Roundup: N.D. abortion clinic sues to stop new law; Health care savings close budget hole in Conn.; Calif. counties struggle to expand mental health care

A selection of health policy stories from North Dakota, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Texas, Oregon, Oklahoma and North Carolina.

The New York Times: North Dakota's Sole Abortion Clinic Sues To Block New Law
The running battle over the regulation of abortions entered a North Dakota courtroom on Wednesday, as the state's sole abortion clinic sued to block a new law that it says could force it to shut down. The law, requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, was promoted by anti-abortion legislators, who argued that it would mean better care for women who suffer medical emergencies (Eckholm, 5/15).

CT Mirror: Big Health Care Savings Help Counter Shrinking State Budget Revenues
State officials trying to close a last-minute hole in the next budget got some good news Wednesday in the form of major savings in health care costs for retired state employees. The Legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis issued a memo indicating it has reduced its projected cost of providing health care to retired state workers in the fiscal year that begins July 1 by $140.6 million, and in 2014-15 by $166.5 million. The nonpartisan office is boosting the projected health care costs for current employees by $46.7 million in the next budget and by $36.4 million in 2014-15, but the net savings over the next two years still totals $224 million (Phaneuf, 5/15).

HealthyCal: Counties Still Not Prepared To Offer Expanded Mental Health Care
More than one million people in California suffer from mental illness -- the largest number of any state. When the final phase of the new federal health care law starts in January of next year, more California residents than ever before will be able to seek help for problems ranging from depression, anxiety, and addiction to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But mental health providers in the state's Central Valley are unprepared for an influx of thousands of patients (5/16).

Boston Globe: State Health Insurers Post Mixed Financial Results
The state's biggest health insurers ­reported mixed first-quarter financial results Wednesday, with two notching income gains, one registering lower earnings, and one posting a loss. While all of the health insurance companies said they were working to hold down premiums as they rolled out new products and shifted doctors and hospitals to risk-sharing payments, each cited unique factors influencing financial performance in the three months ending March 31 (Weisman, 5/15).

Los Angeles Times: 13 Health Care Workers Arrested In Protest At UC Regents Meeting
Thirteen people were arrested Wednesday at the UC regents meeting during a sit-down protest by health care workers threatening to strike at the system's medical centers. The University of California regents left during the protest while UC police cleared the room, handcuffing the protesters and leading them out of the hall at the Sacramento Convention Center (Gordon, 5/15).

The Texas Tribune: Senate Backs Bill On Psychotropic Drugs For Foster Kids
Lawmakers in both chambers have now endorsed legislation that would require guardians of foster children to take greater caution before giving psychotropic drugs to the children. The Senate on Wednesday approved a version of the "informed consent" measure that is slightly different than the one approved by the House in April (Aaronson, 5/15).

Lund Report: Oregon House Passes Assessments For Hospitals And Nursing Facilities
The House passed assessment taxes on hospitals and long-term care facilities by a wide 54-5 margin Tuesday, ensuring Oregon's health and human service budgets will raise over a billion dollars from providers in coming years and leverage $1.4 billion from the federal government next biennium for Medicaid. Hospitals are compensated for their assessments with higher reimbursements for the Oregon Health Plan while nursing homes are paid for the use of their beds by Medicaid patients. … House Bill 2216 extends an expanded hospital assessment of 5.32 percent for two years. A previous bill, House Bill 2056, was attached to that version, which extends the long-term care facility assessment for six years, while expanding it to include all nursing homes except the Oregon Veterans Home (Gray, 5/15).

Lund Report: Single-Payer Activists Keep Dream Of Universal Health Care Alive In Oregon
Wes Brain was uninsured last winter when a tonsillectomy showed signs of throat cancer. He qualified for the high-risk Oregon Medical Insurance Pool, which the state has administered through Regence BlueCross BlueShield. But gaining access to that insurance soon proved a big obstacle for the Ashland resident, when Regence erroneously told him he hadn't submitted his driver's license. … Eventually, his policy was approved. He paid $2400 -- three month's premium. His doctor ordered a PET scan for March 1. But then Regence came back and told him no, he'd have to wait until March 1 to even begin authorization (Gray, 5/15).

Stateline: Oklahoma's "Life-Preserving" Law Raises Questions For Doctors
University of Tulsa law professor Marguerite Chapman has been studying end-of-life issues in Oklahoma for three decades and has come to a conclusion: "It's getting almost to the point that you need a government permit in order to die in this state." Certainly, dying has gotten a lot more complicated here, the result of a unique measure passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed into law last month by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. Modeled after legislation written by the National Right to Life Committee, the law says that patients who are disabled, elderly or terminally ill cannot be denied life-preserving treatments if they or their health proxies want it (Ollove, 5/16). 

North Carolina Health News: Bill To Compel Insurers To Cover Autism Treatment Advances
For kids with autism in North Carolina, it's possible to get insurance coverage for the process of diagnosing the developmental disorder. But for the bulk of those kids, getting an insurance company to cover treatment is another matter (Hoban, 5/15).

Oregonian: Mental Health Staff In Oregon Prison System Push For Big Raises
A group of unionized mental health workers in the Oregon state prison system wants a pay raise that even they acknowledge is big enough to cause a public relations problem. About 50 mental health specialists who handle inmates with addictions and other mental health problems want to be reclassified because their job descriptions have changed, including a requirement of a master's degree. Under their current proposal, they're seeking raises between 25 percent and 26 percent, which would result in a maximum salary of more than $80,000, according to a memo obtained by The Oregonian (Esteve, 5/15).

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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