State highlights: State retiree benefit shortfalls; health data claims and cost

Published on June 18, 2014 at 2:27 AM · No Comments

A selection of health policy stories from California, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, Washington state, Connecticut, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The Wall Street Journal: Accounting Changes Proposed For State, City Retiree-Benefit Plans
States and cities could be forced to report at least half a trillion dollars of additional costs on their books under proposed rules that would shine a harsher light on the growing expense of retired workers' health insurance and other benefits. The proposals, unveiled Monday by an accounting-standards group, would require state and local governments to add retiree-benefit promises to their balance sheets, making governments' overall financial position appear worse. In addition, many governments would have to change the way they calculate their benefit obligations in a way that could make their shortfalls appear bigger than they do now (Rapoport, 6/16).

Stateline: Q&A: Can Claims Data Crack The Health Care Cost Riddle?
Nearly a decade before the Affordable Care Act, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and a few other states began creating all-payer claims databases (APCDs). Acting as trusted third parties, they began requiring all commercial insurance carriers within their borders to hand over their claims data, including the prices consumers paid. In the last three years, the number of states investing in these painstaking data collection projects has accelerated. Nineteen states have APCDs in varying stages of development and at least 21 states are considering laws to create them, according to the APCD Council, which assists states in setting up claims databases (Vestal, 6/17).

Los Angeles Times: California Expands Parole For Elderly, Medically Frail
California parole officials Monday said the state is ready to begin the early release of elderly and frail prisoners who meet new criteria for parole. The program's details were released publicly for the first time at a meeting of the Board of Parole Hearings. They were ordered by a panel of federal judges earlier this year, as part of required steps the state must take to reduce prison crowding to acceptable levels (St. John, 6/16).

Los Angeles Times: Bills Targeting Sugary Sodas, Plastic Bags, Grease Theft Survive
What do sugar-laden soft drinks, flimsy plastic shopping bags and used kitchen grease have in common? They are the focus of controversial legislation in Sacramento. So far, they've survived a gauntlet of lobbying and multiple committee and floor votes to make it out of the Senate or Assembly, where they got started months ago -- along with thousands of other proposals. In all, lawmakers in the current session have introduced 2,766 bills in the Assembly and 1,467 in the Senate (Lifsher, 6/15).

The Washington Post: New Free Clinic In Chantilly Serves Patients In Loudoun, Fairfax
People with low incomes who lack health insurance can get medical services at a new free clinic in Chantilly. The Adams Compassionate Healthcare Network, a nonprofit arm of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, formally opened the clinic June 8 with an inaugural ceremony at the ADAMS Sully Center. An interfaith team of volunteer doctors and other medical professionals donate their services Saturdays at the clinic, which ADAMS officials describe as "the first Muslim-organized initiative in Virginia that seeks to meet the comprehensive health-care needs of all qualifying, low-income individuals (Barnes, 6/16).

Des Moines Register: Number Of Docs In Iowa Increases
Iowa continues to see a steady increase in its supply of doctors, despite gloomy predictions that physicians would flee the profession because of big changes in health care. A new report from the Iowa Board of Medicine says 6,829 physicians worked in the state last year. That was up 2 percent from 2012, and up 12 percent from 2006. Iowa continues to have fewer doctors per capita than the U.S. average, and it faces significant doctor shortages in some medical specialties and rural regions. But overall, Iowa's supply of doctors has risen much faster than the state's population over the past three decades (Leys, 6/16).

Baltimore Sun: Midwife Practice Finds New Home Despite Medical Malpractice Costs
A popular midwife practice whose partnership with Mercy Medical Center is ending because of rising malpractice costs has found a new home at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. Mercy told the midwives in October it was severing ties after two high-profile medical malpractice cases, though unrelated directly to the hospital, had driven up the cost of insurance and that it was looking for ways to alleviate the financial pressure. The midwives had worried about whether they would be able to find another hospital partner because of the cost and feared women would have less access to care. Mercy covered the more than $50,000 a year in malpractice insurance costs for each midwife at the practice (Walker, 6/16). 

ProPublica: Iowa Court Tosses Sentence In HIV Exposure Case
After a three-year legal battle, Iowa's highest court has thrown out the sentence of Nick Rhoades, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration for criminal transmission of HIV. Rhoades, whose case was central to a ProPublica investigation published last year, pleaded guilty to the charge in 2009 after failing to inform a one-time sexual partner that he was HIV-positive. In a 6-1 ruling issued last week, Iowa's Supreme Court set aside Rhoades' sentence, saying his trial lawyer provided ineffective counsel when he allowed Rhoades to plead guilty to a charge for which there was no factual basis (Hernandez, 6/16). 

Miami Herald: Florida Gov. Rick Scott Signs Medical Marijuana Bill
As he promised, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on Monday that legalizes the use of a non-euphoric strain of marijuana to treat conditions such as epilepsy, Lou Gehrig's disease and cancer. He signed Senate Bill 1030, which approves the medication, and SB 1700, which protects the identities of the patients who use it (Klas an Mitchell, 6/16). 

Miami Herald: Democrats' First Ad Has Old Theme: Rick Scott And Medicare Fraud
The Florida Democratic Party's first TV spot of the 2014 governor's race airs this week and attacks Gov. Rick Scott over an old weakness: Medicare fraud. "Maybe you've heard about what was the largest Medicare fraud in history, committed when Rick Scott was a CEO," says the ad. "Or that Scott's company paid record fraud fines of $1.7 billion." If you haven't heard, then your memory is bad or you didn't turn on a Florida TV set during the height of the 2010 elections, when Scott's Republican rival and then his Democratic opponent ensured that voters knew about the 1997 fine paid by Columbia/HCA, a hospital company Scott built (Caputo, 6/17).

Carolina Public Press/North Carolina Health News: Racial Disparities Persist In WNC Infant Deaths
Shortly after Demekia Kincaid's second child, Lamar, was born, she noticed something was wrong. As a hospital staffer bathed the newborn, his breathing seemed different, like he was breathing hard. Though she was assured he was OK, the problem only got worse. Lamar spent seven days in Mission Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He's now a healthy 15-month-old who loves to shout, "Stop!" Kincaid said with a laugh. And she said he's not expected to have any long-term effects from the problem. But Throughout North Carolina, black infants die at greater rates than white infants, a disparity that persists into the mountainous western counties of the state (Rose, 6/16). 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Health Care Sharing Ministries Working For Members
Health care sharing organization Samaritan Ministries came through when Walter McCaslin's wife had to have a $50,000 knee replacement a year ago. McCaslin, of Wood River, said the non-profit Christian-based company's non-insurance approach to health care needs has been phenomenal. "We didn't pay one penny," he said about the Peoria-based company that has been operating since 1994. "Samaritan Ministries covered the entire amount." Unlike insurance, when a medical need arises among Samaritan Ministries members, his or her name is put on a monthly list sent out to members across the national network. Members then send checks to the patient to cover bills (Luster, 6/16). 

Seattle Times: Whistleblower Testifies Before State Senators On Fairness Of OIC
State senators on Monday heard testimony as to whether people and companies who challenge rulings by some state agencies are getting a fair shake. Specifically, the Senate's Law and Justice Committee held a work session to delve into the role of the administrative hearing officer that presides over disputes at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. They were considering three ideas that could be shaped into proposed laws that would give the hearing officers greater independence when deciding cases (Stiffler, 6/16). 

The CT Mirror: Digital Town Hall: Caregiving And Aging In Connecticut
Connecticut officials describe it as the "silver tsunami:" The state's population of seniors is forecast to rise dramatically in the next decade, while the working-age population declines. That's expected to bring a growth in the need for caregivers -- both people who take care of others professionally and those who do it free, out of love or obligation, for friends or family members. To understand some of the implications of these changes, The Mirror hosted a digital town hall on caregiving and aging in Connecticut, with panelists Anne Foley, undersecretary of the state's Office of Policy and Management; Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Stratford Republican who works as an elder law attorney; and Amy Goyer, an expert on caregiving and families with AARP (6/16).

Georgia Health News: Transplant "Fairness" At Issue For Panel, Georgians 
A committee on liver transplants said Monday that reducing the nation's number of transplant regions -- from the current 11 to four -- could save hundreds of lives. The United Network for Organ Sharing panel said its aim in the initiative is to reduce the current geographic variation in patient access to transplants…Its liver committee's "concept paper," released Monday, estimates that changing the number of regions to four would lead to a reduction of 581 deaths of people on a liver transplant waiting list...But the idea of such a change has already been drawing fire in Georgia (Miller, 6/16).

Modern Healthcare: UnitedHealth Continues To Cut Medicare Advantage Providers
UnitedHealth Group is continuing to eliminate doctors from its provider networks for Medicare Advantage plans in states across the country. In recent weeks, doctors in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Tennessee have received notifications that their services will no longer be covered for patients with United plans. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer is not releasing how many doctors are being eliminated in each state. But a spokesman indicated that the company expects to pare its networks down to 85 percent to 90 percent of their 2013 size. Doctors will have the opportunity to appeal the decision (Demko, 6/16).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis 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.

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