A selection of health policy news from Florida, Minnesota, Utah, Oregon, Georgia, Wisconsin and California.
Medscape: Appeals Court Hears Arguments On Physician Gun-Gag Law
The top attorney for the state of Florida asked a federal appeals court today to reinstate a Florida law that regulates what physicians can ask patients about gun ownership, asserting that the law does not actually stifle such questions. Yes, it does, countered a lawyer representing several Florida medical societies and individual physicians who challenged the law as an infringement on their First Amendment right to free speech (Lowes, 7/18).
MPR News: U Of M Wants To Scale Back Employee Health Care Coverage
One of the state's largest employers is proposing to scale back its employee health plans to avoid a massive tax penalty under the new federal health care law. The University of Minnesota is considering changes for 2014 that would increase copays for primary and specialty care, require employees to pay deductibles, and establish a cheaper, but more limited plan for Twin Cities area employees, among other things. The changes would apply to employees but not students (Richert, 7/18).
The Associated Press: Fewer Utah Doctors Caring For Medicaid Patients
Fewer Utah doctors are willing to care for a growing number of Medicaid patients, according to analysts at the Utah Legislature. The latest figures show the number of Utah medical providers willing to take Medicaid patients has dwindled to 2,517, down by 25 percent from 3,366 in 2008 (7/18).
The New York Times: Heroin In New England, More Abundant And Deadly
Heroin, which has long flourished in the nation's big urban centers, has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England (Seelye, 7/18).
The Lund Report: Legislation Failed, Yet Dental Integration Moves Forward
Coordinated care organizations have started the tricky work of integrating dental care into their health care delivery system for the Oregon Health Plan, now that legislation pushed by dental organizations has failed, and the ground rules have become more settled. Senate Bill 373, pushed most ardently by Advantage Dental, would have guaranteed contracts for all the existing dental organizations through 2017, but the CCOs resisted that demand, and the bill died in the budget committee after clearing the Senate Health Committee (Gray, 7/19).
Georgia Health News: Doctors Blast Slow Pace of Medicaid Raise
The delay in a pay raise for Medicaid doctors in Georgia is "inexcusable and unacceptable,"' physician groups say. On Thursday, an email letter to Jerry Dubberly, the state Medicaid chief, urged the state Department of Community Health and vendor HP "to accelerate the process to resolve the IT readiness problems that are reportedly responsible for this significant delay" (Miller, 7/18).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lawmaker Seeks Bill To Rein In Podiatrist's Practices
A Wisconsin lawmaker is calling for a bill that protects patients from unexpected medical fees by requiring podiatrists to disclose if they are in a patient's health insurance network before treatment. The proposed legislation comes three days after the Journal Sentinel reported on Milwaukee-area foot doctor John Lanham, who over the course of 12 years has triggered 92 formal complaints with the state regulatory agency, most related to excessive fees or fraudulent billing practices. Lanham told the Journal Sentinel that he survived on the "ignorance" of patients who don't know the details of their insurance plans and said he would not be able to make a living as an independent physician if he was forced to disclose his fees before treating clients (Koran, 7/18).
California Healthline: Scope Of Practice A Hot Topic Across U.S.
A panel of health care experts, outlining proposed and pending changes in scope-of-practice laws across the country yesterday, said California's advancement of four bills in the current session is just the tip of the national legislative iceberg. "There could never be more state activity at this level, because every single state is under pressure in terms of needing to solve workforce issues," said Kavita Patel, an internist at Johns Hopkins and the managing director for clinical transformation and delivery at the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution. … Patel said 827 bills were proposed nationwide to change scope of practice last year. She said 124 of them were enacted in 29 states (Gorn, 7/18).
California Healthline: Treatment Trends Pushing Diabetic Amputations Down List Of Options
Diabetes is on the rise in California and the nation, but one of the most feared outcomes of the disease -- amputation -- may be waning. Advanced complications of diabetes, such as nerve damage, gangrene and infection, can lead to the need to amputate legs and feet. But the decision to amputate may be moving down and sometimes off the list of treatment options. At podiatry clinics and wound care centers in California, patients with advanced diabetes who might be candidates for amputation are being treated with alternatives aimed at making amputation a last -- rather than primary -- option (Gorn, 7/18).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org 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.