State Roundup: How Health Law Could Harm Mass. Exchange
A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, California, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin.
Politico: How ACA Could Hit Massachusetts
Here's a health policy paradox that'll make you think: Is it possible that President Barack Obama's health law means bad news for the centerpiece of the Massachusetts health reform? No state is a bigger cheerleader than Massachusetts for the Affordable Care Act; the state's 2006 coverage expansion was a model for the federal law enacted two years ago. But if most of the ACA is implemented in 2014, there's real concern in the Bay State about the viability of the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state's health insurance exchange (Millman, 6/1).
California Watch: Health Care District Reforms Are On Hold
An effort to impose spending restrictions on California's taxpayer-funded health care districts is on hold until next year. Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, said he plans to introduce a bill in January requiring more "transparency" and more "accountability" from those districts. The new legislation would mandate how much tax revenue districts must spend on community health care programs. The state's 74 health care districts were created to provide medical care to low-income and rural communities, but a recent Bay Citizen investigation found about 30 of those districts no longer run hospitals. Instead, some districts are managing real estate, stockpiling cash and pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into dubious projects at the expense of community health care programs (Gollan, 6/1).
Healthy Cal: State To Award Computer Contract For Health Insurance Marketplace
California's new Health Benefit Exchange -- the online consumer portal that will be at the center of federal health reform -- took a major step Thursday toward implementing the controversial law that could extend insurance coverage to millions of Californians. The Exchange announced its intent to award a $360 million contract to Accenture LLC to design and maintain a web site that will allow consumers to shop for insurance, choose their plan and enroll (Weintraub, 5/31).
North Carolina Health News: Questions Linger On Resolving Housing Problem For Mentally Ill
The budget proposed by the House Republican majority contains $50 million designated for a new "transitions to community living" program for people with mental health disabilities. Twenty percent of the funds go to creating community resources for people who need housing this year, while the other 80 percent of the money goes to owners of adult care homes, and to providing personal care services for residents. "This is a backwards approach," said Fred Waddle, chief policy officer for the state chapter of Easter Seals/ UCP. "There's $10 million to transition people to community settings, but then they’re spending $40 million to refurbish or change adult care homes" (Hoban, 5/31).
Bloomberg: Illinois Hospitals Escape Taxes With Big Dose Of Lobbying
The Illinois Hospital Association took no chances as state lawmakers debated in recent weeks whether nonprofit hospitals should pay property taxes. It unleashed a self-described media blitz. "My baby is sick -- anyone help, please!" screamed an actress portraying a mother in radio ads aired in Chicago and 41 other markets starting in early May. A baby wailed, an ambulance siren blared and a voiceover asked what the terrified parent would do if no hospital were around. The blitz worked. The Illinois General Assembly this week handed hospitals a long-sought victory: a sweeping legislative antidote to a recent state Supreme Court decision that threatened to slap many hospitals with potentially millions of dollars in tax liabilities just as they say they’re struggling to survive (Kazel, 6/1).
Modern Healthcare: Calif. Senate OKs Bill Pushing Health Worker Vaccinations
The California Senate passed a bill requiring all health care workers to be either vaccinated against influenza or wear a mask in patient-care areas during flu season. The bill, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, is supported by a number of state health care organizations, including the California Hospital Association and the California Medical Association. The bill is opposed by a number of labor groups, including the California Nurses Association (Barr, 5/31).
KUT News/Texas Tribune: In Central Texas, Cases of Elderly Neglect on the Rise (audio)
Last year, almost 30,000 elderly Texans were victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. As Matt Largey of KUT News reports, the problem is especially pronounced in Central Texas, where the elderly population is growing rapidly (Largey, 6/1).
Chicago Sun-Times: Pension-Reform Package Collapses In Illinois House
A hulking pension reform package pushed by Gov. Pat Quinn and House Minority Leader Tom Cross collapsed late Thursday, leaving the last big issue of a productive spring legislative session a casualty of partisan bickering and a heavy union pushback. ... Aimed at fixing the nation’s most underfunded pension system, the package sought to erase more than $80 billion in unfunded liabilities by having current and retired state workers, Downstate and suburban teachers, university and community college employees and state legislators accept less generous annual pension increases. If workers and retirees agreed to relinquish an automatic 3-percent cost-of-living increase each year, they could keep state-subsidized health insurance as retirees, and current workers could continue to have future pay increases factored into their pensions (McKinney and Maloney, 5/31).
San Jose Mercury News: Public Hospitals Target Of New State Cash Grab
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, the county's hospital, stands to lose millions of dollars, if proposals under Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget become reality, county officials said. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said the proposals are "horrendous" because they could end up causing some to be denied care at a time when they need it most, after losing health insurance because they had become unemployed in the sagging economy (Steinberg, 5/31).
Detroit Free Press: Gov. Snyder Calls For Better Management, Long-Term Planning In Michigan
Gov. Rick Snyder called for better management of state government and long-term planning in a keynote address today to the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference. … Once the state's liabilities for long-term costs such as retirement health care are fully funded, the additional cash flow generated can be used to cut taxes or invest in programs, Snyder said (Egan, 5/31).
Bloomberg: Republicans Hit Dental Bill That Private Equity Hates
The likes of Jeb Bush, William Frist, Tommy Thompson and Haley Barbour aren't typically heard from in the office of Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Yet the four Republican Party stalwarts, none of them a Carolina resident, have contacted Tillis's office over a little- known bill to toughen state regulation of dental companies. They've been joined by Grover Norquist, the Tea Party favorite and anti-tax crusader who heads the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform. ... Their interest marks the Tar Heel State as the front line in a national struggle over dental management companies (Freedberg and Kelly, 5/31).
CHCF Center For Health Reporting/San Jose Mercury News: Legislators Say Changes In Dental Care For LA County’s Poor Children Must Be Made
Southern California legislators are demanding changes to Los Angeles County's managed care dental program for poor children after reports revealed that fewer than one in four saw a dentist last year. ... Of the roughly 900,000 children with Medi-Cal in Los Angeles County, about 154,000 receive their dental care from a managed care plan. State data show that they are among the least successful in California at obtaining dental care. In fiscal year 2010-2011, 23 percent of them saw a dentist, compared with about 31 percent in Sacramento -- the only other county with Medi-Cal dental managed care -- and about half of all Medi-Cal kids statewide (Bazar, 6/1).
Kansas Health Institute News: Program Trains Underemployed Hispanics As Bilingual Health Care Staff
The program was launched with a $10,000 grant from the National Council of La Raza and assistance from local partners. The goal is to produce much-needed bilingual health care staff by training underemployed or unemployed Hispanics for those positions. ... The program’s early coursework focused on training students to become certified nursing assistants. Preparados operates at an accelerated pace to get the pupils into the workforce rapidly -- and to establish a quick foundation for further studies (Sherry, 5/31).
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Clarke Seeks Permission To Use Firm For Jail Medical Care
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. wants to fire a court-appointed overseer of jail conditions and hire an outside company to take over inmate medical care. Clarke filed a motion in Circuit Court on Thursday seeking to end a key provision of a 2001 settlement agreement over allegations of inadequate inmate care. Those problems have been remedied, according to Clarke, who added that jail monitor Ronald Shansky's oversight is no longer needed (Schultze and Kissinger, 5/31).
San Francisco Chronicle: Mayor Ed Lee Presents S.F.’s 1st 2-Year Budget
San Francisco's new annual city budget will top $7 billion for the first time, a massive figure but one with merit, Mayor Ed Lee said Thursday. The first citywide, two-year spending plan restores funding for local HIV and AIDS services targeted for federal cuts, includes additional money for public schools, and ups funding for employment and small-business programs. ... This year's total reflects significant responsibilities being shifted to the city by the state and federal governments, city officials said, including the diversion of low-level criminals to county jails, increasing roles for local public health systems under federal health care reforms and absorbing the responsibilities of the local redevelopment agency after Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved the organizations statewide (Gordon, Coté e, 5/31).