A selection of health policy stories from California, Oregon, Michigan, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Los Angeles Times: California Scores Poorly On Posting Health Care Prices, Report Says
California consumers don't have easy access to prices for medical care, according to a national report card that gave the state a letter grade of D for its dismal showing. Overall, 36 states received grades of D or F in the report issued Monday by two nonprofit healthcare groups that analyzed government efforts to make pricing information widely available to consumers (Terhune, 3/18).
The Associated Press: Counties Now Facing Inmate Lawsuits
California has spent billions of dollars and endured years of federal lawsuits to improve conditions in its state prisons, but the problems it has been trying to correct are now trickling down to local governments as county jails deal with thousands of additional inmates. Law firms advocating for inmates' rights have sued or threatened lawsuits against a handful of California counties because of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to send lower-level offenders to local jails instead of state prisons as a way to comply with a federal court order (Thompson, 3/19).
The Lund Report: Shields And Holvey Want Unlawful Trade Act To Cover Insurers
Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland and Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, rolled out legislation last week that would open up the insurance industry to torts under the state's Unlawful Trade Practices Act and allow the attorney general to sue insurers for fraud. ... Shields said the special exemption allows insurance companies to act with impunity and reduces their incentive to pay out claims as warranted. If they commit fraud, they cannot be sued by the attorney general under any tort or statute (Gray, 3/19).
The Associated Press: Michigan Reveals Goals For State Autism Services
State health officials laid out long-term goals Monday designed to improve access to services for the estimated 50,000 people living with autism spectrum disorders in Michigan, including more early screening and the creation of a state resource center to provide families with information about services. The Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan revealed by the Michigan Department of Community Health and Autism Council identifies gaps in the availability of services and makes recommendations for how to improve the lives of adults and children with autism spectrum disorders (Durkin, 3/19).
Los Angeles Times: Two Former CalPERS Officials Indicted On Fraud Charges
Three years after a major influence-peddling scandal rocked California and the nation's largest public pension fund, a federal grand jury indicted two former top officials on fraud, conspiracy and obstruction charges (Lifsher, 3/19).
The Lund Report: Troubled Oregon Counties Turn To Cigarette Tax For Public Health
Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick told the House Revenue Committee Friday that the state of Oregon trusts local governments to do a lot of things -- arrest people, put them in jail, set zoning ordinances, raise property taxes, even generate income taxes (Gray, 3/19).
Kansas Health Institute: Senate Panel Advances HIE Bill
A Senate panel voted today to advance favorably a bill that would shift regulatory power from KHIE, Inc. to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. KHIE is the entity created in 2010 to oversee the digital exchange of patient records. State officials have said they could regulate the exchange networks without requiring additional funding. The shift also has been endorsed by the KHIE, Inc. board of directors (Shields, 3/18).
Medpage Today: Mass. Health Plans Aim To Slow Rising Costs
The state -- policymakers, insurers, and providers -- is taking steps to rein in cost. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed into law this summer a bill aimed at doing just that. Among its many provisions, the law tries to move providers away from a fee-for-service model, creates an independent Health Policy Commission, and sets a target growth rate of 3.6 percent in 2013. Patrick told attendees at the Association of Health Care Journalists' annual meeting here that the state "will crack the code on cost containment." In 2008, Blue Cross Blue Shield created an "Alternative Quality Contract" which provides a global payment to providers to care for the insurers' members (Pittman, 3/18).