A selection of health policy stories from Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas and Oregon.
The Associated Press: Judge Rules On Scott's Prison Health Care Privatization Plan, Sends To Legislature
A Tallahassee judge ruled Tuesday that a legislative committee did not have the authority to approve a contract regarding prison health care services. According to Businessweek, the plan would privatize health care services in three of Florida's four prison system regions. Circuit Judge John Cooper, who made the decision, said the policy changes must be approved by the full Legislature, rather than just a panel of 14 select legislators (Meany and Harding, 12/5).
The Oregonian: Kitzhaber Medical Liability Proposal Gets Negative Portrayal In Small Survey: Taste Of 2013 Debate?
A new survey put out by a Georgia-based health care staffing company shows how changing Oregon's medical liability system -- on tap for the Legislature next year -- inspires criticism from advocates of more radical change. In February, Gov. John Kitzhaber promised lawmakers he would tackle the issue of medical negligence lawsuits and doctors practicing what's called "defensive medicine" to avoid those lawsuits. The resulting compromise effort negotiated between doctors and trial lawyers would require early disclosure of medical errors, allow apologies and mediation before any litigation, and is headed for the 2013 Legislature. The survey released Tuesday by Jackson Healthcare asked doctors it has placed around the country their opinions on reforming the medical negligence legal system -- including a "disclosure and offer" concept similar to Kitzhaber's proposal (Budnick, 12/5).
Healthy Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Insurance Companies Block Nurse Care
Two of Colorado's largest insurance companies refuse to pay for their clients to see independent advanced practice nurses in urban areas even though some patients want to see them and the care would cost less. Advanced practice nurses say the insurance companies, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado and Rocky Mountain Health Plans, are protecting doctors in a "turf war" instead of focusing on what's best for patients and allowing free market choice. … Joyzelle Davis, a spokeswoman at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado, which provides health insurance to nearly 1 million Coloradans, says there is no need for additional providers in urban areas. Managers at Anthem Blue Cross were not willing to answer questions regarding advanced practice nurses. At Rocky Mountain Health Plans, a spokeswoman said that the company's "standard of care is to provide the best possible access to physicians" (Kerwin McCrimmon, 12/5).
The Dallas Morning News: Many Dallas-Area Patients Could Lose Care If Clinics In Texas Women's Health Program Are Overwhelmed
Texas says it's ready to take over a women's health program from the federal government, but an analysis indicates the state may not have enough doctors lined up to serve the low-income patients who depend on it. A study by The Dallas Morning News of the state's plan in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties shows 222 health care providers had been approved as of October to treat about 13,000 women. But more than half of those providers, including clinics and private practices, didn't see any program clients in 2011 (Cardona, 12/5).
The Dallas Morning News: Dallas County Medical Society To End Program Providing Low-Cost Care For Uninsured Patients
The Dallas County Medical Society will pull the plug early next year on its Project Access Dallas, a popular program that matches uninsured county residents with doctors willing to provide them low-cost medical care. The 10-year-old effort, which employed 30 people, will end as early as March, after more than 3,000 current patients have found a "new medical home," said Dr. Rick Snyder, president of the medical society. More than 2,200 local doctors, many of them specialists, had voluntarily provided low-cost care to uninsured patients, including surgery, chemotherapy and chronic-disease management (Jacobson, 12/5).
The Associated Press: Pa. Gov Working To Avoid More Deep Spending Cuts
A top aide to Gov. Tom Corbett would not say Wednesday whether the governor will ask the Legislature for deep spending cuts when he presents a budget plan in February, but suggested that layoffs could be necessary to help offset rising costs for public employee pensions and Medicaid. Budget secretary Charles Zogby said his office is trying to produce a plan that avoids deep spending cuts, but he said it is too early to say if that's achievable (Levy, 12/5).
Florida Health News: FL Law, Health Agency Lax On Compounding Pharmacies
When the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak exploded into headlines two months ago, Florida health officials responded quickly, tracking the contaminated drug lots and finding potential victims. On Wednesday, they announced the 25th case, including three who died. While the response was swift, Florida health officials concede the state failed to foresee the danger and take steps to reduce the risk. New England Compounding Center, identified as the source of the tainted drugs, had a Florida non-resident license that allowed it to send drugs into the state (Gentry, 12/6).
The Lund Report: Klamath County Still At Odds Over Mental Health
A last-ditch effort is under way in Klamath County to mediate the dispute over mental health services for the nearly 13,000 people on the Oregon Health Plan. State officials have intervened once again, sending in another mediator, while residents continue circulating petitions, asking the Oregon Health Authority to re-open the bidding process and allow a new coordinated care organization to emerge. But that won't happen while the mediation process continues, according to Patty Wentz, spokesperson. Two issues still separate county officials and Cascade Health Alliance, the physician-hospital owned group that's attempting to become the CCO – the control of mental health services and representation on Cascade's for-profit board of directors. As the local mental health authority, the county is responsible for such services and has the ultimate contracting authority, but Cascade prefers to establish its own provider network (Lund-Muzikant, 12/5).
North Carolina Health News: Mental Health Court Offers An Alternative Path
"I'm not a jail kind of guy," said Kurt O'Briant. "I'm really not. I can't take jail." ... It took a little shove, and some intestinal fortitude, to take that first step in the right direction. The Community Resource Court (CRC) was his portal. … Launched in April 2000 as a collaborative effort of the OPC Area Program -- the agency that provided mental health services in Orange, Person and Chatham counties at the time – and the court system, the CRC is designed to address the needs of people living with mental health problems who've gotten into trouble with the law. The court offers treatment as an alternative to jail -- that might mean psychiatric services, one-on-one or group mental health therapy, substance-abuse therapy, medication management, case management or some combination of these (Sisk, 12/6).
St. Louis Beacon: Health-Care Backers Of Medicaid Expansion Must Woo Skeptical Lawmakers
For the Missouri Hospital Association, the key to getting legislators on board with a push to expand Medicaid is making a pitch about the move's economic opportunity -- and the practical consequences of inaction. "It isn't the matter that 'we should expand Medicaid because it's the right thing to do,' although that is certainly still a strong argument," said MHA spokesman Dave Dillion. "Not only could we accomplish that, but we could create an economic engine by doing that." But state Sen. Rob Schaaf, for one, is unmoved so far by what he's heard from proponents of the expansion (Rosenbaum, 12/5).
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.