News outlets report on health care policy issues in California, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Carolina.
Reuters: Illinois Governor Proposes Plan To Rein In Medicaid
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Thursday proposed a plan that he said would save the state's Medicaid health program for the poor from collapse by slashing spending and raising revenue via an increase in the cigarette tax. The Democratic governor's $2.7 billion plan calls for saving $1.35 billion a year by reducing eligibility and coverage, eliminating programs, and other efficiencies. It also calls for dropping rates paid to providers to save another $675 million, and increasing the state's cigarette tax by $1 per pack to raise $335.7 million annually (Pierog, 4/19).
Chicago Tribune: Lawmakers Skeptical Of Quinn Medicaid Cuts, $1 Tax On Cigarette Packs
Gov. Pat Quinn challenged lawmakers Thursday to approve a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax and accept major cuts in the state's health care program for the poor, but many Democrats and Republicans view the plan as more a work in progress than a final deal. ... Among Quinn's suggested cuts are eliminating a discount prescription program for seniors and people with disabilities as well as removing thousands of patients from Medicaid by scaling back who is eligible. The governor also called for getting rid of dental and chiropractic care for adults and limiting what the state would cover for people with HIV and cancer (Garcia, Long and Groeninger, 4/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Police, Pill Mills And Privacy
Politicians, law-enforcement officials and physicians in Kentucky are locking horns over a proposed bill to crack down on the abuse of prescription drugs, in a debate that pits patient privacy against efforts to curb the nation's expanding epidemic of addiction to painkillers. … The Republican-controlled Senate is considering a vote as early as Friday on a bill that would restrict ownership of pain clinics to licensed physicians and give law enforcement easier access to the state's prescription-drug database, which tracks writers and recipients of prescriptions, as well as where the drugs are dispensed (Martin, 4/19).
The Washington Post: If Thompson Doesn't Sell Chartered, It Will Likely Lose DC Health-Care Contract
Wayne Turnage, director of the District's Department of Health Care Finance, told a D.C. Council committee that as long as D.C. Chartered Health Plan remains in (Jeffrey E.) Thompson's hands, it should not expect to continue managing the health care of low-income city residents after its contract expires in May 2013 (DeBonis, 4/19).
The Associated Press: SC Agency Says Information Leaked On 228K People
Authorities say personal information was stolen from more than 228,000 Medicaid patients in South Carolina. Anthony Keck is the state's Health and Human Services director. He says information such as Medicaid ID numbers, names and addresses were taken by an employee. Keck says the employee compiled the data over several months and then sent it to his private email account (Collins, 4/19).
Los Angeles Times: UCLA Doctor Sues Regents, Alleging Bias
A UCLA physician has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, alleging that he was routinely publicly humiliated and once was depicted as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show presentation during a resident graduation event. In a 40-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, Dr. Christian Head, a head and neck surgeon, accused the university of failing to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation (Branson-Potts, 4/20).
Kansas Health Institute: House Leader Preparing Proviso For KanCare Carve-Out
House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid is preparing a budget proviso that would "carve out" until 2014 long-term services for the developmentally disabled from Gov. Sam Brownback's Medicaid makeover plan. The proviso has been cleared with the Governor's Office, according to sources in the Legislature and the administration, which means it likely will move through the Legislature with little or no opposition (Shields, 4/19).
Kansas Health Institute: New Drug Disposal Program Unveiled
The new program will allow people to return unused drugs that are not controlled substances to participating pharmacies. "Storing unwanted or expired medications in the home poses a significant health risk to Kansas families. Children can be injured or even die from accidental ingestion," said KDHE Secretary Dr. Robert Moser. "This medication disposal program is a collaborative effort in providing a way for Kansans to safely and conveniently get rid of uncontrolled medications" (McLean, 3/19).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Judge To Rule On City's New Health Plan
A judge will decide Friday whether Milwaukee police must pay deductibles as part of a new health insurance plan imposed by the city, the first time a state court will weigh in on a wrinkle that emerged from Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill. While Act 10 removed nearly all collective bargaining for most public employees, it specifically exempted police and firefighters. But the 2011-'13 state budget gave local governments authority to select and design health insurance plans and noted that even the impact of those choices on workers' wages, hours and conditions of employment are not subject to bargaining. With that tool in hand, the Milwaukee Common Council last July tried to impose $500 and $1,000 deductibles for single and family plans, as well as 10% co-pays with $1,000 maximums for singles and $2,000 for families. The union objected (Bruce Vielmetti, 4/19).
The Sacramento Bee: Health Resources On Spanish-Language Site
Californians for Patient Care, the Sacramento-based patient advocacy organization, has launched a Spanish-language website and online database providing access to more than 5,000 low- and no-cost health care resources statewide (Glover, 4/20).
WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Communities Find Health Cost Savings Through New Law
A new survey finds that about three-quarters of cities and towns in the region are beginning to save millions of dollars in health insurance costs after a 2011 law that made it easier for communities to change health plans or join with the Group Insurance Commission. According to the new report from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and The Boston Foundation, 78 of 101 communities have implemented such reforms, or are planning to (Zimmerman, 4/19).
San Francisco Chronicle: Analysis Says Calif. Prison Medical Costs Too High
As the state prepares to resume control of inmate medical care, it must find ways to reduce costs that are triple the national average, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said Thursday. The federal receivership that has been in place since 2006 has greatly improved the medical care of state prison inmates but also has caused costs to soar, according to the report. California spends $16,000 per inmate for health care services, compared to an average of $5,000 in other states (Thompson, 4/19).
The Miami Herald: Jackson Health System Reveals A Few Details On Strategic Plan
In the midst of the largest layoffs in Jackson Health System's 94-year history, the new chief strategy officer offered some thoughts Thursday to the governing board on ways to create revenue for the troubled system -; while county commissioners demanded a closed-door meeting to hear specifics. Jeffrey Crudele, who took over the strategy job two weeks ago after the sudden death of Donn Szaro, gave board members timetables for some ideas -; such as hiring 100 primary care physicians in the next three years -; but he said that these were just initial thoughts, not a complete strategic plan (Dorschner, 4/19).
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.