Roundup: Calif. Gov. Brown's pension plan silent on current workers' health care; Psychologists want power to prescribe drugs

Published on August 30, 2012 at 12:29 AM · No Comments

Los Angeles Times: Brown Takes Softer Line In Latest Plan To Rein In Pension Costs
Gov. Jerry Brown announced a new plan Tuesday to rein in public pension costs that would raise the retirement age, cap benefits for the highest-paid employees and eliminate "spiking" -- but lacks key parts of the bolder system overhaul he proposed months ago and would even increase some payouts. ... The plan also does not address skyrocketing health care costs for retirees, another main element of the governor's first scenario. Hundreds of thousands of government workers have been promised medical coverage for life (York and McGreevy, 8/28).

The Associated Press: Brown Says Pension Reform Will Save Billions, But Fails To Get Hybrid, Retiree Health Care
With election politics in play, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday announced systemic reforms to save billions of dollars in California's underfunded pension systems but dropped key changes he had sought to avoid a showdown with labor allies. As a result, pension reform advocates said the Democratic proposal fails to address the long-term costs of the state's pension liabilities, largely by leaving benefits for the state's more than 200,000 employees unchanged without contract changes negotiated with unions (8/28).

Fox News: Psychologists Argue For The Right To Prescribe Medicines
Psychologists have traditionally not been allowed to prescribe medications for their patients, but some argue that giving them this right would be better for patients, and is also vital to the future of the profession. After a nearly 30-year push from psychologists, just two states, New Mexico and Louisiana, have passed bills allowing psychologists who complete additional education to prescribe. Last year, six states (Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon and Tennessee), were considering similar bills. Unlike psychiatrists, who can prescribe drugs, psychologists do not have degrees in medicine, and opponents argue that this makes them unqualified to prescribe powerful medications. But there are not enough psychiatrists to go around, and some say psychologists could make up for this dearth, and improve patients' access to care (Rettner, 8/28).

Los Angeles Times: UCLA Study Suggests Partners For Children Benefits Patients, State
The pilot program began working with patients in early 2010 and has been made available to more than 135 families covered by Medi-Cal in Los Angeles and 10 other counties. Participants were infants and youths up to 21 years old who had been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, including cystic fibrosis, cancer, and neuromuscular and cardiac disorders. Families were assigned a liaison in charge of coordinating the child's care and given 24-hour access to a nurse familiar with the patient's situation. According to a study released Wednesday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, children in the Partners program spent less time in the hospital, their families' quality of life improved and their medical costs fell by 11 percent. They found that on average, $1,677 was saved per child per month (Knoll, 8/29).

California Healthline: Essential Benefits, Medical Review Change Passed
The countdown has begun. Only three more voting days till the end of California's legislative year. The Legislature's 2012 session ends on Friday, making this a busy week. A number of health-related bills are among the hundreds of laws passed so far and headed to the governor's desk (some of them are pending technical concurrence in the house of origin): SB 951 by Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and AB 1453 by Bill Monning (D-Carmel) would set the level of essential health benefits offered by the California Health Benefit Exchange, starting in 2014 (Gorn, 8/29).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ambulance Fees Going Up In DeKalb
Residents in need of an ambulance ride in DeKalb County will soon see a 50 percent jump in what they pay for the trip. The DeKalb County Commission agreed Tuesday to allow Rural/Metro Corporation to increase the fees it charges for medical transport. The jump from $500 to $750 for basic transportation -- a ride to the hospital with no advanced-trained personnel on board -- brings fees in line with what the service cost in Cobb (Hunt, 8/28).

Reuters: California Lawmakers Vote To Ban Gay "Conversion" Therapy For Minors
California's state Assembly approved a bill on Tuesday to prohibit children and teenagers from undergoing a controversial therapy that aims to reverse homosexuality, moving the state closer to becoming the first to impose such a ban. The 51-21 vote in the Democratic-controlled Assembly marked a major victory for gay rights advocates who say the so-called conversion therapy has no medical basis because homosexuality is not a disorder (Slosson, 8//28).

The Associated Press: Health Care Provider Pleads Guilty In $14.8M Scam
The U.S. Justice Department says a Detroit-area man has pleaded guilty for his role in a $13.8 million psychotherapy fraud scheme. The government says 42-year-old Jawad Ahmad pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Detroit U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen is scheduled to sentence Ahmad on Nov. 28 (8/28).

Kansas Health Institute News: KanCare MCOs Announce Their Benefit-Package Subcontractors
Officials for the three managed care companies hired to run the Kansas Medicaid program announced today the firms that they will be using to provide their transportation, dental, vision, and pharmacy benefits. … Spokespersons for the managed care companies said each of the three was in the process of sending out contracts to hundreds of providers across the state, seeking to enlist them in their provider networks. … To meet their contract obligations with the state, the managed care companies must each have 90 percent of their provider networks in place by Oct. 12; 100 percent in place by Nov. 16 (Ranney, 8/28).

North Carolina Health News: New Rural Dental Clinic Sees Slow But Steady Growth
This summer when Dr. Ford Grant moved from Charlotte to Ahoskie, a town of 5,000 near the Chowan and Meherrin rivers in northeastern North Carolina, he got asked "You're not from around here, are you?" every place he went. Prior to the move, Grant had never been to the area before but had experience in rural dentistry after spearheading a mobile dentistry service for nursing home patients at the Carolinas Medical Center. Now Grant will be serving another under-treated population as the leading faculty dentist at a new clinic in Ahoskie that the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine opened July 1st. The $3 million clinic is part of the new school's effort of fighting the shortage of dentist in rural areas of the state by treating patients and training dental students who are interested in small-town practices (Tsipis, 8/29).

The Oregonian: Regence BlueCross BlueShield Members Who Buy Own Insurance Face 8.9 Percent Hike
Regence BlueCross BlueShield members who buy their own insurance will see an average 8.9 percent rate hike starting in December, while Portland-area individual members see increases that vary by provider network. The Oregon Insurance Division decision, which formally takes effect Wednesday, cuts Regence's requested rate increase of 9.6 percent slightly and largely does not change Regence's network changes affecting about 20,000 Portland-area members who purchase individual insurance (Budnick, 8/28).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis 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.

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