State highlights: States want home care worker wage changes delayed; Ga. delays nursing home rate hike

A selection of health policy stories from Georgia, California, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio, New York, Illinois and Florida.

CQ Healthbeat: States Push For Delay In Wage Protections For Home Care Workers
State officials that argued against providing overtime and minimum wage protections to the nation's 2 million home care workers are asking the Department of Labor to push back a Jan. 1 start date for the policy to take effect. State Medicaid officials concerned that their costs will rise are asking for a delay and tweaks to the policy, even though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized the rule a year ago. A final rule is often the best opportunity for major revisions to a proposed policy before it takes effect. The Department of Labor regulation guarantees federal labor protections to workers who help seniors and people with disabilities live in their homes. Home care workers had been exempt from those protections because their jobs were classified in the same category as babysitters. The rule affects workers who help elderly or frail people with activities such as dressing, eating meals, bathing, and taking medication, among others (Adams, 9/11).

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: State Stalls Obscure Nursing Home Rate Hike
The head of the state's community health agency on Thursday pulled from consideration a special reimbursement increase for select nursing homes that would have rewarded some of Georgia's biggest campaign donors (Salzer, 9/11).

Georgia Health News: Nursing Home Rate Change Put On Hold
A health agency commissioner Thursday pulled off the table a controversial rate change that would benefit the state's nursing home industry. It was designed to pay extra money to companies that bought Georgia nursing homes between Jan. 1, 2012, and June 30 of this year, because of the costs that new owners bear in upgrading the facilities. Clyde Reese, commissioner of the Department of Community Health, told the agency's board that he wants to spend more time reviewing the rate hike. The payment idea, Reese said, has "definite merit.'' But he said he would like to change the methodology so that it would reward a broader range of nursing homes, with faster reimbursement, for upgrades they make (Miller, 9/11).

California Healthline: L.A. County Aims To Transform Health Care With New EHR System
Los Angeles County's Department of Health Services is installing a new countywide electronic health record system that officials say could end up being a model for other health care organizations across the country. An L.A. County Civil Grand Jury report examined the initiative this summer, assessing how EHR implementation and integration of EHR systems and data among county departments could set the pace for development of a countywide health information exchange for both private and public providers (Stuckey, 9/11).

NPR: A Doctor Who Performed Abortions In South Texas Makes His Case
In a Brownsville family clinic, a powerfully built, bald doctor treats a never-ending line of sick and injured patients. He has been practicing for nearly four decades, but family medicine is not his calling. He seems an unlikely doctor to perform abortions. The son of an Army officer, he grew up in a deeply religious family in rural Texas. His career path was shaped by an experience in medical school in the early '70s. A young woman whose uterus had been accidentally pierced by a backroom abortionist bled to death in front of him. After Roe v. Wade was decided, the young doctor devoted his career to helping poor and working-class women terminate their unwanted pregnancies in South Texas (Goodwyn, 9/11).

Los Angeles Times: Skid Row Sweep Finds Many Homeless With Medical, Psychiatric Needs
A joint city-county sweep of skid row last month to provide sanitation and social services identified more than 100 homeless people in need of immediate medical and mental health care, officials said Wednesday. Eighty homeless people received medical attention for scabies, wounds and other conditions during the August operation and 27 were referred to mental health services, City Councilman Jose Huizar said in a statement (Holland, 9/11).

Sacramento Bee: Support Plummets For California Health Initiatives
Support for a pair of health-related ballot initiatives is eroding, though a large portion of voters remain undecided eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election, according to the latest Field Poll. Forty-one percent of likely voters say they would support Proposition 45, while 26 percent would vote against the initiative requiring health insurance rate changes to be approved by the state's elected insurance commissioner. A growing proportion, 33 percent, are undecided. When asked about Proposition 46, which would mandate random drug testing of doctors and quadruple the state's $250,000 limit on medical malpractice awards, just 34 percent of voters say they are inclined to vote yes and 37 percent are preparing to vote no. Twenty-nine percent are undecided (Cadelago, 9/11).

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Cargill Foundation Grant Takes Aim At Rural Nursing Shortage
In an effort to draw more nurses to rural Minnesota to care for the elderly, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation has made a $1.9 million grant to pay for classes, internships and work bonuses to nursing students. The grant, announced Thursday by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and senior housing and services nonprofit Ecumen, runs for two years, with some of the work bonuses running longer (McKinney, 9/11).

Health News Colorado: Anthem Partners With Mountain Hospitals To Drive Rates Down 8 Percent
Rates for health insurance in Colorado's mountain resort communities -- which notoriously have been the highest in the country this year -- are heading down for 2015 with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado's announcement today that it will sell a new product for residents in four pricey resort counties. The preemptive move aims squarely at Kaiser Permanente, which has announced plans to expand into mountain resort regions in 2016 (McCrimmon, 9/11).

The Associated Press: Ohio: Law Against Lies Is Nullified
The case began in the 2010 congressional race after Steve Driehaus, a congressman at the time, filed a complaint when the Susan B. Anthony List planned to post billboards claiming the Democrat's support for President Obama's health care overhaul equated with support for abortion, even though he opposed abortion. Judge Black had said earlier that the anti-abortion group did not have standing to sue, and an appeals court agreed. But the Supreme Court said the challenge should be considered (9/11).

CNN: 9/11 Responders With Rare Cancer Denied Insurance Coverage
According to the most recent data from the World Trade Center Health Program, there are nearly 3,000 cases of cancer among firefighters, police officers, contractors and civilians who worked or lived near the site of the attacks. A growing number are being diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, but some -- including [John] Meyers -- are being denied insurance coverage because their cancers were diagnosed too soon after 9/11 (Smith, 9/11).

Stateline: States Seek To Protect Student Athletes From Concussions, Heat Stroke
When Georgia public high schools were asked several years ago to devise a policy to govern sports activities during periods of high heat and humidity, one school's proposal stood out: It pledged to scale back workouts when the heat index reached 140. Those who understood the heat index, the combined effects of air temperature and humidity, weren't sure whether to be appalled or amused. "If you hit a heat index of 140," said Bud Cooper, a sports medicine researcher at the University of Georgia who examined all the proposed policies, "you'd basically be sitting in the Sahara Desert." The policy reflected an old-school, "no pain, no gain" philosophy, a view that athletes need to be pushed to their physical limits -- or beyond them -- if they and their teams are to realize their full potential (Ollove, 9/12).

Chicago Sun Times: Illinois' Largest Health System Getting Bigger
Illinois' largest health system is about to get even bigger. Downers Grove-based Advocate Health Care, one of the largest systems in the country, on Friday announced plans to merge with NorthShore University HealthSystem to create a health system with 16 hospitals, 4,438 beds and 45,000 employees. The combined system would also have a new name: Advocate NorthShore Health Partners. Both hospital systems said consolidation is necessary to stay competitive amid health care reform and other market trends (Thomas, 9/12).

Health News Florida: Home Care Firm Rules Medicaid Market
It's much too soon to say whether this summer's flood of Florida Medicaid patients into private managed-care plans will accomplish the state's goals of improving access to care and saving money. But one result is already clear: The overhaul is concentrating power in the hands of specialty companies over which the state has no direct control. Some say one such company has essentially taken over home care services and equipment. Univita Health, based in Miramar, has tied up so much of the market for Florida Medicaid health plans that many in the industry call it a monopoly. Managed care plans contract with Univita to manage their home-care business, even though the company itself is a provider of home-care and equipment to the same health plans (Gentry, 9/11).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis 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.

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