News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues in California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah.
New Orleans Times-Picayune: Louisiana Senate Panel Sinks Plan To Set Up Health Insurance Exchange
[W]ith a decisive 8-1 vote late Tuesday evening, the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee buried a bill that would have set up a body of elected and appointed officials to craft the exchanges that are an anchor of President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul. With the death of Senate Bill 744, Louisiana remains one of a handful of states that have refused to set up their own exchanges, with Gov. Bobby Jindal punting the job back to federal government that he accuses of taking over the American health care system (Barrow, 5/15).
Reuters/Chicago Tribune: In Abortion Move, Kansas Pharmacists Can Refuse Some Prescriptions
The Republican governor of Kansas has signed a law allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs they believe may induce abortions, a move opponents said could hinder some women's access to birth control. Governor Sam Brownback's office said on Tuesday that the bill "gives more legal protection to Kansas health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions" based on their conscience (Murphy, 5/15).
Kansas Health Institute News: New Law Extends Legal Protections For Refusal Of Abortion-Related Care
Current law already prohibits forcing health care providers to participate in abortions and protects from lawsuits those who refuse to participate. SB 62 extends that liability protection to all medical care facilities, administrators and governing boards. ... Brownback also signed House Bill 2631, which will allow dental hygienists with a Level III Extended Care Permit to provide more types of care to underserved patients. Procedures allowed under the new permit include certain types of temporary fillings, smoothing chipped teeth, adjusting dentures and applying local anesthetics (5/15).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Utah Technology Director Resigns In Wake Of Data Theft At State Health Department
Utah's chief technology officer has resigned following the theft of hundreds of thousands of online medical records from state computers by unknown hackers (5/15).
Kaiser Health News: Attention Health Care Shoppers: Colorado's Price List For Procedures
Shopping for the best price for a given health care need is nearly impossible. Unlike shopping for other big ticket items, there's no place to compare prices. Providers often can't, or won't, quote a price for a given procedure -- different people are charged different rates based on what kind of coverage they have, or whether they have coverage at all (Whitney, 5/16).
Boston Globe: Mass. Health Insurers' Earnings Fall Off
After registering sharply higher earnings in 2011, the state's nonprofit health insurers posted falling operating income -- and in two cases, operating losses -- for the first quarter of this year as they handled more medical claims. The early months of the year typically bring more claims. People delay elective procedures until after the holidays and insurance companies have to make payments for supplemental Medicare policies until members meet their deductibles and government funding kicks in. But another factor affected health insurers' finances in the first quarter of 2012: mounting pressure to hold down premiums (Weisman, 5/15).
Fox News: I'm Paying For What?! Mandated Health Insurance Benefits
Ten states require health insurance plans to cover antipsychotic drugs. Nine states say health plans must cover bone marrow transplants. Clinical trials for cancer patients are required benefits in 29 states. Those are just a few examples of state health insurance mandates. As of Dec. 31, 2011, states had enacted 2,262 such laws, according to the "Health Insurance Mandates in the States 2011" report by the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI) in Washington, D.C. (Marquand, 5/15).
KQED: Cash-Only Practices: Better For Patients Or Just Better for Doctors?
Some primary care doctors around the Bay Area are converting to cash-only practices, rather than taking insurance payments. Doctors who choose this model are leaving some of their patients behind. ... [Dr. Samir Qamar:] "We don' think primary care needs insurance. I think it's ridiculous to pay $500 a month to be treated for a sinus infection every spring. Insurance should be saved for the catastrophes" (Menghrajani, 5/15).
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Court To Hear Appeal Of Pa.'s Risperdal Lawsuit
Johnson & Johnson's courtroom fights over Risperdal resume in Philadelphia on Wednesday, when Commonwealth Court judges are scheduled to hear an appeal of decisions to dismiss Pennsylvania's 2008 lawsuit that alleged the company fraudulently profited from sales of the antipsychotic drug through the Medicaid program. While Pennsylvania's case did go to trial in Philadelphia, it did not get far. In 2010, a Philadelphia judge threw out the lawsuit, which sought to show that J&J had tricked the state into paying millions more for the drug than it should have (Sell, 5/16).
California Healthline: Senate Committee Rejects Care Changes
Hearings on the latest round of cuts -- including $2.5 billion in reductions to health care programs in California -- are scheduled to start today ... At last Thursday's Senate subcommittee hearing, government officials proposed several ways to cut back on nursing home regulation. ... The "special fund efficiencies" included elimination of the periodic survey that identifies nursing home deficiencies, and to repeal the 45-day deadline for investigating adverse events at hospitals (Gorn, 5/16).
California Watch: Calif. Schools Employing Fewer Nurses, Librarians
California is issuing fewer credentials for public school service positions. ... School nurse credentials saw the biggest drops, with just 209 issued in 2010-11 – a 26.4 percent decline from 2006-07. At the same time, the number of school nurses employed in public schools fell by 13.3 percent to 2,474 (Lin, 5/16).
North Carolina Health News: NC Faces Potentially Massive Legal Settlement Over Housing For Mentally Ill
Close to a year of negotiations between the state Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Justice over North Carolina's practice of housing people with mental health problems in adult care homes could mean the state is on the hook for tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars. ... The situation dates back to 2010, when Disability Rights North Carolina wrote to the US Department of Justice, complaining about the state' use of adult care homes to house thousands of people with mental health disabilities (Hoban, 5/16).
The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Customers Of LifeWise Health Plan And Health Net May Expect Rebates
In Oregon, customers from two for-profit insurance companies – LifeWise Health Plan and Health Net of Oregon – are likely to benefit from these [medical loss ratio] rebates, based on financial information filed with the Oregon Insurance Division. At the end of 2011, the medical-loss ratio for LifeWise was 78.3 percent overall compared to Health Net's average of 78.79 percent (Lund-Muzikant, 5/15).
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.