State highlights: N.C. Medicaid director resigns, heads to private sector; Ohio readies funding for new Medicaid computer system

A selection of health policy stories from North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Arkansas, New York, Colorado, South Dakota, Florida, Kansas and California.

North Carolina Health News: State Medicaid Director Carol Steckel Resigns
Carol Steckel, the state's Medicaid director, is leaving after eight months on the job. Her departure is the latest in a string of high-profile departures from the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been plagued of late by personnel issues (Hoban, 9/23).

The Associated Press: NC Medicaid Director Leaving For Private Sector
The director of North Carolina's Medicaid program announced Monday that she is leaving, eight months after taking the job. Her departure calls into question the future of a proposal to shift operations of the government health care program for the poor toward the private sector (Robertson,9/23).

The Raleigh News & Observer: NC Medicaid Director Resigns After Eight Months On Job
Legislative leaders from both parties expressed concern over Steckel's decision. The leading House budget writer said he hoped the resignation would slow the momentum toward transferring Medicaid to commercial insurers. And the House minority leader said it was further proof that the General Assembly needs to investigate turmoil at the department and its management of the $14 billion Medicaid program (Neff and Bonner, 9/24).

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: State Board Approves Funding For New Medicaid Computer System, Financial Perks For Omnova Move
The Ohio Controlling Board on Monday approved $116 million for a new Medicaid eligibility computer system as well as state financial incentives for a number of private-sector projects in the Cleveland area. The new software system, designed to handle changes made under the Affordable Care Act, will replace the state's 32-year-old computer system used to determine Medicaid eligibility, Ohio Department of Medicaid spokesman Sam Rossi said. He said the old software is inaccurate 60 percent of the time, forcing county caseworkers to override the system by hand (Pelzer, 9/23).

Columbus Dispatch: $116 Million OK'd To Replace State Medicaid Computer System
The state Controlling Board approved $116 million in mostly federal funds to replace a 32-year-old computer system that determines eligibility for Medicaid and other government programs. With Medicaid expansion possible as state lawmakers return to action, spending requests related to the state-federal health-insurance program are getting scrutiny. Pressed by Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Port Clinton, on whether the new computer system would be able to handle the estimated 275,000 low-income Ohioans that will be added to Medicaid if an expansion is approved, Department of Administrative Services officials assured him it could (Siegel, 9/24). 

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Company Objects Over Being Disqualified From Bidding For Arkansas Medicaid Contract
The head of a Maryland company disqualified from bidding on a Medicaid contract in Arkansas complained Monday that the state relied too much on the knowledge that Louisiana had terminated a similar contract and didn't take into account the firm's performance in other states (9/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Amid Push for Clinics, Some Patients Prefer Hospitals
Health care officials are searching for funds to open smaller clinics as hospitals close. But another obstacle might prove equally hard to overcome: New Yorkers like their local hospitals. Clinics are typically open during business hours, not evenings and weekends. It often takes weeks to get an appointment. Health-care experts say clinics are sometimes perceived as less trustworthy than imposing brick hospitals that have been in the neighborhood for decades. Smaller clinics staffed by local residents create privacy fears in tightly knit cultural communities (Kusisto and Fox, 9/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Brooklyn Grapples With Struggling Hospitals And Demand For Health Care
A new vision for Brooklyn health care was unveiled two years ago with much fanfare: Several struggling hospitals would merge with others, a state panel proposed, and less-expensive outpatients clinics would spring up in their place (Kusisto, 9/23).

Kaiser Health News: Colorado Floods Isolate Hospital At Foot Of Rockies
As snow begins falling in Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, the town at its doorstep, finds itself newly isolated. The only year-round road into or out of town now is the Peak to Peak Highway. It traverses a jumble of mountains all the way -- not the kind of road an ambulance can scream along at 60 miles an hour (Whitney, 9/24).

The Associated Press: South Dakota Clinic Billed As Affordable Health Care Is Expanding Into Aberdeen
A nonprofit organization that provides affordable health care at 18 medical and dental clinics in South Dakota is expanding into Aberdeen. Howard-based Horizon Health Care Inc. has been awarded an $810,000 federal grant to open the clinic and will receive additional funding to operate it, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Mengenhausen told the American News of Aberdeen (9/24).

Health News Florida: Biggest Bid-Winner: Sunshine State Health Plan
Sunshine State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene Corp., won more contracts than any other company in the bidding for a slice of the Florida Medicaid program as it shifts its entire enrollee population into managed-care plans. The Agency for Health Care Administration released the list of bid-winners for the general Medicaid-enrollee population -- mainly mothers and children -- late Monday afternoon, ending a nervous wait by companies, their investors and Wall Street analysts. Billions of dollars are at stake (Gentry, 9/23).

Kansas Health Institute: Work In Progress: KanCare Problems Persist For Providers
KanCare apparently looks different [in rural Smith County] than it does in Topeka. … Brownback officials have tended to paint a rosier picture, particularly when describing the program to the broader public. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer when asked recently about some of the problems said the KanCare initiative was going "better than expected" (Shields, 9/23).

California Healthline: San Diego County's 10-Year Public Health Initiative Shows Early Progress
Three years into a 10-year plan to alter the landscape of public health, the county Health & Human Services Agency is preparing to present its third annual report to the County Board of Supervisors about the progress of Live Well, San Diego! Live Well, San Diego! is a comprehensive public health initiative that involves widespread community partnerships to address the root causes of illness and rising health care costs (Zamosky, 9/23).

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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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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