State highlights: New La. abortion restrictions; new Mass. hospital deal; Medicare and ambulances in N.J.

A selection of health policy stories from Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Georgia, Missouri, Maryland, New York, Kansas and Washington state.

The Associated Press: Louisiana: Governor Signs New Abortion Restrictions
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday signed into law new restrictions against abortion, saying they will protect women and the unborn. The biggest change will require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a hospital that is within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed and that provides obstetric or gynecological health services (6/12).

WBUR: Health Care Leaders Call For Closer Scrutiny Of Partners Deal
In an unusual, perhaps unprecedented move, leaders from across the health care industry are calling for closer scrutiny of a deal that would cap prices for Partners HealthCare in the short term but would let the state's largest hospital network add four more hospitals. The deal that is fueling letters, analysis, statements and meetings is between Partners HealthCare and Attorney General Martha Coakley. She says it will limit Partners' clout and the health care "Goliath's" (her word) ability to drive up costs. That might be true. But no one has seen any details (Bebinger, 6/12).

ProPublica: Medicare Taken For Ride By Ambulance Company In New Jersey
To grasp Medicare's staggering bill for ambulance rides in New Jersey, just visit the busy parking lot of the DaVita St. Joseph's dialysis clinic in the town of Paterson. More than 20 ambulances and a handful of wheelchair vans were parked outside on a recent morning there. Emergency medical technicians wheeled patients in and out on stretchers. As soon as one ambulance departed, another took its place (Ornstein, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Governors Remain Cautious On Spending, Even As Tax Collections Grow
When states decide to increase spending, they often boost funding for K-12 and higher education. More money is also going to health care programs for poor and disabled residents. Enrollment in Medicaid has jumped in part because of the federal health care law, which pumps more money into the states to expand the number of residents who are covered. The association expects the Medicaid rolls to grow by 18.9 percent from 2013 through 2015 (Peters, 6/12).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Physician Fees 50% Higher In Southeastern Wisconsin, Study Finds
Physician fees in southeastern Wisconsin are almost 50 percent higher on average than other Midwest markets for commercial health plans, according to a study released Thursday. The study for the Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health found that health plans paid physicians fees that were 30 percent to 74 percent higher than other Midwest markets, with the exception of Minneapolis, in 2012. The difference is estimated to increase premiums for employers and individuals in southeastern Wisconsin by 15 percent compared with other Midwest markets (Boulton, 6/12).

Georgia Health News: Agencies Unite In Crackdown On Illegal Care Homes
The state's main health agency said Thursday that it has formed a partnership with the GBI to crack down on unlicensed personal care homes. Clyde Reese, the commissioner of the Department of Community Health, told the agency's board that the partnership, which includes Adult Protective Services from the Department of Human Services, will mount "an aggressive effort to put [unlicensed homes] out of business." These facilities deliver "substandard care to the elderly and disabled,'' Reese said (Miller, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Missouri Medicaid Can't Count On Tobacco Proceeds 
Missouri's budget concerns are continuing to mount. Attorney General Chris Koster's office says the state cannot count on receiving $50 million of tobacco settlement proceeds in time to be used during the 2015 budget year that starts July 1. The Legislature had assumed the money would be available to help pay pharmaceutical costs in the state's Medicaid program (6/12). 

Politico: Abortion Becomes Issue In Louisiana Senate
Louisiana's rightward tilt on abortion rights is opening up one of the brightest political contrasts in the race between Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. The rivals have, for now, battled to a stalemate on some of Louisiana's parochial issues like flood insurance and energy expansion. But Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) Thursday signing of restrictive abortion rights legislation is underscoring the yawning gap between the two candidates on social issues (Everett, 6/12).

Baltimore Sun: Health care Lobbyists Run Negative Ad Against Baltimore Democrat
Maryland health care lobbyists have launched a negative radio ad against East Baltimore Democrat Julius Henson, who is challenging State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in this month's primary election. The ad, paid for by Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative Inc., praises the public health record of McFadden and criticizes Henson, a long-time campaign operative who does not support a plan to increase the tobacco tax (Broadwater, 6/12). 

The New York Times: Anti-Overdose Drug Becoming An Everyday Part Of Police Work
Once the exclusive purview of paramedics and emergency room doctors, administering lifesaving medication to drug users in the throes of an overdose is quickly becoming an everyday part of police work amid a national epidemic of heroin and opioid pill abuse (Goodman and Hartocollis, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Hearing Probes Jail Violence, Mental Health Care
New York City lawmakers peppered correction and health officials with questions about how to reduce violence and better care for a growing mentally ill inmate population in the nation's second-largest jail system during a specially called oversight hearing Thursday. In three hours of testimony, the commissioners for the departments of correction and health and mental hygiene detailed both the bureaucratic inner-workings of how their two agencies, tasked respectively with both the custody and health care of roughly 11,000 daily inmates, interact now -- and what they can do better to reform a jail system advocates, lawmakers and even the department of correction commissioner himself have called troubled (6/12). 

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Hospitals, Physicians Agree to Pre-surgery Checklist
A coalition of Wichita-area doctors and hospitals on Wednesday announced the adoption of a pre-surgery checklist designed to put the city's operating rooms among the safest in the nation. "If you go to the Hospital Compare website and look at 'antibiotic prophylaxis ordered' under 'procedures and core measures,' you'll see that we're at 99-plus percent," said Dr. Randall Morgan, an obstetrician and chair of the Wichita Quality Health Collaborative's Surgical Safety Committee. "We're meeting all of the quality-of-care markers, and we're at or above all the state averages and all the national averages. We're where we're supposed to be. "But you wouldn't want to be in the 1 percent that didn't get the antibiotic," he said. "That's what this is about" (Ranney, 6/12).

Seattle Times: Big Cuts Possible At King County Public Health Clinics
Budget cuts are nothing new to local public health departments, but this time it's different, Dr. David Fleming told his staff at Public Health -- Seattle & King County on Thursday. Facing a shortfall of $15 million per year for the next two years, Public Health is proposing to close up to four of its 10 public health clinics, said Fleming, director and public health officer. The clinics provide family planning, and maternity and infant support services for patients with income, language, social or mental difficulties who have trouble getting help elsewhere (Ostrom, 6/12). 

Seattle Times: Officials Vow To End "Deplorable" Practice Of Boarding Mentally Ill
King County's top mental-health administrator has pledged to eliminate the controversial practice of warehousing severely mentally ill patients in hospital emergency rooms while they await proper treatment. It's an admittedly ambitious goal, given that nine of every 10 patients who were involuntarily admitted for psychiatric care in King County this February experienced the practice -- officially called "psychiatric boarding" -- according to data Jim Vollendroff presented to a Metropolitan King County Council committee hearing this week. That's a sharp increase from the same month in 2013, when six of every 10 were boarded (Mannix, 6/12). 

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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