State roundup: Retiree health costs soaring; Calif.'s duplicate surgical payments; Georgia's AIDS drug waiting list shrinks

A selection of news articles about state health policy issues.

The Associated Press: Study: State Pension Shortfall Ballooned In 2010
Recession-plagued states diverted scarce money away from pensions to pay for more immediate concerns, leaving a $757 billion hole in the retirement funds covering millions of public employees, according to a study released Monday. … States also faced a $627 billion shortfall in health care services for retirees. Essentially, for every $1 they'll eventually have to pay out in health care, states had set aside only 5 cents (Wills, 6/19).

The Associated Press: University Of Calif. Faces Mounting Pension Costs
The cost of pensions and retiree health benefits are soaring at the University of California, increasing pressure to raise tuition and cut academic programs at one of the nation's leading public college systems. ... The unfunded liability for its retiree health program was $14.6 billion in July 2011. UC is expected to spend $270 million on retiree health care this year, and that amount is expected to rise significantly over the next several years (Chea, 6/19).

California Watch: Calif. Hospitals Collect Duplicate Payments For Spinal Surgeries
California hospitals got paid twice, to the tune of $67.5 million in 2010, for spinal surgeries performed on workers' compensation patients. That's according to a new study from the California Workers' Compensation Institute. These unusual duplicate payments – which only apply to spinal surgeries – stem from the way that the state workers' compensation program reimburses health care providers for care (Yeung, 6/19).

The New York Times: Fast Access To Records Helps Fight Epidemics
More than one-third of the nation's 5,000 acute care hospitals now use electronic medical records, and the share of primary care doctors using them has doubled to 40 percent in the last two years ... The technology's spread is helping "officials faced with events of public health significance to know sooner, act faster and manage better," said Dr. Seth Foldy, a senior adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Freudenheim, 6/18).

California Healthline: California Offers HIPAA Security Rule Toolkit
Last week, the California Office of Health Information Integrity released an online toolkit to help California physicians, hospitals and other health care providers understand and adhere to the HIPAA Security Rule. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act established national standards for the protection of certain information in electronic health records. ... A couple of privacy experts offered mixed reviews of the new tool (Lauer, 6/18).

San Francisco Chronicle: Court: Unsupervised Nurses Can Give Anesthetics
The state Supreme Court has refused to bar specially trained nurses from giving anesthetics to hospital patients in California without a doctor's supervision. The court's order, issued last week, ends a legal battle between an alliance of nurses and hospitals, on one side, and California physicians, who were joined on the other side by the American Medical Association and doctors' organizations in other states. The order will have its greatest impact in rural areas (Egelko, 6/19).

KQED: PTSD Among Middle Eastern Refugees In California
California has resettled more Middle Eastern refugees over the past decade than any other state in the U.S. In Northern California, Santa Clara County is a resettlement hub for Middle Eastern refugees -; more than 1,300 have moved there since 2006. The majority of these refugees are from Iran and Iraq, and many carry memories of past trauma with them (Kalantari, 6/18).

Georgia Health News: Insurance Plan Cuts Waiting List For HIV Drugs
In January, Georgia had the longest waiting list in the nation for people with HIV to receive government drug assistance. At that time, the state had 1,348 people waiting to join the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Now, less than six months later, it's only about one-third of that: 490. … The decrease in the waiting list reflects the movement of many Georgians into the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. That's a provision of the 2010 health reform law that serves as a safety-net plan (Miller, 6/18).

The Wall Street Journal's Metropolis: After Deal On Disabled, A Noisy Critic Remains
As political leaders hailed a deal Monday to overhaul [New York] state protections for the mentally and physically disabled, Michael Carey stalked the halls of the Capitol here with an unrelenting message: The legislation wouldn't stop abuse (Mann, 6/18).

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.



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