A roundup of health policy news from Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Florida and Massachusetts.
The Associated Press/Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise: Drugs, Fraud, Mental Health Top Legislative Issues
If the Texas Legislature is in session, there must be a fight about Medicaid going on. The health care program for the disabled, the elderly poor and the impoverished raises hackles every two years, mostly because the number in need keeps rising alongside health care costs. ... The 2013 legislative session, however, adds a new wrinkle: President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act and its provision to dramatically expand Medicaid (Tomlinson, 12/8).
MPR: Federal HHS Probing Minn. Medicaid Program
Another federal agency is looking into whether the state of Minnesota improperly set rates for its Medicaid program. The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services has sent a letter to state officials. ... The letter asks for documents and records to determine how Minnesota set its payment rates for HMOs that administered the Medicaid program [during the Pawlenty administration] from Jan 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2009 (Stawicki, 12/7).
(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota Human Services Department Target Of Federal Review; Health Insurance Funding At Issue
Questions started swirling at the state Capitol in February about whether Minnesota officials had been manipulating the rate-certification process in Medicaid to wrongly gain excess federal funds. Both the state and federal governments fund the health insurance program. ... In a statement released Friday, Dec. 7, the Department of Human Services said it would cooperate with the review (Snowbeck, 12/7).
The Associated Press: Nebraska Confronting Rural Doctor Shortage
Dr. Michelle Seller starts her mornings with inpatient rounds at the local hospital in Central City, then visits a health clinic. ... Seller is among a declining number of Nebraska doctors who work full-time in rural areas, a key point of debate for Nebraska lawmakers when they address the federal health care law next year (Schulte, 12/9).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Care Creates A New State Jobs Boom
Minnesota's hospitals and clinics are on a hiring spree, and they're not just looking for the usual MDs and RNs. New demand for data analysts and specialists who steer patients through the system has helped make health care the strongest engine driving Minnesota's jobs recovery. That's on top of a growing need for doctors and nurses as baby boomers hit their retirement years (Belz, 12/10).
Medpage Today: States Spend Anti-Smoking $ On Other Things
Only 1.8 percent of the $25.7 billion states will collect from both taxes on cigarettes and the 1998 tobacco settlement -- about $460 million -- will go to tobacco prevention and treatment programs in 2013, according to an annual report from several public health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. ... Health care costs relating to tobacco use total about $96 billion annually (Fiore, 12/7).
Kansas Health Institute News: Mental Health Center Braces For Spending Cuts
The head of a community mental health center that serves 20 counties in northwest Kansas said today that his agency will need to significantly cut its budget for children's services because of the anticipated decrease in state tobacco settlement dollars it receives. ... [Walt] Hill said the agency's planned spending cuts were driven by a Kansas Children's Cabinet decision Monday to include programs for mentally ill children and their families on a list of services that Gov. Sam Brownback could consider defunding (Ranney, 12/7).
Detroit Free Press: Bill Would Require Abortion To Be An Optional Rider In Health Exchange
Michigan women who buy their insurance from state health care exchanges would have to buy separate riders to pay for elective abortions under a controversial measure passed by the Michigan Senate on Thursday. Under the national health care overhaul, often called Obamacare, the state health exchanges are to begin operating next year. But the Senate provision would not allow the exchanges to offer elective abortions as part of their core plans (Meyer, 12/7).
Detroit Free Press: 'Moral Objection' Bill Would Allow Health Care Providers To Refuse Service
[The bill] also would allow employers to refuse to pay for services for their employees that "violated the payer's conscience." The state already has a conscientious objection clause for abortion services, but the new law also could give the green light to doctors to refuse to write birth control prescriptions and opens the door to a refusal of service for all sorts of ailments, said state Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw (Gray and Erb, 12/7).
The Miami Herald: VA, Jewish System Reach Deal To Keep Vets At Home
The Veterans and Miami Jewish health systems announced a partnership Friday to lower government costs. ... The arrangement by the Miami Veterans Healthcare System is intended to keep aging vets out of expensive nursing homes and keep them living at home with the support of a coordinated care network provided by Miami Jewish Health Systems. The cost difference: Instead of $80,000 a year for a nursing home, the Jewish system will provide care that will keep the vets living at home for not more than $30,000 a year (Dorschner, 12/7).
The Boston Globe: Little Scrutiny As Drug Compounder Expanded
In February 2003, 11 federal and state health regulators gathered around a conference table in Boston, joined by three colleagues patched in on telemonitors from Washington, to decide the fate of New England Compounding Center. ... Massachusetts ultimately would take no significant action against New England Compounding, the company that a decade later is blamed for a national meningitis outbreak (Kowalczyk and Wallack, 12/9).
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.