its first meeting this month. The House and Senate approved differing versions of legislation to change how Medicaid pays for medical expenses by shifting risk from the state to either medical provider networks or private managed-care companies (9/24).
The Associated Press: La. Lawmakers Hold Hearing In Health Insurance Dispute
Controversy over health insurance changes planned for state workers, teachers and retirees is the focal point of a hearing expected to draw a crowd to the Louisiana Capitol. Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration says changes are needed to address the rising costs of health care caused by medical inflation and federal law changes. But many workers and retirees are accusing the administration of mismanagement, improperly dropping premiums in past years to help balance the state budget. The insurance program is spending more money than it receives each month and is draining a reserve fund to cover costs (9/25).
Health News Florida: HCA Closing Hospital Due To Less Inpatient Occupation
For the first time since 2012, a hospital in Florida is closing its doors. HCA West Florida announced Tuesday the 38-year-old Edward White Hospital in St. Petersburg will close by the end of November and consolidate services to three nearby hospitals it also owns. Officials said operating costs at the aging facility continued to grow. And it pointed to a glut of hospital beds in the area: more than 1,000 in southern Pinellas County alone. “In this era where healthcare is migrating to the outpatient setting, we are seeing a significant rise in unoccupied licensed hospital beds throughout the region,” HCA West Florida President Peter Marmerstein said in a statement. This announcement marks the first time since 2010 any of the state’s 301 licensed hospitals closed, and just the fifth time in four years that it’s happened at all, Agency for Health Care Administration records show (Shedden, 9/24).
Stateline: Nursing Home Cameras Create Controversy
Over the years, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has consistently heard “horror stories” about the abuse or neglect of nursing home residents. Now she is trying to bring such cruelty out of the shadows and into clear view. Madigan’s office is drafting legislation, likely to be introduced in 2015, which would allow Illinois nursing home residents and their families to place cameras in their rooms to help protect them. If the measure is approved, Illinois would join at least four other states—New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington—that have laws or regulations allowing residents to maintain cameras in their rooms. In Maryland, cameras can be placed in a resident’s room, but only if the facility permits them, according to state guidelines (Bergal, 9/25).
Texas Tribune: Disability Groups Hope Turnover Leads To Reform
As an entirely new roster of politicians takes statewide office next year, disability rights advocates are asking those future Texas leaders to work with lawmakers to address a struggling system of care for the state's most vulnerable population. But while their traditional allies in elective office — Democrats — appear up and down the ballot, those candidates are running well behind their Republican counterparts. And at a statewide candidates forum in Austin on Wednesday hosted by the disability rights groups Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, ADAPT of Texas and The Arc of Texas, not a single Republican candidate made an in-person appearance. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican front-runner for governor who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed three decades ago by a falling tree, submitted a questionnaire in his stead, citing a prior engagement (Walters, 9/25).
Georgia Health News: Report: Disabilities System Reform Needs More Work
State health officials have major work ahead to meet a July 2015 deadline with the federal government on improving care for Georgians with mental illness and developmental disabilities. That’s a key message of a report this month from an independent reviewer regarding the state’s five-year settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, reached in 2010 (Miller, 9/24).
The Associated Press: NY Mandates Insurance Coverage For Ostomy Supplies
New York will require health insurers to provide coverage for equipment and supplies for treating ostomies, intended to help ease the financial burden for people with the chronic condition. The amendments, signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, take effect Jan. 1. An ostomy is a surgically created opening in the body for the discharge of waste (9/24).
Kaiser Health News: Personal Attention Seen As Antidote To Rising Health Costs
Kevin Wiehrs is a nurse at a busy doctor’s office in Savannah, Ga. But instead of giving patients shots or taking blood pressure readings, his job is mostly talking with patients like Susan Johnson. Johnson, 63, a retired restaurant cook who receives Medicare and Medicaid, has diabetes, and she already met with her doctor. Afterwards, Wiehrs spends another half hour with her, talking through her medication, exercise and diet (McCammon, 9/25).
Baltimore Sun: Telemedicine Program Aims To Decrease Student Absences, Improve Performance
In the coming weeks, students at five Howard County elementary schools won't even need to leave the school building to consult with a doctor if they have a sore throat, a skin rash or an eye or ear infection. Instead, they'll have the opportunity to talk with a University of Maryland Children's Hospital Pediatrician remotely through Howard County's new telemedicine technology unveiled Monday. County officials expect the program to decrease absentee rates, improve students' educational performances and improve access to health care for students (Ames, 9/23).
Denver Post: Clinic Gets Health Services To Poor Kids
Concerned about the many students with no access to health care, two Jeffco Public School nurses set out to make sure children from low-income families could get high-quality care. Twenty-one years later, Karen Pramenko and Karen Conner appear to have accomplished their goal after the 1993 creation of Carin' Clinic, an Arvada-based nonprofit providing medical care to underserved youth that's getting bigger every year(Briggs, 9/25).
The Associated Press: Concerns Over Cost, Ethics Halt Texas Database Project
Plans for a massive health database have been postponed again after Texas health officials cited cost concerns, as well as the possibility that the company that won the tentative contract was receiving inside information from a state negotiator. The Health and Human Services Commission has further delayed the decades-old plan by ending negotiations this month with Truven Health Analytics of Ann Arbor, Mich., the Houston Chronicle reported. The "enterprise data warehouse" project is expected to be rebid, a process that could take months and cost the state tens of thousands of dollars in staff time (9/24).