News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.
Stateline: Medicaid Offering Bigger Drug Discounts Than Medicare
Governors have complained repeatedly in recent months that spiraling Medicaid costs are crushing their budgets. But there's good news on at least one line item in the $370 billion program — prescription drug discounts are getting more generous. According to a new report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, discounts under the federal-state Medicaid program have been growing since 2006, adding up to a 45 percent rebate for most brand name drugs by 2009 (Vestal, 8/17).
The Detroit Free Press: Blue Cross Blue Shield Of Michigan Ordered To Extend Deadline For Seniors With Medigap
Michigan's insurance commissioner ordered Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to extend the time several thousand seniors with Medigap insurance have to verify their residency or face a big rate hike. The extension to mid-October follows a mix-up in which the Blues notified 8,900 seniors in a July 1 letter that they needed to verify they live in Michigan for at least six months a year. ... The confusion followed a June 28 out-of-court settlement among the insurer, the state insurance office and the state attorney general that allowed the Blues to significantly raise Medigap rates to seniors who live outside of Michigan for six months or more each year (Anstett, 8/17).
The Arizona Republic: Arizona Kids Worse Than Most In Poverty, Health, Foreclosure
Children in Arizona are more likely to be poor, uninsured and part of a family whose home has been foreclosed than most American kids, according to a national survey of child well-being released today. … In particular, 14 percent of Arizona children were uninsured in 2009, ranking the state 46th. But that was before state lawmakers froze the KidsCare health-insurance program, which now has more than 100,000 children on a waiting list. "They like to claim they haven't kicked anyone off of KidsCare or (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System). But freezing people out has just as devastating consequences," said Dana Wolfe Naimark, CEO of the non-profit Children's Action Alliance (Reinhart, 8/17).
The Boston Globe: Health Insurers Post Higher Earnings
The biggest commercial health insurers in Massachusetts yesterday posted sharply higher second-quarter earnings, citing their efforts to rein in administrative spending and a slower rise in medical costs reflected in the contracts they've negotiated with hospitals and doctors. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest health insurance company, recorded net income of $56.5 million for the three months ending June 30, a reversal from the $14.3 million loss Blue Cross reported for the corresponding period last year. Quarterly net income climbed to $13.5 million at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the second-largest health plan, from $6.5 million a year earlier (Weisman, 8/16).
The Connecticut Mirror: Malloy May Order Limited Negotiating Rights For Home Care Aides
A controversial bill to give collective bargaining rights to some state-funded home care workers failed to make it through the legislature this year, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is considering signing an executive order that would enact a pared-down version of the proposal (Levin Becker, 8/17).
California Healthline: Legislators, Advocates, State Officials Attend ADHC Hearing
A legislative hearing yesterday took on the task of unraveling the legal, administrative and medical tangles generated by the elimination of adult day health care as a Medi-Cal benefit in California. The likely closure of up to 300 ADHC centers across the state on Dec. 1 -- and what will happen to the medically fragile population of roughly 35,000 seniors and the disabled in California who use those centers -- has produced a swell of deep worry and frustration in the ADHC community and in Sacramento (Gorn, 8/17).
California Watch: Health Plan That 'Fleeced The State' Stands To Grow
A Southern California health plan that state Controller John Chiang said “fleeced the state” out of an estimated $300 million stands to gain hundreds of members who are losing services as a result of state budget cuts. Chiang urged the state’s Medi-Cal agency yesterday to recover the funds before routing former Adult Day Health Care participants into the Senior Care Action Network (SCAN) Health Plan. A Medi-Cal audit [PDF] last year found that SCAN reaped $85 million in profits off a one-year, $100 million Medi-Cal contract due to overpayments (Jewett, 8/17).
Dallas Morning News: Dallas County, Hospital Board Officials Meet Privately On Parkland
With a deadline looming for Parkland Memorial Hospital to correct serious threats to patient health and safety or lose millions in federal funding, county officials met in private for the third time in five days to discuss what to do (Moffeit and McNeill, 8/16).
Houston Chronicle: Houston Forming Own Super Committee For Fiscal Issues
Houston is getting its own Super Committee to try to head off financial disaster. A group of 16 elected officials, community leaders, union bosses and pension executives have until Jan. 31 to find ways to tackle the triple threat to the city's future solvency — ballooning pension obligations, runaway health care costs and massive long-term debt. … The City Council created the task force as an amendment to this year's municipal budget, through which it will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on pensions and health care costs. Those numbers are projected to soar (Moran, 8/16).
Modern Healthcare: Three Ill. Hospitals Denied Exemptions
State officials on Tuesday told three Illinois hospitals that they were denied property tax exemptions. Officials from Decatur Memorial Hospital, Edward Hospital in Naperville and Prentice Women's Hospital at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, could appeal the Illinois Department of Revenue's decision. If hospital officials fail to convince an administrative judge during the appeal, they could later file a lawsuit challenging the decision (Selvam, 8/16).
The Connecticut Mirror: Report: There's No Consensus On What Constitutes 'Medical Homes'
The number of physician practices officially considered "patient centered medical homes" has grown dramatically in the past six months, helped along when the state's largest group of primary care practices earned the designation last week. The proliferation mirrors a widespread national push toward the model, which encourages care coordination and making it easier for patients to access care (Levin Becker, 8/16).