A selection of health policy stories from California, Colorado, Texas, Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Washington state and Oregon.
California Healthline: As Healthy Families Deficit Rises, Tax Pressure Rises With It
The Healthy Families program has run out of money, according to state health officials. The deficit currently stands at almost $100 million and will keep rising every month, according to Janette Casillas, executive director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which oversees Healthy Families. Gov. Jerry Brown's administration is pursuing two ideas for refilling the coffers: reinstitution of a recently expired tax on managed care organizations and an appropriation bill if the MCO tax isn't revived (Gorn, 2/4).
Denver Post: University Of Colorado Health Ponders Creating Its Own HMO
Even as it consolidates power over six hospitals, more than 15,000 employees and billions of dollars in revenue -- while rebranding dozens of buildings and services to boost its image -- University of Colorado Health is already preparing for the next revolution. The burgeoning three-state hospital group is contemplating a step into the insurance end of health care and tearing up old delivery methods ahead of an overhaul in federal payments (Booth, 2/5).
The Texas Tribune: Medicaid Fraud Recovery Tops $1 Billion
The Texas attorney general's office is touting a new state record -- $1 billion in Medicaid fraud recoveries over the last 10 years. About $400 million of the state's recoveries were returned to Texas' coffers (White, 2/4).
The Associated Press : Alaska Looks To Get A Handle On Health Care Costs
State officials are looking at ways to lower the growth of Alaska's health care costs, including an alternate retiree plan and developing an employee wellness program. The path the state is on isn't sustainable, Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg and Health Commissioner Bill Streur told the House Finance Committee on Monday (Bohrer, 2/4).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Delaware Small Business Advisory Panel Discusses Workers Comp, Health reform, Loan Programs
Workers compensation insurance and health care reform are among the issues being looked at by a panel aimed at helping small businesses in Delaware. The state small business advisory committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday, with a review of a new workers compensation task force topping the agenda (2/5).
Georgia Health News: Small Rural Hospital Closes Doors; More May Follow
The Friday closing of Calhoun Memorial Hospital in the southwest Georgia town of Arlington reflects the financial squeeze that many rural facilities face. A handful of other rural hospitals in the state also may be teetering on the brink, with rising levels of uninsured patients and with Medicaid continuing to pay low rates for services. HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia, says a half-dozen facilities could follow Calhoun Memorial's move and shut down in the coming months. Ironically, news of the nonprofit hospital's closing came just hours after the state House passed a bill to facilitate renewal of the hospital provider fee. Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health said that if the bill had failed and the fee had vanished, more than 20 rural hospitals might have had to close (Miller, 2/4).
The Olympian: In Washington State, Mental Health Funds Sought As Help Falls Short
It's nothing new: horror stories about people whose mental illnesses turned them into killers; a safety net that failed to catch them; and now, politicians in Olympia vowing to do something. "There's suddenly a lot of movement, and it's sad that it's taken a series of catastrophic tragedies to start addressing this, but it's a catalyst," said Larry Thompson, a therapist at Western State Hospital in Lakewood who said he's more hopeful for change than he has been in years (Schrader, 2/4).
Statesman Journal: Demonstrators Urge Universal Single-Payer Health Care System
Changes are underway to change state and federal health care, but hundreds of Oregonians gathered at a rally Monday said they want lawmakers to move further toward establishing a universal single-payer system. More than 200 people held up protest signs, chanted and even sang at the Capitol's steps to show their support for such legislation. Instead of paying private health insurance premiums, co-payments and other medical expenses, residents would fund the universal health care plan through a tax based on their ability to pay, according to Health Care for ALL Oregon, a coalition of labor, education and health care organizations that hosted the rally (Wong, 2/4).
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.