A selection of health policy stories from California, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oregon.
The Dallas Morning News: Commissioners Approve Health Care Stipend For Gay, Unmarried Employees
Dallas County will give a stipend to unmarried and gay employees who provide health care benefits to their partners. County commissioners approved the new program in a narrow 3-2 vote, which was split along party lines. Democratic commissioners hailed the move as a way to attract and retain talent, embrace the county's diversity and compete against private companies who already provide domestic partner benefits. Republican commissioners said the move, which is estimated to cost taxpayers $100,000 a year, made bad economic sense and was an end-run around state and federal laws barring gay marriage (Formby, 10/30).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Federal Judge Rules Milwaukee County Could Shift Some Health Costs To Retirees
Milwaukee County's move to charge its retirees for some health care costs - a change made in 2012 that shifted millions of dollars in costs from taxpayers to retirees as well as active employees - was upheld in federal court Tuesday. U.S. District Judge William E. Callahan Jr. ruled against Esther Hussey, who retired from the county in 1991 after 35 years and said she was promised free health insurance. She worked primarily in the register of deeds office. Callahan sounded sympathetic to Hussey, 85, comparing her case to another in which Pabst Brewing retirees felt "an element of betrayal" over losing health benefits (Schultze, 10/30).
HealthyCal: Permanent Housing Offers Stability For Those With Mental Illness
The Mental Health Services Act approved by voters as Proposition 63 in 2004 provides more funding to county-based mental health programs. The funding from a 1 percent tax on personal income in excess of $1 million was expected to fund the implementation of treatment, prevention and early intervention programs for those with serious mental illness. Still, the cost of not serving the needs remains high. An experiment in Los Angeles, started in 2008, concluded that giving homeless residents permanent housing with no strings attached provides a savings to taxpayer (Flores, 10/31).
The Texas Tribune: Senate Panel Takes Aim At Prescription Drug Abuse
Speaking Tuesday at a Senate panel hearing on prescription drug abuse, doctors and law enforcement officials touted the importance of agencies sharing information to more effectively look for pharmacies and doctors involved in the usage of prescription drugs outside of medically sanctioned purposes (Chammah, 10/30).
The Dallas Morning News: Officials Unveil Plan To Eliminate Childhood Obesity In Dallas By 2020
Community leaders met Tuesday to unveil a plan to eliminate childhood obesity in Dallas by 2020. The plan, named Charting the Course for a Healthy Future, was introduced at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children after nearly two years of planning by a coalition of more than 60 organizations and community leaders. "Reducing childhood obesity will have a profound impact on the health and quality of life for all North Texans," said Susan Hoff, chief strategy officer of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (Fancher, 10/30).
(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Watchdog: U Students Say New Health Insurance Process Causing Headaches
Some students at the University of Minnesota say they are being charged for the university health care plan, even though they have private insurance and notified the U of their coverage when they registered for class last spring. The problem appears to be related to a change in the university's health insurance verification process. The new system uses electronic verification when students register for classes to confirm that students are covered by a private insurance provider. The glitch is that the system recognizes only five major providers: Blue Cross and Blue Shield, HealthPartners, Medica, MinnesotaCare, and Preferred One (Tritschler, 10/30).