State highlights: Calif. health insurers and contraception coverage; Alaska sues Xerox over Medicaid payment systems

A selection of health policy stories from California, Alaska, North Carolina, Texas and Massachusetts.

San Francisco Chronicle: California To Expand Contraceptive Coverage
Health insurance policies in California will have to cover all federally approved contraceptives for women by 2016 without charging co-payments under legislation signed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown, countering trends in other states and the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill, SB1053 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, expands state laws that required coverage for most birth-control drugs and devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The new law mandates coverage for all FDA-approved contraception, prohibits co-payments and includes managed-care Medi-Cal plans, which are not expressly covered by current laws (Egelko, 9/27).

Anchorage Daily News: Alaska Files Claim Against Xerox Over Botched Medicaid Payment System
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has filed a claim against the private company responsible for rolling out a Medicaid payment system that the state says is riddled with defects. In the claim filed Monday, Sept. 22, the health department said Xerox State Healthcare LLC breached its contract after it failed to implement the multimillion-dollar software system within the timeframe agreed upon. Once the system did go live in October 2013, it failed to issue timely and accurate payments to Alaska health-care providers, the claim said. Xerox State Healthcare is a subsidiary of Xerox Corp (Hanlon, 9/26).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Calif. Governor Vetoes Bill To Protect Assets From Medi-Cal
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Jerry Brown rejected an effort to protect the estates of Medicaid beneficiaries in California, the San Jose Mercury News reported Friday. The bill, which the Democratic governor vetoed on Thursday, would have shielded the assets of people who receive Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California, from being recouped by the state after their deaths (Webber and Bartolone, 9/26).

Charlotte Observer: Carolinas HealthCare Closes Nursing School, Cites Need To Trim Overall Budget
Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, which opened 108 years ago in Charlotte, will close after current students graduate in 2016. Officials of Carolinas HealthCare System, which has two other nursing schools in Charlotte and Concord, said the decision has nothing to do with the quality of Mercy's program but was the result of an assessment of what is best for the system. The decision comes as the system looks for ways to trim costs (Garloch, 9/28).

The New York Times/Texas Tribune: A Texas Official's D.W.I. Case Is Being Seen In A Softer Light
A top state official is stopped for drunken driving and refuses breath and blood tests. Police cite erratic driving and uncooperative behavior, and critics say the official is unfit to serve in public office. ... The incident involves Jack Stick, a Republican who is the top lawyer for the state's sprawling health care agency, which has been cited in a federal audit for failing to prevent the misspending of millions Medicaid dollars on medically unnecessary orthodontic services (Ayala and Root, 9/27).

The California Health Report: California Skimps On Diabetes Prevention
Diabetes afflicts one in 12 Californians. It causes early death and disability for millions and costs the state $27.6 billion annually in health care and related expenses. In 20 years, diabetes rates are expected to double in the United States. But the disease doesn't have to wreak that kind of havoc. Diabetes can be avoided in many people with intensive diet and exercise counseling, according to a 2002 study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on its findings, the CDC has developed a 16-week course, the Diabetes Prevention Program, for people with pre-diabetes – those whose blood sugar levels are elevated, but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. But most Californians have no access to the program because Medicare and Medi-Cal and most private insurers won't cover it (Urevich, 9/28).

WBUR: Just A Status Conference On Partners Deal, But Health Care History
Health care history unfolds in Suffolk Superior Court today. It may just be a status conference, but it could still be a heck of a show (Bebinger, 9/29).


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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