A selection of health policy stories from Florida, New York, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Missouri, Idaho and South Carolina.
Miami Herald: Medicare Awards South Florida Physician Group $4M Bonus
A group of physicians in Palm Beach and Broward counties working under a new Medicare pay-for-performance program qualified for a $4.2 million bonus from the government this year for reducing costs while meeting health care quality benchmarks during their first year in the program. Accountable Care Options, the physician's group, is participating in the Medicare Share Savings Program, which encourages hospitals and doctors to hit certain health care standards designed to lower costs in the long run by reducing medical complications and trips to the emergency room. By focusing on wellness and prevention, and managing individuals with chronic conditions, Accountable Care Options saved more than $8 million for Medicare, the federal health plan for the elderly, according to the company (Chang, 7/8).
The Associated Press: Florida Forced To Stagger Timing Of Payments
Florida is being forced to stagger payments to schools and health care providers because of limits with its 30-year old computer-based accounting system. State officials took the drastic actions because the current system can't pay out $1 billion or more in a single 24-hour period. The state was forced to delay payments twice in June because it had gone over the daily limit. Last week the Department of Financial Services, the agency that handles the accounting system, asked all state agencies to alert them ahead of time if they want to make a payment of $5 million or more (Fineout, 7/8).
The Associated Press: Prison Health Care Costs Stabilize, Report Says
States are spending slightly less on prisoner health care after nearly a decade of steady increases, according to a report released Tuesday. The report from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that in most states, prison health care spending peaked at $8.2 billion in 2009 after nearly a decade of dramatic increases. But by 2011 that total had dropped slightly to $7.7 billion, partly because prison populations decreased (Boone, 7/8).
The Associated Press: N.Y. Lawmakers Back Coverage For Ostomy Supplies
The New York Legislature has voted to require that health insurers provide coverage for equipment and supplies for treating ostomies, intended to help ease the financial burden for people with the chronic condition (7/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Insurer, New York State To Settle Claims
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Wednesday is set to announce a settlement with EmblemHealth Inc. that requires the health-insurance company to change the way that it deals with behavioral-health and substance-abuse claims, his office said. The attorney general's office said its investigation found that since at least 2011, EmblemHealth, through a subcontractor, issued 64 percent more denials of coverage in behavioral-health cases than in medical cases (Vilensky, 7/8).
Des Moines Register: Iowa Medicaid Director Leaving For University Job
Iowa's Medicaid director is leaving the job to take a position at the University of Iowa. Jennifer Vermeer has run the huge program since 2008. Medicaid is the joint federal and state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Her annual salary will be $210,000, a 60 percent increase from the $131,000 in her current job, state officials said (Leys, 7/8).
Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Selected For Program To Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse
A group from Kansas has been selected to participate in a federal program to combat prescription drug abuse. The program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration focuses on increasing access to and use of intervention and treatment resources, developing a state strategic plan for treatment and building evidence-based strategies to address prescription drug abuse. Although Kansas ranked as the eighth lowest state in terms of drug overdose fatalities, with a rate of 9.6 per 100,000 in 2010, that number of drug overdose fatalities in Kansas has nearly tripled from the rate of 3.4 per 100,000 reported in 1999 (7/8).
Reuters: New Hampshire Law Creating Clinic Buffers Is Target Of Lawsuit
A conservative religious group has sued the state of New Hampshire to block a law from taking effect later this week that would establish 25-foot buffer zones around clinics offering abortions. The Alliance Defending Freedom said in papers filed in federal court that last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision knocking down a Massachusetts law establishing similar buffer zones "eliminates any plausible legal justification for the law challenged here" (Siefer, 7/8).
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Feds To Provide Additional $100M For Health Centers
Health centers in Missouri could soon get a piece of a $100 million pie, federal health officials announced today. The Health Resources and Services Administration is now accepting applications nationally from federally qualified health centers, and health centers looking to become federally qualified. The grants will support an estimated 150 new health center sites across the country (Kulash, 7/8).
Roll Call: States Passing Fewer Anti-Abortion Laws
States are passing fewer new abortion restrictions in 2014 than in recent years, due in part to shorter legislative sessions and a host of non-abortion policy debates, according to a new analysis. Twenty-one new laws to limit abortion have been implemented at the state level so far in 2014, roughly half the number that took effect by this month last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The pro-abortion-rights group attributed the slowdown to the looming midterm elections, which lead state legislatures to limit their time in session (Viebeck, 7/8).
Idaho Falls Post/Idaho Statesman: Idaho Medicaid Curbs Payments For Some Disorders
Deseray Burtenshaw's heart sank last month when she received a letter that could change the life of her 4-year-old son. The letter from Optum Idaho, the state's contracted administrator of Medicaid-reimbursed outpatient behavioral health services, said Burtenshaw no longer will be reimbursed for psycho-social rehabilitation to treat her son's ADHD - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- and oppositional defiant disorder. ... Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said 9,203 children received psycho-social rehabilitation in fiscal year 2013. While the number of children removed from psycho-social rehabilitation was not readily available, Smith estimated about half have lost Medicaid coverage for the treatment (Tadayon, 7/9).
The (South Carolina) State: SC Healthy Connections Checkup Could Expand, Improve Health Care For Those On Medicaid
By covering a wider range of screenings, a newly christened, limited version of Medicaid coverage could attract -- and improve the health of -- hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians beginning Aug. 1. S.C. Healthy Connections Checkup is an expansion of what has been called Family Planning coverage, but it's not to be confused with the much-debated federal Medicaid expansion. On the contrary, it's one of several programs pushed by Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Department of Health and Human Services director Tony Keck instead of Medicaid expansion (Holleman, 7/8).
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.