State Roundup: Conn. Retiree Health Care Fund Investments Lag
A selection of health policy stories from California, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, Iowa and Maryland.
California Healthline: CO-OP Program Moves Forward In Senate
California took a small step toward instituting a new type of health insurance plan in the state -- a not-for-profit, member-governed plan dubbed the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan, or CO-OP. The new bill was introduced to the Senate in last week's Senate Committee on Health hearing. AB 1846 by Assembly member Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) would pave the way for California to apply for some of the $3.8 billion the federal government is planning to loan to states to start CO-OPs. So far, 12 states have started the process (Gorn, 6/25).
CT Mirror: State Retiree Health Care Funds Remain In Cash Pool Used To Cover Operating Bills
A new report showing that funds for state workers' retirement benefits are still being kept in the cash pool used to pay operating bills intensified the partisan debate Friday over Connecticut's fiscal health. The legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis noted that nearly $50 million set aside for retiree health care -- half of which was contributed by employees -- currently earns 1/10th of 1 percent in annual interest in the common pool. But the most recent actuarial analysis for the retiree health care trust fund calls for average investment returns of 5.7 percent over the next few decades (Phaneuf, 6/22).
Baltimore Sun: Maryland Abortion Clinics To Be Regulated By The State Under New Guidelines
Operators of abortion clinics in Maryland will have to apply for licenses and meet strict guidelines under new regulations being adopted by state health officials next month. The regulations, announced by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Friday, are meant to increase oversight of surgical abortion clinics, which have faced increased scrutiny since a botched abortion at an Elkton clinic made headlines two years ago (Walker, 6/22).
Denver Post: Wildland Firefighters Don't Get Health Insurance Despite Risks
John Lauer and the other Tatanka Hotshots scrape the smoldering ground with Pulaskis until their hands blister, suck down wildfire smoke until they gag and suffer periodic rain showers of chemical flame retardant, all without complaint. They also do it without health insurance. The seasonal firefighters swarming over Colorado and the West to protect life and home this tinder-dry summer don't have federal health insurance and can't buy into it if they want to (Booth and Udell, 6/24).
WBUR: Poor, Sick And Cut Off From Dental Care
In 2010, just after getting his initial dental exams and cleanings, MassHealth, the state's program for low-income residents, cut its budget dramatically. Critical dental benefits were eliminated from the plan: fillings, crowns, root canals, and dentures were no longer covered. Extractions, for better or worse, were spared. The problem isn't isolated to Massachusetts. In states across the country, adult dental services provide an easy target for cash-strapped lawmakers looking for cuts, according to a 2011 report by the Institutes of Medicine, "Access to Oral Healthcare for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations" (Finch, 6/22).
Des Moines Register: Feds Sanction 2 Iowa Nursing Home Groups
Two Iowa nursing home corporations have been sanctioned by the federal government and will pay a combined total of $875,000 in penalties. One of the violators was HCM Management Inc., which runs 11 Iowa nursing homes, and it has agreed to pay $200,812 for allegedly employing workers who had been barred from working in federally funded health care facilities. Separately, the inspector general’s office entered into a settlement agreement with Bethany Lutheran Home, a 121-bed Council Bluffs nursing home that apparently overbilled the government for Medicaid and Medicare claims (Kauffman, 6/23).
Boston Globe: Cranberry Industry Lobbying To Avoid School Ban
Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is accustomed to tackling big issues, like war and the balance of world power. But recently he has been extolling the health virtues of the diminutive cranberry, particularly for urinary health. Senator Scott Brown has also taken up the cranberry cause, holding up photos of himself deep in the bogs of Massachusetts, sharing proudly that he sprinkles the dried fruit on his morning cereal. It's more than just bipartisan berry boosterism. Cranberry industry officials are leveraging high-profile support to help keep cranberry juice cocktails off the list of sugary drinks that could soon be banned from schools as part of a campaign to reduce childhood obesity (Calvan, 6/25).