State Highlights: Calif. Gov. Vetoes Bill Limiting Medi-Cal Estate Recovery, Signs Birth Control, Inmate Bills
A selection of health policy stories from California, Indiana, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
San Jose Mercury News: Gov. Brown Vetoes Bill Limiting Estate Recovery For Medi-Cal Enrollees
In a blow to tens of thousands of low-income Californians newly enrolled in Medi-Cal under a provision in the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have limited the state's seizure of assets from their estates after they die -- a legal wrinkle that most only discovered after they had signed up for the health care plan for the poor (Seipel, 9/25).
Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown Signs Bills On Birth Control, Inmate Rights
Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law bills requiring most health plans to cover a variety of contraceptive methods, banning forced or coerced sterilizations of inmates in California prisons and giving felons behind bars easier access to DNA tests that could prove their innocence. The birth control bill covers contraceptive drugs, devices and products for women, as well as related counseling, follow-up services and voluntary sterilization procedures (McGreevy and Mason, 9/25).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Consumer Group Sues 2 More Calif. Plans Over Narrow Networks
Both cases allege that the insurers offered inadequate networks of doctors and hospitals and that the companies advertised lists of participating providers that were incorrect. Consumers learned their doctors were not, in fact, participating in the plans too late to switch to other insurers, the suits allege, and patients had to spend hours on customer service lines trying to get answers. Both cases seek class action status (Appleby, 9/25).
San Jose Mercury News: Battle Over Proposition 45 A Blast From The Past
A quarter-century ago, a then-obscure consumer group in Santa Monica led a revolt at the ballot box that changed the world of insurance in California forever. Spurred by skyrocketing auto insurance bills, Consumer Watchdog sponsored Proposition 103, which created an elected insurance commissioner with the power to reject auto and homeowner rate hikes. And despite an $80 million campaign by insurers, California voters narrowly passed the 1988 ballot measure. Now, 26 years later, Consumer Watchdog is again taking on the powerful insurance industry -- this time with Proposition 45, which would give the commissioner the authority to regulate health insurance rates (Seipel, 9/25).
The Associated Press: Telemedicine Can Bridge Mental Health Gap In Indiana
Modern technology offers a way to deliver much-needed mental health care to rural sections of Indiana where little or none is available, experts told a legislative study committee Thursday. Providing psychiatric care through an encrypted computer video link is already helping some providers treat the mentally ill, doctors and officials told the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services. That care can include a social worker counseling a patient through a video link in the patient’s own home or multi-window, video conference group sessions led by a psychiatrist. Setting up necessary computer and video technology for a caregiver or patient can cost less than $1,000, the experts said. Ordinary video communication software doesn’t work because the data must be encrypted to protect patients’ privacy, they said (Wilson, 9/25).
Bloomberg: Screaming Inmates Make L.A. Rethink Jailing Mentally Ill
Inmates in suicide-proof gowns scream and bang on their cell doors one floor below Terri McDonald’s office in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. The bedlam is a reminder, if she needs one, that the mentally ill population in the largest U.S. jail system is out of control. ... Conditions for mentally ill inmates in the county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Keeping a mentally ill person behind bars can cost more than $50,000 annually, while treatment could run two-thirds less. Criminal justice systems from Seattle to Miami with aggressive jail-diversion efforts have cut inmate headcounts -- and lowered recidivism rates (Nash, 9/26).
North Carolina Health News: Lawmakers Contemplate Overhaul Of State Medicaid Department
Lawmakers began hearings on reorganization of the state’s Medicaid program Tuesday in a legislative committee meeting that echoed the bitter disagreements that marred the recent General Assembly session and delayed its closure. In a three-hour meeting of a subcommittee of the Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, lawmakers heard first from Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Aldona Wos, who objected to pulling the Division of Medical Assistance, which runs the state’s Medicaid program, out of the larger DHHS (Hoban, 9/25).
California Healthline: Data, Oversight Cited As Central Needs To Improve State’s Mental Health Services
This week, the Little Hoover Commission convened to take a close look at the mental health system in California -- in particular, how successful the 2004 Mental Health Services Act has been, and where it has been lacking. California voters in 2004 passed Proposition 63, which established the Mental Health Services Act and set a 1 percent income tax on personal income in excess of $1 million. Over 10 years, that tax raised about $13.2 billion, and is due to deliver an estimated $1.58 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year (Gorn, 9/25).
WBUR: Coakley Submits Amended Partners Agreement
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has submitted an amended agreement Thursday with Partners HealthCare over its proposed acquisition of Hallmark Health System. The original agreement sanctioned Partners HealthCare to acquire South Shore Hospital and Hallmark Health System. Coakley says the amended agreement, which would cap prices at Hallmark for six and a half years, ensures the merger won’t increase health care costs in the state. Under the re-negotiated agreement, Partners has also agreed to maintain the current level of psychiatric behavioral health services at Hallmark and North Shore facilities for five years (9/25).
CT Mirror: With Hartford Hospital Deadline Looming, Anthem Adds St. Francis To Exchange Network
St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford is joining Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s network for plans sold through the state’s health insurance exchange, ending the hospital’s holdout from the insurer's Obamacare plans. That means that as of Oct. 1, people who bought Anthem plans through the state’s exchange, Access Health CT, will be able to receive in-network coverage for care at St. Francis (Levin Becker, 9/25).