Roundup: Lessons from Mass. health reform; Berwick moves closer to gov. bid; Jindal reverses Medicaid hospice cut

A roundup of health policy news from Massachusetts, Louisiana, Georgia, Minnesota, Virginia, California and Kansas.

The Associated Press/Miami Herald: Massachusetts' Law Set Stage For National Health Overhaul, Becomes A Template For Other States
When Massachusetts adopted its landmark health care law in 2006, the goals were ambitious and the potential solutions complex. ... What are they getting in return? ... more people visiting doctors, more employees getting coverage through their jobs and an increase of insured residents to 98 percent, far above the national average, ... Other states would also do well to note the difficulties resulting from the law: a shortage of primary care doctors, which is expected to be an unintended consequence of the federal law, and an increase in the number of procedures that insurers were required to pay for, which raised costs (LeBlanc, 1/24).

Politico: Ex-Medicare Chief Moves Toward Run For Governor
Former Medicare chief Don Berwick stepped closer to a run for Massachusetts governor this week, organizing a fundraising committee that will test the traction of a potential candidacy. "This does not represent a change. In other states, this would be called an exploratory committee," Berwick, a Democrat, told POLITICO on Wednesday. "I've not set a deadline for a final decision" (Cheney, 1/24).

The Associated Press: Louisiana Shelves Cut To Medicaid Hospice Program
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration scrapped plans Wednesday to shutter the state's Medicaid hospice program in February, meaning the state will continue to provide end-of-life care to people on their death beds who can't afford private insurance. Jindal's health secretary Bruce Greenstein made the announcement as hospice program supporters were gathering for a candlelight vigil on the state capitol steps to protest the cut (Deslatte, 1/24).

Georgia Health News: Project Shows Progress On Hospital Readmissions
Fourteen communities in a national care improvement project -; including an area in suburban Atlanta -; saw a significant decrease in Medicare patients who were rehospitalized within 30 days of a discharge, a new study shows. ... This area -; designated a community for purposes of the project -; is east of the city of Atlanta. Overall Medicare hospitalizations in that area also fell by 7.37 percent. The group of 14 communities nationally reduced readmissions by 5.7 percent over a two-year period, vs. a 2 percent drop in a control group. (Miller, 1/23).

The Associated Press/ABC News: After Shootings, States Rethink Mental Health Cuts
Dozens of states have slashed spending on mental health care over the last four years, driven by the recession's toll on revenue and, in some cases, a new zeal to shrink government. But that trend may be heading for a U-turn in 2013 after last year's shooting rampages by two mentally disturbed gunmen. The reversal is especially jarring in statehouses dominated by conservative Republicans, who aggressively cut welfare programs but now find themselves caught in a crosscurrent of pressures involving gun control, public safety and health care for millions of disadvantaged Americans (Beaumont, 1/23).

Kansas Health Institute: Mental Health Initiative To Target People Headed For Jail Or Mental Hospitals
A new mental health initiative proposed earlier this month by Gov. Sam Brownback would target services to mentally ill people considered most at risk of being jailed or sent to a state hospital. Additional details of the plan, which is still on the drawing board, were described today at a meeting of the Mental Health Coalition of Kansas (Ranney, 1/23).

MPR: Bill Would Fund Spine, Brain Injury Research
Two DFL lawmakers are proposing to create a state grant program that would dedicate $4 million each year to spinal cord and traumatic brain injury research. Senate author Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis said his legislation would funnel the state funds to a public research entity. Hayden said the state should be a partner in finding a cure for spinal and brain injuries because the state often pays for the long-term care associated with the conditions (Benson, 1/23).

HealthyCal: Urban Babies More Likely To Be Hospitalized
Babies living in California's rural counties were less likely to be hospitalized in the first year of life than their urban counterparts, according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers analyzed records for more than 6.4 million babies born in California between 1993 and 2005, calculating the rate of non-birth hospital utilization before the babies' first birthdays (Bartos, 1/24).

The Associated Press: Va. Agency Pulls Public Access To Hospital Reports
The Virginia Department of Health will no longer provide public access to its hospital complaint investigations after an Associated Press story found inconsistencies in the probe of a woman's care at Inova Fairfax Hospital. The change in policy was ordered by the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid, ... Inova has denied wrongdoing and said its care was appropriate. No action has been taken against the hospital (Barakat, 1/23).

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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