A selection of health policy stories from Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, California, Tennessee, Kansas and Wisconsin.
Politico: Abortion-Rights Groups Absent On Pain Laws
When new limits on abortions are proposed, abortion-rights groups usually go all out to stop them. So why haven't they gone all out against state fetal-pain laws, enacted in nine states since early 2010? These laws ban abortion after 20 weeks, based on the controversial assertion that the fetus can then experience pain. They're handing victories to anti-abortion groups, and so far there's only one major challenge from an abortion-rights group: in Arizona, where the 9th Circuit Court early this month temporarily blocked the state law (Smith, 8/13).
CT Mirror: Health Care Advocates Remain Wary Of LIA Changes, Even As DSS Scales Back Restrictions
After advocates for mentally ill and disabled residents warned that a new plan to limit the number of people receiving state Medicaid benefits would hurt that population in particular, the state has somewhat modified its plan. DSS spokesman David Dearborn said the agency would revise its planned application to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding the Medicaid for Low Income Adults program, known as LIA (Phaneuf, 8/13).
Health News Florida/Kaiser Health News: Readmit Rates Cost FL Hospitals
Lower Medicare reimbursement rates are coming for hundreds of hospitals across the country and for 131 in Florida with "excess readmission" rates, according to analysis of CMS data by Kaiser Health News. … Nine hospitals around the state, including Florida Hospital in Orlando, will deal with a 1 percent gap caused by the penalty. Even though half of the 22 facilities in the Florida Hospital system will be penalized under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, hospital officials said care won't be affected (8/13).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Hospitals Face Penalties If Patients Quickly Return
Minnesota hospitals will lose an estimated $1.7 million in Medicare payments next year under a new program that penalizes hospitals for higher-than-average rates of readmission. The penalties are based on the 30-day readmission rates for Medicare patients with three common conditions -- heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia -- between 2008 and 2011. The penalties, which will affect 29 Minnesota hospitals, will average about one-tenth of 1 percent of their annual Medicare payments, the Minnesota Hospital Association said (Lerner, 8/13).
Minnesota Public Radio: Careful Look At State Employees Health Benefits May Save Taxpayers Millions
The state of Minnesota is terminating health insurance coverage for about 3,100 family members of state employees. The action comes after the state conducted an audit to determine whether anyone was improperly receiving benefits. Supporters of the audit say it is proof the program is working, and that it could save the state millions of dollars (Scheck, 8/14).
The Oregonian: Hospital Error Reports Up Slightly In Oregon -- And That's Good News
Reports of errors in Oregon hospitals grew slightly last year, according to the Oregon Patient Safety Commission. But that might actually be good news. The commission relies on voluntary reporting, and has been struggling to persuade hospitals to improve their reporting. More reports will allow the state to better improve safety, says Bethany Higgins, the commission's executive director. "You can clearly see that there's improvement across the board with the quantity as well as the quality of the reports submitted, as well as the timeliness with which they are submitting them," she said, adding, "We have a long ways to go" (Budnick, 8/13).
HealthyCal: NPs On The Frontlines
Glide, situated in the heart of San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin neighborhood, is a haven for the homeless. Outside the shelter's door, though it is just before noon, a group of men and women line up to wait for a bed for the night or a hot meal. … Hints of the state-of-the-art health center on the top floors of the onetime hotel start inside the lobby, in the form of posters and flyers announcing services ranging from free HIV testing to tai chi classes. Patricia Dennehy, the director of Glide Health Services, has learned that low-income patients make better health decisions when providers focus on the entire person, not just the illness that landed them in the examining room. Challenges such as poverty, inadequate housing and unemployment can eventually wreak havoc on people's health (Ramirez, 8/14).
The Associated Press: Tennessee Nursing Job Market More Competitive
Health care experts say Tennessee's nursing job market has grown more competitive in recent years. According to the Tennessee Board of Nursing, there were more than 83,000 registered nurses in the state in 2011, and 21 new schools were added between 2000 and 2011 (8/13).
Reuters: Health Startups Learn To Compete In Silicon Valley
It may not sound as flashy as social media, but health care is becoming a new star in Silicon Valley. Driven by the promise of enormous payouts, entrepreneurs are using the latest technology and design to help save lives, and make money. But it's tough to grab a share from the big companies, which are dominant in certain fields in health care, such as Electronical Medical Records, or EMR, where doctors store and manage patients' digital health data (Tian, 8/14).
California Healthline: Designing A New Tier Of Dental Professional In California
About two million California kids will gain access to dental coverage over the next few years as a result of the Affordable Care Act and the state's decision to shift children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. ACA also will provide more dental coverage for some adults. That's generally considered good news in the dental and children's health communities … but who's going to do the work? … The California Legislature this month will consider a bill aimed at improving dental care for underserved children. SB 694, by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley), would … launch a project to train a new level of oral health care professional in California -- people less educated than dentists but with enough training to perform some dental procedures (8/13).
Kansas Health Institute News: Changes Under Way For Determining In-Home Medicaid Services
State officials are changing the way they determine which in-home Medicaid services are provided to the frail elderly and people who are physically disabled. The new system will rely on a single agency or organization with a presence in each of the state's 105 counties to assess what services a person will receive. Currently, there are more than 30 organizations involved with the process. Some assess only the elderly. Others focus solely on the physically disabled (Ranney, 8/13).
Kansas Health Institute News: Kansas Looks To Wisconsin For ADRC Model
In Wisconsin, it's easy for frail seniors or people who are physically disabled to find out if they are eligible for the Medicaid services that could help them live at home and avoid or delay the move to a nursing home. All they have to do is call the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) in their county. They'll be hooked up with someone who can assess their conditions, figure out how to pay for the services and put them in touch with the providers who can make it happen (Ranney, 8/13).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mental Health Advocates Urge Abele To Fund Community Care
Advocates for community mental health services called on Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on Monday to reinvest savings from downsizing the Mental Health Complex into community services in his 2013 budget. Abele was reminded that he signed a resolution last year promising to do just that. However, the 2013 budget request by the county's Behavioral Health Division does not set aside for community services the $1.5 million in savings from closing an acute-care unit at the complex, shutting down part of another unit at the complex and privatizing some mental health services elsewhere (Schultze, 8/13).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.