State Roundup: Puerto Rico Settles Disability Battle With Feds

News outlets examine a variety of state health policy issues.

The Associated Press: Puerto Rico Ends Legal Battle Over Disability
Puerto Rico has reached an agreement with the U.S. government ending a 12-year legal battle to improve the island's health system for the mentally disabled, local justice officials said Thursday. Federal officials had accused the U.S. territory of abusing and neglecting hundreds of mentally disabled people by not providing food, medication, adequate housing, therapy or mental health care (Coto, 11/3).

Politico Pro: Bishop Adds To Doubt On Miss. Abortion Vote
Although (Bishop Joseph N. Latino) told Catholics to vote their conscience on the initiative he wrote (in a letter published in the diocesan newspaper), "We do not believe that a Mississippi Personhood Amendment is the best means to pursue an end to abortion in Mississippi and our nation." Initiative 26, known as the "personhood" amendment, would give an embryo full legal rights under state law from the moment of fertilization. Backers say they are targeting abortion, but opponents say this language would have far-reaching consequences such as banning in-vitro fertilization and leading to criminal investigations of miscarriages (Feder, 11/3).

The Associated Press: Barbour Votes For Life-At-Fertilization Initiative
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Thursday he voted after all for a state ballot initiative that would declare life begins at fertilization. The Republican said he voted by absentee ballot Thursday because he won't be in his hometown for Tuesday's election. Barbour had told reporters Wednesday he was undecided because he thinks the initiative is ambiguous and he had concerns about how it might affect in-vitro fertilization and ectopic pregnancies (Pettus, 11/3).

California Healthline: Assembly Hearing Laments A Torn Safety Net
It's not just the 10 percent cut to a range of Medi-Cal services in California that have legislators and providers lining up in protest, according to Assembly member Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), it's the combined effect of all the cuts that came before as well. ... The state is currently in the midst of a lawsuit with advocates for the developmentally disabled over an earlier DHCS move to freeze reimbursement rates for intermediate care facilities (Gorn, 11/3).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Mass. Health Insurance Rates Still Rising, But Not So Steeply
The base rates set to take effect in January will increase, on average, 4.8 percent — well below the 18 percent averages early last year. Since then, the Patrick administration has limited insurance rate hikes, patients are using less care, and some hospitals are agreeing to lower increases (Bebinger, 11/3).

The Lund Report: Despite Union Resistance, Health Engagement Model Gets Under Way In Oregon
Public employee unions have raised numerous concerns about the Public Employees' Benefit Board's new health engagement model for state employees, a voluntary program designed to improve their health. This year's open enrollment for PEBB's 150,000 members, which began on October 15 and runs through November 15, is the first time members can decide whether to participate in the health engagement model (Waldroupe, 11/3).

The Lund Report: New Medical School Hopes To Address Primary Care Shortage
A single building across the highway from Lebanon Samaritan Medical Center houses Oregon's newest medical school. Called COMP Northwest (short for the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific), the school is a campus of Western University of Health Sciences based in Pomona, Calif. The school recently opened its doors to 107 first-year students. Officials purposely chose a rural setting, said Dr. Paula Crone, an osteopathic physician and the associate dean, in the hope that graduates will practice in rural areas (McCurdy, 11/3).

California Healthline: Austerity Won't Help Physician Shortage, Experts Predict
While legislators in Washington, D.C., haggle over the health care impacts of reducing the national debt and California health care providers absorb a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal payments, physicians continue to be scarce — and so do ideas for solving the physician shortage. ... The problem, expected to become more severe over the next couple of years, could undermine the state's ability to handle millions of newly covered residents when major parts of national health care reform come into play in 2014 (Lauer, 11/3).

AP/MSNBC: $8.3M Fund Will Boost Health Care In New Orleans
New Orleans will receive more than $8 million from a charitable fund set up as part of the settlement of a longstanding health care product lawsuit. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office says the money will help provide health care in underserved areas of the city, including $1 million to go toward construction of a primary health care facility at the site of an eastern New Orleans hospital that was closed after Hurricane Katrina. The remaining $7.3 million will be distributed through a grant program managed by the Louisiana Public Health Institute (11/3). 

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