State highlights: Calif.'s Prop. 45 fight; new benefits for same sex couples in N.C.; Aetna sheds jobs after Medicaid drop

A selection of health policy stories from California, North Carolina, Delaware, New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and Kansas.

Los Angeles Times: Big Money, Complex Issues Make Prop. 45 Tough Issue For State Voters
Almost three decades ago, a small band of consumer activists persuaded California voters to slap tough new rate regulations on auto insurance. Now that same group wants to crack down on health insurance rates. And the insurance industry and its business allies are back with a multimillion-dollar war chest to fight Proposition 45 with an omnipresent media campaign. The combination of big money and complex regulatory issues makes Proposition 45 a tough issue for voters, said Larry Levitt, a senior policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, unrelated to insurer Kaiser Permanente (Lifsher, 10/16).

Charlotte Observer: Same-sex marriage In NC Has Some Employers Expanding Coverage
The legalization of gay marriage in North Carolina means more gay and lesbian individuals will now be eligible for health insurance coverage through their spouses' employers, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Some big companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy have offered benefits to employees in same-sex partnerships for years. But other employers are now making changes or mulling them (McFadden and Rothacker, 10/16).

The News Journal: Dropping Aetna From Medicaid Means Job Losses
About two hundred Delaware-based health care jobs will be lost at the end of the year after the state department of Health and Social Services announced Wednesday it will no longer offer Medicaid coverage through one of its managed care organizations, Delaware Physicians Care Inc. Some employees working with Delaware Physicians Care, an Aetna health plan, will have opportunities to work in other plans in Maryland and in Pennsylvania, said Aetna spokesman Walt Cherniak. But by Jan. 1, the 202 jobs associated with the Aetna plan will be gone. About 137,000 Delaware Medicaid patients are enrolled in an Aetna Delaware Physicians Care plan, meaning those patients will have to transfer over to a Highmark or United Healthcare plan when open enrollment begins Nov. 15. Currently, 54,000 Medicaid patients are enrolled in a United Healthcare plan (Starkey and Offredo, 10/17).

The Associated Press: Binghamton Hospital Pays $3.4M To Settle Case
Federal authorities say a Binghamton hospital [in New York] has paid $3.4 million to resolve claims it improperly billed Medicare. Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital, a 242-bed facility, found billing issues and overpayments from the federal health care program for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (10/17). 

Georgia Health News: Health Data Thefts A Continuing Problem
A state agency says Georgia consumers' personal data has not been compromised so far in the wake of a theft of a laptop computer that contained some people's health information. The computer was stolen from the vehicle of an employee of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities who was attending a Clayton County conference in August. The laptop contained health information on 3,397 individuals who receive services from the agency (Miller, 10/16).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. Hospitals To Test Newborns For More Disorders
Before the end of the year, hospitals in Pennsylvania will be required to test newborns for certain rare disorders where early detection could help save lives. Gov. Corbett on Wednesday signed a bill to expand newborn screenings to include six disorders. "We owe these children and their families a fighting chance," Corbett said at a news conference in the Capitol. The bill signed by Corbett would bring to 35 the number of genetic conditions for which newborns receive screening in Pennsylvania. The law, which takes effect in 60 days, requires hospitals to add certain lysosomal storage disorders to the list of diseases for which a newborn is screened. Health-care providers will now test for Globoid cell leukodystrophy (Krabbe disease), Fabry, Pompe, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher, and Hurler Syndrome (Worden, 10/16).

The Associated Press: Crucial Ruling Due On Taj Mahal Casino's Future
A federal bankruptcy court judge was expected to issue what the owners of Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort consider a life-or-death decision for the financially-troubled gambling hall. Trump Entertainment Resorts and billionaire investor Carl Icahn want the judge to cancel the casino's union contract, saying it can't survive without shedding costly pension and health care obligations. Trump Entertainment has threatened to close the casino by Nov. 13 if it cannot shed its pension and health care obligations to the Taj Mahal's 3,000 workers. Gross was to issue his decision at 3 p.m. Friday (Parry, 10/17).

Health News Florida: Sickest Medicaid Kids In 'Chaos,' Doctors Say
Florida pediatricians who care for severely disabled children say the state's overhaul of Medicaid has left kids, parents and caregivers in turmoil. Extremely fragile children, including some with tracheostomies and feeding tubes, face barriers in access to specialty care, physical therapy, home medical supplies and other urgent needs, the pediatricians say. They say the barriers cropped up as the state Medicaid program rolled out its Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) program, which requires nearly all of the 3.6 million Floridians on Medicaid to be enrolled in HMOs or similar managed-care plans. That includes chronically ill and severely disabled children who until recently were cared for by a network of highly skilled doctors through a program called Children's Medical Services (CMS) (Gentry, 10/16).

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Malpractice Fund Stable, But Uncertainty Looms
A state fund meant to diffuse the costs of medical malpractice claims is on stable footing, but the fund's executive director said this week that legislators should not consider using reserve money for other purposes. Chip Wheelen, executive director of the Kansas Health Care Stabilization Fund, said the fund is in a key transition period due to changes in new legislation. That makes the financial future less certain. But even without those changes, Wheelen said, all the money in the fund should remain devoted to paying malpractice claims and the costs of administering the fund (Marso, 10/16).

Modern Healthcare: More Providers, Insurers Showing Appetite For Narrow Networks
A new health plan collaboration in Wisconsin between a hospital system and an insurer is the latest sign that providers and insurers are betting on narrow networks even as controversy continues over whether these plans offer adequate provider access for consumers (Herman, 10/16).


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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