A selection of health policy stories from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida and North Carolina.
Los Angeles Times: California Leaders Set State Health Goals To Be Met By 2022
With the state facing rising medical costs and increasing rates of chronic disease, California health leaders issued a report Wednesday setting specific health targets to meet by 2022. The state's goals include reducing smoking rates, increasing vaccinations among children and improving depression screening and treatment. The report also describes ways to improve end-of-life care, by expanding palliative care at hospitals and hospice programs at home (12/19).
HealthyCal: A Road Map To A Healthier State
A task force appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown has laid out a road map for California to become the healthiest state in the nation by 2022. The ten-year plan establishes 39 specific, measurable goals from cradle to grave. They range from infant mortality and childhood obesity to the management of chronic disease, preventable hospitalizations and the number of terminally ill people using hospice care (Weintraub, 12/19).
Los Angeles Times: New Report Embraces Medi-Cal Expansion
Gov. Jerry Brown's top healthcare official appeared to embrace an expansion of the state's Medi-Cal system as California moves to implement the healthcare overhaul signed by President Obama in 2010. A new report from the Let's Get Healthy Taskforce, co-chaired by Diana Dooley, Brown's secretary for Health and Human Services, says "expansion of coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange and Medi-Cal will be an important step" that can particularly help African American and Latino populations, who together comprise nearly half of the state's estimated 8 million residents without health coverage (York, 12/19).
CT Mirror: Hospitals Say Budget Cuts Look Far Worse In Historical Context
Hospitals face the single-largest cut in the tentative plan crafted over the past week by the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders from both parties. But they are hoping that some historical perspective will persuade officials to spare them from deep cuts. The chief lobbying agency for the state's 29 acute care hospitals also warned Tuesday that the anticipated $103 million mid-fiscal-year cut in state funding would eliminate jobs and "critical community programs" and services (Phaneuf and Becker, 12/19).
The Denver Post: Colorado Sen. Irene Aguilar To Push For Universal Health Care
Obamacare got the Supreme Court's stamp of approval, and the state health insurance exchange is well on its way, but universal coverage for all Coloradans is still a better goal, state Sen. Irene Aguilar is willing to argue all over again. Aguilar said Wednesday she will introduce a bill in the 2013 legislature seeking a referendum to the people on creating state-run, universal health insurance (Booth, 12/20).
CQ HealthBeat: HHS Awards More Money To School Health Centers
Federal health officials on Wednesday awarded more than $80 million to 197 school-based health centers as part of funding the health care law provides in an effort to continue expanding preventive and primary care. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement that the grants will serve an additional 384,000 students across the country. This funding will allow school-based health centers to serve an additional 384,000 students. The award list shows grants going to schools and health systems in 38 states (12/19).
The Denver Post: Colorado School-Based Health Centers Receive $1 Million In Grants
Three Colorado school-based health centers received more than $1 million in competitive grant funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. Sen. Mark Udall congratulated the Durango School District 9-R, Denver Health Medical Center and Commerce City Community Health Services for receiving the funds (12/19).
California Watch: Prime Hospital Abruptly Stops Billing Medicare For Rare Ailment
After billing Medicare for treating more than 1,100 cases of a rare affliction, a Prime Healthcare Services hospital in Redding abruptly stopped last year, state health records show. The change occurred soon after California Watch published a story about aggressive billing practices at the hospital (Williams and Doig, 12/20).
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Makes Push On Health Innovation Plan
The road to Medicaid expansion could go through the Virginia Center for Health Innovation. The center, established last spring with help from private and nonprofit health care organizations and housed at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, launched an intensive effort on Wednesday to produce the Virginia Health Innovation Plan by the end of May. The plan would be the foundation for projects that test new ways of delivering and paying for health care -; at a lower cost to those who pay the bills, both public and private. And those kinds of reforms are what some state and health care industry officials say are necessary before Virginia agrees to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (Martz, 12/19).
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Patient-Centered Medical Homes Touted For Free Clinics And Other Safety-Net Providers
As part of an initiative to improve patient care, Fan Free Clinic three years ago started a diabetes wellness program that included an hour each week of one-on-one time with patients to go over their blood sugar numbers, nutrition and other issues. "I was very excited because we were going to call those patients. We were going to get them on the phone. They didn't have to come in, and we were going to call them anytime they wanted us to," said Cathy Wheeler, a registered nurse and director of clinical operations for the Richmond clinic (Smith, 12/20).
WBUR (Audio): Is The Mass. Mental Health Care System Doing Enough?
Malissie Holloway was only 24 when she was found dead, hanging from a pipe in her closet. Holloway suffered from debilitating mental illness and was living in a Somerville community based mental health facility. Her family began asking questions. The group home was supposed to a safe place, one with support and ongoing supervision, yet the staff was admonished for not seeing her for two days before her body was discovered. The Somerville group home is part of Massachusetts' Community Health System -- specifically, a relatively new program called Community Based Flexible Supports, or CBFS. As part of a special investigative report, WBUR and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting looked into CBFS, which provides treatment and support to over 29,000 individuals (12/19).
Detroit Free Press: Henry Ford, Beaumont Health Systems Announce Task Force To Oversee Merger
Henry Ford Health System and Beaumont Health System have created a task force to oversee the merger of the two hospital systems, they announced today. The various panels will include administrators, doctors, nurses and other staffers, according to a press release. Among the topics to be explored are academics and research, branding, safety and quality, supply chain, insurance, nursing and facilities. "The Merger Integration Task Force will launch our due diligence process, during which we will address how to smoothly and efficiently bring our two organizations together," said Henry Ford CEO Nancy Schlichting, who's co-chairing it with Beaumont CEO Gene Michalski (Meyer, 12/19).
The Miami Herald: Accelerator Planned For Health Care-Tech Start-Ups
Project Lift Miami, designed to help develop young companies and prepare them for investment opportunities, is a partnership between Lift1428, an innovation design, strategy and communications firm; the Miami Innovation Center at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park and its developer, Wexford Science + Technology; and the UM Miller School of Medicine, said Robert Chavez, the project's executive director. "We're being proactive and trying to support innovative ideas and companies. … We'd like to keep them here and really help to transform the area into a healthcare innovation hub." The accelerator will offer entrepreneurial teams a structured 100-day program of classes, workshops and training directed by national and local healthcare experts as well as mentoring and strategic support that will continue well beyond the program, said David McDonald, CEO of Lift1428 and co-founder of Project Lift Miami (Dahlberg, 12/19).
North Carolina Health News: Governor Temporarily Fixes Group Home Funding Problem
Outgoing Governor Bev Perdue announced Tuesday morning she had found a way to provide $1 million to help group homes pay for housing for people with mental health and developmental disabilities through the month of January. The move is a temporary patch for the homes until General Assembly returns to Raleigh and can construct a longer-term fix to the problem. For months, operators of group homes for people with mental health and developmental disabilities have been warning lawmakers that changes to the state's Medicaid program put about 1400 people at risk of losing the money that pays for their housing and care. But the legislature is in recess, and state law limits the governor's options, so a solution has been elusive (Hoban, 12/19).
Los Angeles Times: Battle Over Nation's Largest Pot Dispensary Heads To U.S. Court
A showdown over the fate of the country's largest medical marijuana dispensary heads to federal court here Thursday, and the outcome could hint at what lies ahead as a growing number of states opt for legalization. This fall, Oakland became the first municipality to sue federal prosecutors in an attempt to block them from shuttering a medical cannabis facility. Harborside Health Center, with facilities in Oakland and San Jose, has more than 108,000 members in its patient collective (Romney, 12/19).
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.