State Highlights: Calif. Insurance Regulatory System Criticized

News outlets report on developments in state health policies.

Los Angeles Times: Should California Stop Having Two Health Insurance Regulators?
The two-headed beast that regulates health insurance in California is under fire. For the first time in a decade, healthcare leaders in Sacramento are publicly asking whether it's time to junk overlapping bureaucracies that police health insurers and HMOs (Helfand, 6/23).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Lawmakers Voting To Establish Health Exchange
New York lawmakers are poised to approve establishing the New York Health Benefit Exchange, meant to ensure affordable insurance coverage for residents and small businesses, comply with federal law and make the state eligible for federal funding (6/23).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Lawmakers To Study Creation Of Missouri Health Care Exchange
President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, has appointed an interim committee to study whether Missouri should follow federal guidelines and enact a health insurance exchange. The exchange would be a quasi-governmental body that would allow individuals and small business to compare and buy health insurance plans. Creation of an exchange is mandated in the federal health care reform bill passed last year. States have until 2013 to design the structure of the exchange and the criteria insurance plans must meet to be included. If they miss the deadline, the federal government will implement the law and make those decisions (Hancock, 6/23).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Group To Tackle Health Disparities
The state has assembled a work group of top health professionals to come up with ways to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic groups, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown announced Thursday. The seven-member panel, to be headed by Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, will identify new legislation and financial incentives that can be used to bring equality to healthcare (Walker, 6/23). 

California Healthline: California Running Out of Health Care Providers
The situation is looking a little bleak, according to Jeff Oxendine of the UC-Berkeley School of Public Health. "We currently have work force shortages in primary care, clinical laboratory science workers, pharmacy and public health, those are already in shortage," Oxendine said recently (Gorn, 6/23). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Shutdown Could Lock Out Thousands Of Medical Professionals
Some licensing boards are loosening up their renewal guidelines during the next week, just in case they have to close their doors for a long government shutdown. The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, which licenses physicians, adjusted its computer system to allow doctors to renew their licenses through September. Typically the Board deals with renewals one month at a time. That change in guidelines has already put a lot of pressure on the Board's computer system as doctors scramble to submit their online renewal applications (Benson, 6/23). 

ProPublica: Illinois Regulators Sue Heart Scan Company, Alleging Deceptive Practices
The Illinois Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit today accusing the owner and manager of Heart Check America, a medical imaging company, of pressuring patients into purchasing pricey body scans that many did not need. ... Illinois officials say Sheila Haddad and her son, David Haddad, the owner and manager of the company, used "unfair and deceptive business practices" to manipulate consumers, possibly numbering in the thousands, into 10-year screening contracts costing up to $7,000, plus additional annual dues. Heart Check America officials have not yet responded to calls and emails asking for comment on the lawsuit (Allen, 6/23).

Georgia Health News: Assisted Living Facilities Await New Regulations
A long-sought law creating new rules for assisted living facilities was passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year and is set to take effect July 1. But when that day comes, nothing will really change. That's because the regulations that will make the law work will not be ready by the end of this month. ... Senate Bill 178 was designed to help residents of assisted living facilities remain in place, and not be forced to enter nursing homes (Miller, 6/23). 

The Texas Tribune: Updated: Advocates Say Change To Strip Club Fee Is Dead
Advocates for a strip club tax that raises money for state services say their effort to change which programs benefit from the fee is dead. They say they couldn't get the support needed in the Senate to keep the measure — which would direct all revenue from the program to sexual assault victims, as opposed to sharing it with a low-income health insurance program — in a fiscal matters bill (Ramshaw, 6/23). 

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Single-Payer State: What Can We Learn From Vermont?
At a panel this week sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts and held in downtown Boston, four experts offered their thoughts — some which might serve as lessons for Massachusetts as we embark on phase two of health reform, with a focus on containing costs while offering quality care (Cronin, 6/24).

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Louisiana Legislature Approves 4-Cent Cigarette Tax Before Adjourning For The Year
The Louisiana Legislature wrapped up an election-year session Thursday by giving final approval to the $3.9 billion state construction budget and a constitutional amendment that extends a 4-cent cigarette tax and reshuffles tobacco-settlement dollars. The actions capped a two-month lawmaking period where legislators reached agreement on a $25 billion budget and a host of tax breaks (Moller, 6/23).

HealthyCal: Napa Moves Against Elder Care Abuse
With reports of elder abuse rising, Napa County is taking the lead in protecting seniors from unscrupulous or predatory caregivers by becoming the first in California to require criminal background checks for home-care aides. Starting July 1, in-home assistants who help elderly or disabled adults with bathing, dressing and other daily tasks will need to pass background screenings and buy annual permits to work anywhere in the county (Freeman, 6/23).

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