Roundup: N.J. public may decide if judges should pay more for health care; Ore. Medicaid experiment to launch; Uncertainty around Va. abortion clinic rules

A selection of health policy stories from New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, the District of Columbia, Iowa, California, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio and New York.

The Associated Press/ Assembly Eyes Plan To Hike Judges Benefit Cost
The [New Jersey State] Assembly is set to consider a measure that would allow voters to decide whether New Jersey judges should pay more for their pensions and health benefits. The state Supreme Court ruled last week that judges don't have to contribute more toward pensions and health care despite a new law requiring them to do so. The court said the law diminishes judges' salaries, which are protected by state law. The resolution due to be considered Monday clarifies the Legislature's authority to deduct benefit contributions from salaries. If it's passed by both the Assembly and the state Senate, it could go before voters in November (7/30).

The Associated Press/(Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal: Coordinated Care Organizations Prepare To Launch
Gov. John Kitzhaber and his health care chiefs have spent the past two years trying to convince anyone who will listen that they can fix some of the health care system's most vexing problems: out-of-control costs and less-than-stellar results. Starting this week, it's time to prove it. Oregon created new "coordinated care organizations" charged with taking a more active role in the care of low-income patients on the Oregon Health Plan. The first of those organizations go live on Wednesday with 260,000 patients, and more will launch in the months that follow. Eventually, they'll cover most of the 600,000 people on the Health Plan statewide (Cooper, 7/29).

The Washington Post: Virginia Abortion Clinics Left Wondering If They Must Pay For New State Requirements
The General Assembly voted last year to require the guidelines, which were quickly adopted by the state's Board of Health. In a surprise move, the panel later exempted the state's existing clinics. ... But Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) refused to sign off on the board's decision, arguing that it lacked the legal authority to exclude the operating clinics. Cuccinelli's legal opinion has led to confusion -; and uncertainty -; among many of those who lead the state's 22 clinics that perform abortions, because it's unclear how the board would interpret his position (Kumar, 7/28).

Kaiser Health News: Tennessee Cuts Medicaid Benefit Funding For Some Long-Term Care Patients
In a unique experiment being watched nationally, Tennessee is revising its Medicaid long-term care options to make it harder for certain low-income elderly people to qualify for state-paid nursing home care (Gugliotta, 7/29).

Houston Chronicle: Experts Say All Texans Will Stay On Hook For Medicaid
The bill is a fraction of the $17.3 billion Texas hospitals charge annually to treat the uninsured. Those bills, Health and Human Services Commissioner Thomas Suehs told a Texas House committee this month, are passed on to all Texans. "We're not debating whether somebody gets health care in this state, we're debating how you pay for it," Suehs said. "Either you are going to pay for it through the Medicaid program or private insurance through subsidies or you're going to pay for it through local tax dollars" (Ackerman, 7/30).

The Washington Post: Rebranding St. Elizabeths
After nearly 30 years, four mayors, and countless proposals, the redevelopment of the District's historic, now-shuttered St. Elizabeths mental health institution is finally underway. But District officials have identified one last hurdle to its transformation -- and it's strictly mental. Over the next few years, the city plans to work with developers to build an educational campus, housing, and retail on the eastern portion of the grounds. But after more than a century as a walled sanctuary for the likes of John Hinckley Jr. and the Mount Pleasant sniper, St. Elizabeths has something of an image problem (Shin, 7/28).

Des Moines Register: Legislator Says He Helps Pay Premium
A state representative came forward Saturday with documentation that he has been contributing between $100 and $200 a month from his pay, which he says is to reimburse taxpayers for his health premiums. "I didn't make a big deal out of this when I did it, because I didn't want anyone to think it was just a political stunt," said Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone. The Des Moines Register reported Saturday that no legislators had answered Gov. Terry Branstad's call this month that state employees voluntarily pay 20 percent of their health care premiums. Some lawmakers said they haven't done so because they were led to believe they were ineligible for a new plan that allows for the payments. Lawmakers including Senate Minority leader Jerry Behn, R-Boone, said they were told they couldn't enroll because they are not employees of the executive branch, which was covered by Branstad's executive order reopening state health insurance enrollment options (Clayworth, 7/28).

HealthyCal: Center Keeps Elders On Their Feet
There seems to be dozens of stories like Udi's at the Amputation Prevention Center, the only one of its type in California. The unit, housed at Valley Presbyterian's campus in the San Fernando Valley, is run by a wry, veteran vascular surgeon and a baby-faced podiatrist who contend their team approach has saved the limbs of some 94 percent of the patients they see with wounds, infections or related ailments. The strategy at APC seems simple: All the specialists needed to evaluate and treat a patient in danger of losing a foot or leg are in one place; there's no need for crucial weeks of delay as patients shuttle between doctors' offices, their conditions worsening (Sample, 7/28).

North Carolina Health News: Mental Health Board Fires CEO, Scrambles To Address Funding Shortfall
Western Highlands Network was the first of the state's mental health local management entities to convert to the new managed care model, piloted by Piedmont Behavioral Health. But the switchover has been troubled from the start (Manning, 7/28).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Denver Health Charts Future With New CEO Arthur Gonzalez
Arthur A. Gonzalez will be charged with running a critical institution where 42 percent of its patients are uninsured at a time when state revenue projections are weak and the future of Medicaid expansion is in serious doubt. He succeeds Dr. Patricia Gabow, who is retiring in September after serving as CEO of Denver Health for 20 years. He will begin the new job Sept. 4. With the presidential election four months away and the future of health care reform hanging in the balance, "it's too early to tell" how federal health care reform, including implementation of the Affordable Care Act, will affect safety net providers such as Denver Health, Gonzalez said (Carman, 7/27).

Medpage Today: Ohio Giants Team Up To Speed Tech Development
Two of Ohio's medical research powerhouses are forming an alliance to bring new medical technologies to the market faster. Cleveland Clinic Innovations and Ohio State's technology transfer office announced this week that they will share their service infrastructures to develop and commercialize new medical products – anything from medical devices to software systems to services – and form new startup companies (Pogorelc, 7/27).

California Healthline: Access, Clinic Finances, ED Overuse All Major Concerns For CMA
With health care reform and the state's cutbacks and reorganization of its health care system, the practice of medicine in California is about to undergo major changes. California Medical Association officials have serious concerns about some of those changes. … CMA officials said they are concerned about the state's efforts to reorganize existing services -- such as the duals demonstration project, or the shift of 873,000 children from the Healthy Families program to Medi-Cal managed care (Gorn, 7/30).

California Watch: More Uninsured In San Mateo County To Receive Health Care
In an apparent about-face, the Peninsula Health Care District has approved $4.6 million in funding for a San Mateo County program that provides health care for uninsured, low-income adults. The move follows a Bay Citizen investigation in March, which found that the taxpayer-supported district had rejected a request from the San Mateo County Health System last year for a $4 million grant to help the uninsured. At the time, the district had a $43 million reserve of current public assets (Mieszkowski/Gollan, 7/30).

New York Post: NY Health Care Pays $24B A Year For 'Preventable' Illnesses To Minorities: State Official
It's a financial and human disaster. New York's health-care system is paying a staggering $24 billion a year to help cover sky-high hospital and emergency costs for "preventable" illnesses suffered by minority patients, The Post has learned. State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said the minority communities are not at fault -- he blames a shortage of doctors and a lack of preventive care in their neighborhoods. The maladies and diseases include asthma, diabetes, obesity, HIV, depression, high blood pressure and other heart-related ailments. Shah, who called the situation tragic, announced the jaw-dropping figure during a presentation to his department's minority health council (Campanile, 7/30).

Denver Post: Populist Health Insurance Co-Op For Colorado Wins $69 Million Grant
The state's first consumer-run, populist health insurance co-op launched Friday with a $69 million federal startup loan, opening another uncharted area of the massive Affordable Care Act. The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is the sponsor of the Colorado Health Insurance CO-OP, where policy holders will own the insurer and plow any profits into lowered premiums or better services. Marketing will begin next year and coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014, when the majority of the act kicks in. Sponsors hope for more than 10,000 insured by the first year (Booth, 7/28).

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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