California Issues Strict Rules For Health Professionals With Addiction Problems

News outlets report on a variety of health issues at the state level including stricter rules for drug abusers in the health industry in California, an examination of the nation's first city-run universal health care plan in San Francisco, a cigarette tax in Florida, sex offenders and ex-convicts in nursing homes in Illinois and efforts to battle medical errors in New Jersey. 

The Los Angeles Times: "Nurses, dentists and other professionals with addictions will be subject to more drug tests, and any restrictions to their licenses will be listed on public websites. In a major shift, California will impose tough new standards on drug-abusing health professionals, strictly scrutinizing those in treatment and immediately removing from practice anyone who relapses. ... The rules will require nurses, dentists and other health workers in state-run recovery programs to take at least 104 drug tests in their first year -- more than double any current requirement. Health professionals will be automatically pulled from practice, at least temporarily, after a single positive result" (Ornstein and Weber, 11/20). 

The Associated Press: "Healthy San Francisco is the nation's first city-run universal health care plan. While not insurance and not valid outside the city, it does illustrate how some hotly debated elements of plans being considered on Capitol Hill might play out. In just over two years, the $126 million program has won over its target population, and now covers about 48,000 people — more than two-thirds of San Franciscans who previously had no insurance. About $20 million a year comes from employers who are required to contribute to their workers' health care. The mandate is a contentious aspect of the Democratic plan, and the most controversial aspect of San Francisco's plan" (Barbassa, 11/20).  

The Miami Herald: "A new tobacco tax is doing just what its proponents envisioned: reducing cigarette sales while fattening state coffers. Cigarettes sales are down 27 percent in Florida during the last four months, thanks to a new $1-a-pack tax designed to balance the budget and cut down on smoking. But despite the drop in sales, tobacco-tax collections in Florida are high and holding steady. That's because state economists accurately factored in the decrease in sales of smokes when they initially forecast the revenue from the surcharge that went into effect July 1. The new tax, which helps fund Medicaid, will raise $881 million this year and $907 million the next, the economists forecast Thursday when they analyzed cigarette-sales data" (Caputo, 11/19). 

The Chicago Tribune: "State police sweeps removing sex offenders and ex-convicts from nursing homes were halted in 2006. Amid reports that elderly and disabled residents were being assaulted and raped in nursing facilities, a state police unit in 2001 began raiding the homes to haul out unregistered sex offenders and ex-convicts with outstanding arrest warrants for crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder. ... From January 2005 through June 2006, when 20 northern Illinois nursing homes were swept and roughly 80 fugitives and sex offenders removed, state police in that area recorded a nearly 67 percent decrease in nursing home abuse and neglect complaints, according to a department citation issued to the sweeps unit. Then the cheering stopped. In 2006, the program was halted after five years" (Jackson, 11/20).

Asbury Park Press reports on the 10-year anniversary of "To Err Is Human," a report by the National Institute of Medicine that detailed the number of deaths caused by medical errors. "A decade later, New Jersey's hospitals and health care providers mark the report's 10-year anniversary with a growing list of accomplishments. Among them: In 2000, New Jersey ranked 49th in the nation in quality data reported by the federal Medicare program. Last year, New Jersey leaped to second best in the United States, as reported by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality" (Holmes, 11/19).

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