State roundup: Federal judge rejects Calif. request to end oversight of prison health care; States push prescription drug databases; Medicare drug benefit at issue in Utah Senate race

A selection of health policy news from California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin and Texas.

San Francisco Chronicle: CA Request To Take Over Inmate Health Care Denied
A federal judge rejected a request by California prison officials Wednesday to regain control of inmate health care, which has been under court-supervised receivership for six years, and said the state must first show it can provide adequate medical treatment. ... The current receiver, Clark Kelso, has reported improvements in the prisons' medical staff and facilities, and said a "turnaround plan" he proposed for the system in 2008 is about 80 percent complete (Egelko, 5/31).

The Associated Press: Judge Rejects Immediate End To Prison Oversight
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected California's call for an immediate end to federal oversight of medical care in state prisons, ruling that the state has yet to prove that it's ready to retake control. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, of San Francisco, instead proposed a gradual transition back to state control. He set no deadline in the four-page ruling, which comes six years after he appointed a receiver to run inmate health care operations (Thompson, 5/30).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: States Crack Down On Prescription-Drug "Doctor Shopping"
State databases such as one used in Kentucky are designed ... to alert prescribers that someone may be abusing drugs or diverting them for illegal sale. Forty-three states now have databases to keep track of who is getting prescriptions for powerful pain relievers such as oxycodone, Vicodin and Opana (Wisniewski, 5/30).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Study Finds 'Sunshine' Laws Have Little Effect On Prescribing
The Massachusetts 'gift ban,' barring drug- and device-makers from showering doctors with money and meals, was passed way back in 2008, but it remains a live controversy. The House, by my count, has now twice passed repeals of the ban, according to the State House News Service; and it sounds like last week, the Senate once again said no, no repeal, according to Health Care For All. So I figure this new study just out from the Colorado School of Public Health and Harvard will serve as fodder in the ever-swirling debate (Goldberg, 5/30).

California Healthline: Pre-Existing Condition Reform Passes
The Senate passed SB 961 yesterday on a 22-13 vote, largely a partisan split. One day earlier, the Assembly passed its version of the bill, AB 1461 by Bill Monning (D-Carmel) on a 50-27 vote. Both bills would require insurers to cover a minimum set of basic requirements and would forbid them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. ... [Sen. Ed] Hernandez said the state Legislature has to move ahead based on current law, rather than what might or might not happen in the Supreme Court (on the federal health law)(Gorn, 5/31).

Los Angeles Times: Popular Medicare Drug Program Targeted In Utah GOP Primary Battle
As veteran Republican lawmakers are forced to defend their support for any government program in the face of tea-party-backed primary challenges, even Medicare, the popular insurance program for the elderly and disabled, is becoming campaign fodder in the intra-party GOP war. Utah Republican Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist has taken aim at six-term incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch for supporting the creation of a drug benefit in Medicare in 2003, a top priority of then-President George W. Bush (Levey, 5/30).

Kaiser Health News: Psychiatric Patients Languish In Emergency Rooms
Last fall Kathy Partridge got a phone call from a local emergency room, telling her that her daughter, Jessie Glasscock, was there -- and was OK. Glasscock had gone missing overnight.  She was away at college, and had a history of manic episodes. Police had found her in a dumpster and brought her to the ER for her own safety.  It was a huge relief for her mother -- but she was completely surprised by what happened next (Whitney, 5/31). 

Modern Healthcare: Blue Shield of Calif., John Muir Announce ACO Plans
Blue Shield of California announced it entered into an accountable care organization with John Muir Health, a three-hospital system in Walnut Creek, Calif. The accountable care organization, Blue Shield's seventh, will include about 16,000 health plan members and continue for at least 36 months, according to a news release. The ACO will start July 1 but preliminary work is under way (Evans, 5/30). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Health Care System Vow Savings For Exclusive Contracts
Health systems in eastern Wisconsin are taking the first steps toward revamping the way they are paid, laying the groundwork for head-to-head competition on price and quality as well as sweeping changes in the health insurance market. Aurora Health Care is promising employers guaranteed savings if they offer a health plan that requires employees and their families to use only Aurora hospitals, doctors and other services. Froedtert Health, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Columbia St. Mary's Health System are part of a partnership with other health systems in eastern and north-central Wisconsin and northern Illinois that plan to do the same. The initiatives are in the earliest stages. But over time, they could lead to the narrow networks common in the 1990s, when managed care remade the health insurance industry. That would force many patients to change doctors (Boulton, 5/30).

Texas Tribune: Should State Government Play Role in Family Planning? (video)
In Part 3 of our Fertile Ground series, we take a historical look at the role of government in funding family planning -; a long-standing women's health initiative that has become entangled in the battle over abortion (5/31).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from 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.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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