State Roundup: Mass. Communities Look To New Law For Health Savings

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

The Boston Globe: Communities See Savings In Health Law
Area cities and towns are salivating at the prospect of saving millions of dollars in insurance costs in coming years, under a new law making it easier to change health coverage for their employees. "This has a huge impact on municipal finance," said Plainville Town Administrator Joseph Fernandes, who added that his town will probably adopt the local-option statute next year. "I'd be shocked if these same thoughts aren't taking place, as we speak, in literally every other community." The law eases the way for communities to either alter their health insurance plans or join the state's Group Insurance Commission system without obtaining approval by unions, as long as the change would meet certain criteria (Hennick, /28). 

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: The Massachusetts Hospital Landscape: Fast, Furious Consolidation
[S]igns of concentration are coming almost weekly: Hospitals bought, hospitals merged, hospitals declaring bankruptcy. So this seems like a good moment to step back and review all the recent action in a single roundup. ... The Massachusetts Hospital Association has been tracking industry activity since the 1980's. The list below includes MHA reporting and other sources, and it demonstrates that the rate of hospital realignment in Massachusetts is speeding up (Cronin, 7/27).

Georgia Health News: Ga. Firm's Blueprint For Taming Health Costs
Many companies see their health insurance premiums rise by 10 percent or more, year after year. ... So when a company reports that its health costs have increased by an average of less than 2 percent per year over the past decade, it makes for an interesting case study. That type of success has been enjoyed by the Valdosta-based Langdale Company, which mainly produces wood products but also has car dealerships among its 23 businesses (Miller, 7/27). 

The Texas Tribune: Perry Says Default Fears Are Overblown
The governor, who has criticized a federal government that he believes is too powerful and intrusive, also elaborated on his pro-10th Amendment remark that states should have the right to pass their own laws on such hot-button issues as same-sex marriage. ... On Wednesday, Perry said that if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, was overturned, he would also support allowing states to make the procedure legal — or illegal (Root, 7/27). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Grim Choice For Families Of Children Refusing Psychiatric Treatment
Under Pennsylvania law, involuntary commitment to a mental-health facility is an option only if patients have demonstrated within the last month that (their children) are a danger to themselves or others. Even then, forced treatment can last no more than five days without a court order, and, once released, the patient is under no obligation to continue treatment or medication to control the illness. New Jersey's laws echo Pennsylvania's. But the state passed legislation in 2009 allowing for outpatient care after an involuntary commitment to ensure that patients stick with their treatment plan. In many cases, those tight restrictions -- while protecting patient rights -- leave families on edge, waiting for the worst to happen. In some, the evidence they need comes too late (Jeremy Roebuck, 7/28). 

HealthyCal: At California Senior Centers, Resources Dwindle
Resourcefulness and a little luck are fueling senior center staff across the state, advocates say. Municipalities operate 60 percent of California's 800 senior centers. As municipal revenues dwindle, fewer and fewer resources are trickling down to fund services for seniors. "What we've been seeing in this environment in the last five years is a reduction in resources and consolidation of recreational programs," said Sandi Fitzpatrick, California Commission on Aging Director (Afrasiabi, 7/27). 

New Hampshire Public Radio: Hospitals Under Pressure
In Manchester and Nashua, two hospitals are laying off close to 300 workers. And ten hospitals are considering cutting everything from neonatal intensive care to support for nursing home patients. They're blaming the new state budget, which includes deep cuts to Medicaid. But ... the reality is far more nuanced (Grant, 7/27). 

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