Maine Has Most Improved Health Care Quality; Kansas Needs More Dentists

Maine Public Broadcasting Network News: "Nationwide, Maine is most improved when it comes to health care quality, according to 2009 statistics from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In one year, Maine jumped from 12th place to fourth best in categories ranging from cancer to patient safety, from maternal and child health to long-term care. Researchers say factors such a state's resources — or lack thereof — and the diversity of its population can affect its health rankings. But in Maine, one theory explaining the state's performance has gained currency in health care circles," which is that publicly reporting quality indexes actually leads to improved health care (Huang, 11/15).

The Salt Lake Tribune: "For the foreseeable future, kids in Carbon and Emery counties who sign up for the Children's Health Insurance Program will be automatically assigned to Molina Healthcare, instead of Intermountain Healthcare's SelectHealth. It's a temporary fix ordered by the Utah Health Department after CHIP families in that region complained they no longer have access to pediatric care. SelectHealth, which inherited about 61 percent of the area's 379 CHIP enrollees in July, has no primary-care providers there. Molina, on the other hand, has a central Utah network of 13 providers, including three pediatricians. The state's remedy helps only new enrollees. Existing customers are on their own" (Stewart, 11/15).

Kansas Health Institute: "Kansas needs more dentists, but it doesn't have a dental school. That's why the state cut a deal with Missouri. Each year, Missouri sets aside 20 slots at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry and 15 slots at the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry for students from Kansas. Kansas, in turn, opens its architecture schools at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. Both states allow the other's students to pay in-state tuition. The agreement expires June 30, 2011, and is the subject of ongoing negotiations. According to a Kansas Board of Regents report, Kansas has 93 students enrolled in UMKC's dental program and 12 in the UM-St. Louis optometry program. There are 209 Missouri students are enrolled in the architecture program at KU; 254 at K-State. … Last week, the Kansas Dental Association urged a legislative committee to press UMKC for 'five or six' additional slots for Kansas dentistry students and to consider requiring that the students return to Kansas to work in underserved areas" (Ranney, 11/15).

The (Lousville, KY) Courier-Journal: "It's provided millions of allergy sufferers relief from itchy eyes and runny noses, but pseudoephedrine may become available only by prescription in Kentucky, if some law enforcement and legislators have their way. The popular over-the-counter decongestant is the key ingredient in the popular, highly addictive and illegal drug methamphetamine. Some Kentucky law enforcement officials contend that the only way to clamp down on the proliferation of meth labs, which rely on pseudoephedrine, is to include it on the commonwealth's list of 'scheduled' drugs and require a prescription to obtain it. They point to fewer meth labs in other states, including Oregon, as proof that stricter regulation works" (Halladay, 11/15).

Detroit Free Press: "Michigan is training a growing number of physician's assistants and nurse practitioners to help address the state's looming doctor shortage, but serious challenges remain, says a new report issued by the Michigan Health Council, a nonprofit health employment network. The new graduates will help in 2014, when health insurance reforms will significantly expand the number of people able to see doctors. But obstacles remain to expanding access to primary care, according to a copy of the report obtained by the Free Press. One of the problems is that many nurse practitioners and physician's assistants are leaving primary care for specialty work, the report said. The problem is particularly serious among physician's assistants — only 35 percent work in a primary care field, according to the study by Public Sector Consultants, a Lansing research firm. Another challenge: Schools may not be able to expand training for these two specialties quickly because they lack money, the report said" (Anstett, 11/15).

PBS News, on Massachusetts and health care reform: "Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to pass a health care reform bill. And now, with the Republicans poised to take over the House and governorships in 10 states next year, the new federal health care reform law is under the microscope, with supporters and critics alike looking over their shoulders to see how reform is working here." PBS examines "the state's so-called Connector, an exchange where residents can sign up for one of seven state-approved plans run by private insurance companies. … Since 2006, premiums in the individual insurance market have gone down 40 percent on average. But Massachusetts continues to have among the highest premiums in the nation, although state officials say employer-provided insurance seems to be stabilizing" (11/15).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: "Children's health advocates say Rhode Island is making progress in providing health coverage to low-income children, yet nearly 20,000 youngsters under 18 remain uninsured in the state. The group Rhode Island Kids Count will unveil a report on children's health care during a meeting in Providence on Monday. … The report finds that Rhode Island is enrolling more children and families in the state's Medicaid managed care program, and that emergency hospital admissions and preventable hospitalizations are lower among those children" (11/15).

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