State Highlights: Democrats Consider Letting States Curb Health Costs
A selection of health policy stories from Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Virginia, Colorado, Georgia, California, Florida, Iowa and Connecticut.
The Associated Press: Democrats Borrow A GOP Idea On Health Care Costs
Borrowing a Republican idea, a group including former senior Obama and Clinton advisers is unveiling a novel proposal to let states take the lead in controlling health costs. Individual states would set their own targets to curb the growth of health care spending. If they succeed, they’d pocket a share of federal Medicare and Medicaid savings, ranging from tens of millions to $1 billion or more, depending on the state (9/4).
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: The States Where Americans Are The Most And Least Obese
The south is weighing this country down. Nowhere in the U.S. are Americans more overweight than in Mississippi and West Virginia, where more than 35 percent of the adult population is now obese, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The two southern states, however, are hardly alone in their alarmingly high obesity rates -- another 18 U.S. states, including just about all of the U.S. south, have obesity rates at or above 30 percent (Ferdman, 9/4).
The Texas Tribune/The New York Times: Questions Come Up Again Over A Candidate’s Dual Roles
As a practicing pharmacist and former board director of the Texas Pharmacy Association, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, has raised some eyebrows over the years by sponsoring dozens of bills that affect her profession. Her explanation is not unusual in the Texas Capitol: Who better than a pharmacist to write legislation concerning pharmacists? (Root, 9/4).
The Associated Press: Mary Washington Healthcare Eliminates 66 Jobs
Mary Washington Healthcare [in Fredricksburg, Va.] has eliminated 66 jobs and reduced hours for another 46 workers. The not-for-profit company also plans to transfer another 157 workers to other jobs within the system (9/4).
The Associated Press: Pharmacist Arrested In Tainted Steroid Case
A pharmacist who oversaw the sterile clean rooms at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy responsible for a deadly meningitis outbreak was arrested Thursday as he was about to board a flight for Hong Kong, federal officials said. Glenn Adam Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, didn’t properly sterilize or test equipment and concealed the unsafe practices, federal investigators said (9/4).
Kaiser Health News: Replacing An Ambulance With A Station Wagon
When they get a call for medical help, most fire departments scramble both an ambulance, and a fully-staffed fire truck. But, according to Rick Lewis, chief of emergency medical services at South Metro Fire Rescue Authority in the Denver suburbs, says that’s way more than many people really need. … It's frustrating for both ambulance crews and patients. Somebody who’s been running a fever for a couple of days needs help, but not necessarily an ambulance ride to the ER (Whitney, 9/4).
Dallas Morning News: Dallas' Green Oaks Psych Hospital Jeopardized Patients, Must Submit Plan, Regulators Say
Green Oaks Hospital, a private psychiatric facility in Dallas, was found by federal regulators Wednesday to have placed its patients in “immediate jeopardy” of harm. It was the second time in less than a month that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has cited a local hospital for failing to assure patient safety. An issue that serious requires a hospital to submit an immediate correction plan or risk losing government funding (Jacobson, 9/4).
Dallas Morning News: Greens Oaks Official Says Hospital Working To Correct Deficiencies
A spokeswoman for Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas said Thursday the psychiatric facility’s leaders were working to correct problems cited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “They’re obviously committed to correcting whatever findings were made by CMS,” said Sherry Cusumano, Green Oaks’ executive director of community education. Cusumano was in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, when the hospital learned it had been found in “immediate jeopardy” of harming its patients. If not corrected, Green Oaks could lose its government funding on Sept. 26 (Jacobson, 9/4).
Georgia Health News: The Medicaid Pay Raise: Doctors Finally Got It, But Soon May Lose It
Dr. Samuel Church is among Georgia physicians who received their first pay raise in more than a decade this year for treating Medicaid patients. The extra money gave a financial boost to Church, a family medicine doctor with a solo practice in the mountain town of Hiawassee. With the increased reimbursement, he says, “I can cover the [office] overhead and a little more. . . . We’re already operating at narrow profit margins as it is.” That Medicaid pay increase, though, will disappear in January if the budget recommendation from the Georgia Department of Community Health to the governor and Legislature holds up during the state’s budget process (Miller, 9/4).
California Healthline: New Lawsuit Filed To Block Duals Plan
Advocates for seniors filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Los Angeles last week seeking an injunction to halt the Coordinated Care Initiative's duals demonstration project, known as Cal MediConnect. The project plans to move 456,000 seniors dually eligible for Medi-Cal and Medicare benefits into Medi-Cal managed care plans in eight California counties. That's roughly half of the state's population of 1.1 million dual-eligibles (Gorn, 9/4).
The Associated Press: Doctors Reporting Medicaid HMO Problems
Some doctors and health advocates have reported patients showing up at their officers confused by health insurance plans and many have been cut-off from their regular physician. The state sent out a press release this week saying that the Medicaid changes have gone well, but The Associated Press interviewed doctors, parents and health advocates around Florida who said privatization has exacerbated problems first noticed in a five-county pilot program eight years ago. Because the switch to privatization just concluded Aug. 1, the state has no data showing what services are being provided and denied (9/4).
Des Moines Register: Iowa Hospitals Drop Controversial Mobile Testing Firm
A group of Iowa hospitals is cutting ties with a mobile heart-testing company that has been accused of "fear-mongering" to induce healthy people to undergo scans of their hearts and arteries. The University of Iowa Health Alliance said today that it plans to stop using HealthFair to screen prospective patients. Several of the health alliance's hospitals, including University of Iowa Hospitals, Mercy hospitals in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and Genesis Health System in the Quad Cities, have had relationships with the company. Hospital leaders said they made the decision earlier this summer, and it will take effect Sept. 30 (Leys, 9/5).
Houston Chronicle: Xerox Agrees To Temporarily Turn Over Medical Records
Lawyers for the Xerox Corp. agreed Thursday to at least temporarily turn over a large swath of documents filled with private health information about millions of Texas Medicaid recipients. Most of the records will not be returned to the state, however. Instead they will be kept by Travis County Judge Stephen Yelenosky. In a morning hearing, Yelenosky compared the compromise to when two farmers disagree about who owns a cow and the “constable holds on to the cow while a court figures out who owns it.” The agreement does not resolve the question of whether Texas or Xerox is entitled to the documents, which the company used when it was contracted by the state for nearly a decade to approve Medicaid claims for dental procedures. The deal does however give the parties an early compromise in a larger legal fight that is expected to drag on for years (Rosenthal, 9/4).
The Associated Press: Group Home For Disabled To Shed Workers, Homes
An operator of group homes for developmentally disabled residents in Connecticut says it will lay off 342 workers and close homes in 18 towns by the end of the year. REM Connecticut Community says it's acting in response to reduced state funding, The Journal Inquirer reported. "We have undertaken many rounds of negotiations with the Department of Developmental Services to arrive at a solution as we view the closure of a program as a last resort," REM Executive Director Paul Cataldo said in a notice to the state Department of Labor. "Unfortunately, the landscape has not improved." The Department of Developmental Services said in an email to The Associated Press that a state audit found costs incurred by parent company National Mentor Holdings were not allowable based on state cost standards. It directed REM to reduce its budget (9/4).