State Roundup: CalPERS Rate Hike OK’d; Health Workers Back Philly Strike
A selection of health policy news from California, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kansas and Oregon.
Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Approves 9.6% Increase In Health Premiums In 2013
The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the third-largest purchaser of health benefits in the country, approved a 9.6 percent increase in health premiums next year for its nearly 1.3 million members (Terhune, 6/14).
Sacramento Bee: CalPERS Hike Sets Off Alarm
When the nation's second largest purchaser of health care gets socked with a big rate hike, lots of people pay the price. … Besides the 1.3 million public employees and retirees who use CalPERS coverage, the impact will be felt by government agencies, which pick up most of the tab. Those costs are ultimately shouldered by taxpayers. "The damage it causes to our budget is significant," said Robert Bendorf, the Yuba County administrator. The county had budgeted just a 5 percent increase. CalPERS' rate hike comes at a particularly chaotic time in health care. On Wednesday alone, 4,000 nurses staged a one-day strike at Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area, and a consumer group in Santa Monica announced a lawsuit against Blue Shield of California over its treatment of policyholders (Kasler, 6/14).
Boston Globe: Online Painkiller Database Appears Helpful
A two-year-old online database that allows Massachusetts physicians and others who prescribe painkillers to check whether their patients may be addicts who are "doctor shopping" for powerful drugs appears to be helping stem that abuse, state health officials said Wednesday. An analysis of a small sample of providers enrolled in the program showed a 30 percent drop in the number of their patients with questionable activity -- defined as patients who filled four or more narcotic prescriptions from at least four pharmacies within six months (Lazar, 6/13).
MPR News: Prescription Drug Program Aims To Prevent Doctor Shopping By Addicts
The high-profile overdose death of former Wild hockey player Derek Boogaard has turned a spotlight on prescription drug abuse and doctor shopping. Two years ago Minnesota set up a prescription drug monitoring program to help physicians and others who prescribe drugs to detect patients who might be addicted to pain medication. Supporters say the database probably couldn't have flagged Boogaard's extensive efforts to obtain prescription pain drugs since the hockey player transferred to a team in another state shortly after Minnesota's monitoring program began operating (Benson, 6/13).
The Associated Press/Denver Post: Colorado Health Programs To Help Gays
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is launching a program to help gay, bisexual and transgender Coloradans get better health care. The agency said Wednesday more than 45 organizations are supporting the plan (6/13).
Detroit Free Press: Detroit Medical Center To Test New Job Seekers For Tobacco
Job seekers who smoke aren't welcome at the Detroit Medical Center. The health system on Wednesday joined a growing number of companies, mostly hospitals, that require new applicants to be tested for tobacco. … In Michigan, the DMC joins the Lansing-based Sparrow Health System, the Oakwood Healthcare System in Dearborn and the Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester to adopt the no-smoking policy for applicants (Anstett and Erb, 6/14).
Philadelphia Inquirer: Health Workers Union Votes To Authorize Strike
Health care workers from AFSCME 1199 voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize union leaders to call a strike if a contract settlement can't be reached by July 1. … The union, which represents nurses aides, food service workers and custodians among others, is engaged in contract negotiations with hospitals including Jefferson, Hahnemann Hospital, Temple, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Henry Nicholas, president of the union's local chapter, said employers are looking to impose cuts to hourly wages between $5 and $7 per hour against certain employees. Other members said they were unhappy with proposed benefit packages and pension programs (Lucas, 6/13).
Kansas Health Institute News: Fewer Than Projected Patients Opting Out Of Health Information Exchange
In the first two weeks that it was possible to do so, only four patients have filed the paperwork necessary to exclude their health records from the Kansas Health Information Exchange. KHIE officials had projected as many as 55,000 opt-out requests during the first month of operations of the new statewide network for sharing electronic health records. KHIE chief executive Bill Wallace said he had been "really surprised" that more requests haven't been received (Cauthon, 6/14).
Kansas City Star: Health Care Reform Law Dictates Changes For Student Insurance Coverage
Thousands of college students face serious sticker shock this year if they want school-subsidized health insurance. The cost is expected to be sharply higher at some schools, while others have dropped coverage altogether. They’ve discovered that the health care reform law sets dramatically higher coverage limits for student insurers. For policies beginning July 1, for example, student health policies must cover expenses up to $100,000 annually. For policies starting in the fall, the limit jumps to $500,000, and in 2014 all limits are prohibited. Most student policies now cap lifetime benefits at only $50,000, a study from the Government Accountability Office recently found (Pfannenstiel, 6/13).
Boston Herald: $118M Dip Into Health Pool Ripped
Illegal aliens, out-of-staters and others who failed to produce proof of Massachusetts residency drained $118 million from the pool of cash the state uses to reimburse hospitals and clinics that care for the poor in the latest year on record, state officials say. The report, a letter from Health and Human Services Commissioner Aron Boros last week to an Andover lawmaker who has been dogging the state for health cost data, says people without documents racked up $118 million in medical bills from October 2010 through September 2011, paid for through the state’s Health Safety Net program -- funded by taxpayers, insurance ratepayers and hospitals and intended for the state’s indigent residents (Zaremba, 6/14).
The Lund Report: Immigrants Barred From Healthcare Coverage
Immigration status puts another layer of complexity on an already overly complex system for medical insurance coverage in Oregon and across the U.S. Oregon’s rate of uninsured children is lower than the nation's average after the Healthy Kids program expanded coverage to virtually all minors, but there are still residency requirements attached to the program, so undocumented kids are relegated to emergency medical coverage only (Rendleman, 6/13).