State highlights: N.Y. legalizes medical marijuana; La. Medicaid paid for ineligible inmate care; Md. checking Medicaid rolls for unqualified

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas.

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana
New York on Monday became the 23rd state to legalize certain forms of marijuana for medical reasons as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation into law at an event in Manhattan. The measure, which passed both houses of the legislature during the final moments of the legislative session, in June, is significantly more restrictive than other medical-marijuana laws in the nation (Orden, 7/7). 

The Associated Press: Louisiana Medicaid Paid $2.7M To Ineligible Inmates, Audit Says 
Louisiana's health department made nearly $2.7 million in Medicaid payments for state prisoners, who are not eligible for the benefits, according to a state audit. The audit, released Monday, says the monthly Bayou Health and Louisiana Behavioral Health Program payments were made for 2,644 inmates over the 23 months ending Dec. 31, 2013. The Department of Health and Hospitals pays a monthly fee for each participant to the contractors which run the two programs. About 27 percent of the payments were for participants who were incarcerated before the programs began, the auditors wrote (7/7).

Baltimore Sun: Maryland To Begin Check Of Medicaid Rolls Again
Maryland officials are poised to again review their Medicaid rolls for those who no longer qualify. The state ceased such reviews for six months as it worked to open the new online marketplace for people to buy public and private insurance plans and adjust to new rules. The absence of such reviews was estimated to cost taxpayers up to $30 million, though officials believe the amount will be lower. "There will be some kind of analysis," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, state health secretary. "But it could take a few months" (Cohn, 7/6).

Kaiser Health News: In Unhealthy Eastern Tennessee, Limited Patient Options Bring Some Of The Country's Cheapest Premiums
Angela Allen's struggle to ease her neck pain has been a huge pain in the neck. Her regular spine doctor does not accept the new insurance she bought through the federal health marketplace. Allen, who has two slipped disks in her neck vertebrae, said the closest specialist she found who would see her and take her insurance works 34 miles away in another county. She belatedly learned that her physical therapist also is out of network and she owes $900. 'It's been a nightmare,' said Allen, a 42-year-old office manager (Rau, 7/8).

Texas Tribune: State Halts Foster Care Placements With Contractor
Following the drowning of two foster children in Lake Georgetown on Sunday, the Department of Family and Protective Services has placed a temporary hold on foster care placements by a state contractor that was responsible for overseeing the children's care. DFPS said on Monday that placements of foster care children with Providence Service Corporation have been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into the death of a 4-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister, who had been placed in a Cedar Park foster home. Officials with Providence could not immediately be reached for comment (Ura, 7/7).

Baltimore Sun: Howard Co. Health Dept. Launches Plan To Combat Rising Drug Overdoses 
The number of drug overdoses related to heroin and prescription painkillers in Howard County is on the rise -- a trend that has led the county Health Department to launch a series of initiatives aimed at reducing incidents. The prevention plan is called the Opioid Overdose Response Program, and is an 11-page document created earlier this year. Chief among the initiatives is a class that offers high-risk residents training and access to an antidote called Naloxone, a prescription drug that counteracts the debilitating effect painkillers, or opioids, have on the central nervous system (Lavoie, 7/7).

Baltimore Sun: In Maryland, Smoking Could Cost Your Job
Anyone who wants a job next year at Anne Arundel Medical Center -- whether as a surgeon or security guard -- will have to prove they don't smoke or use tobacco. The Annapolis hospital's new hiring policy might be controversial, but it is legal in Maryland and more than half of the United States. And it's a type of job screening that is gaining favor with employers -- from hospitals to companies such as Alaska Airlines -- trying to control rising health costs and cultivate a healthier, more productive workforce. Anne Arundel Medical Center, like a growing number of health systems, universities and other businesses, will require a urine test for nicotine use for all applicants starting next July. The policy -- which will not apply to current employees -- is just one piece of the hospital's existing ban on tobacco use that was expanded July 1 to apply at all hospital buildings and surrounding public sidewalks, parking lots and garages. It covers not only cigarettes, but cigars, pipes, snuff and e-cigarettes (Mirabella, 7/6).

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Consortium Aims To Lower Medicaid Costs
Local health providers are collaborating on a Medicaid-related, cost-cutting program that could mean more public dollars and enhanced savings for the Rochester region over time, local hospital officials said Monday. The consortium is called the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System and includes more than 200 hospitals, nursing homes, behavioral health and substance abuse programs, social services agencies, health planning organizations and other health-related entities in a region comprising Monroe and 13 nearby counties (Tobin, 7/7).

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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