Roundup: Fla. Medicare HMO Closed; Tufts And BCBS Resume Talks

News outlets report on a variety of health policy developments around the country.

Health News Florida: Medicare Plan To Be Shut Down
Quality Health Plans, a Medicare HMO with 10,000 Florida members, has been ordered into liquidation after failing to come up with the cash reserves the state says were needed. Its members will be moved to another -- still unnamed -- plan by Dec. 1 (Kuntz, 11/17).

Boston Globe: Blue Cross Blue Shield And Tufts Medical Center Agree To Resume Talking
In a joint statement released last night, the hospital and insurer said they "are committed to reaching agreement on a new contract. Leadership of the organizations have spoken today and agreed to continue discussions and use a third party during this process.’" Tufts and its doctors' group said on Tuesday that they will stop doing business with Blue Cross on Jan. 17 because the two sides cannot agree on a new contract (Kowalczyk, 11/18).

Boston Globe: Massachusetts Ranks High Among States Suffering Critical Drug Shortages
Shortages of critical drugs used to treat cancer, infections, cardiovascular disease, and pain have become a nationwide issue, but the shortages are particularly acute in Massachusetts. According to a new report by a health care analytics company, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the supply of 64 injectable drugs in the state over three months this summer declined by a third, compared to last year. The IMS report found that a dozen other states faced similarly steep drops in the availability of sterile injectable drugs (Johnson, 11/17).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker Signs Bill On Partisan Primary, Nursing Home Penalties
(Gov. Scott) Walker also approved a bill that will give nursing homes more time to pay for violations, put time limits on when the state can impose forfeitures on them and prevent the state from finding multiple violations against them for the same practices. ... The state Department of Health Services enforces state and federal rules for nursing homes, and when it finds an infraction it can issue duplicate penalties under both sets of rules. For instance, if a resident falls, the state can penalize the facility twice -- once for violating state rules and once for violating federal rules (Marley, 11/17).

Chicago Sun-Times: Preckwinkle Offers More Money For Health And Dental Care For The Poor 
If Cook County Commissioners sign off Friday on her $2.9 billion spending plan for 2012, Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she prepared to send another $2 million in taxpayer money to the county’s health and hospital system serving the poor and uninsured. She had already proposed a $252 million county subsidy to the health system, but will direct another $1 million to outpatient dental care services while the remaining $1 million will go to a program that provides primary healthcare to suburban residents. Preckwinkle said she learned from experts that oral health is tied to good overall health (Donovan, 11/17).

NewsHour: Kids With Toothaches: Lost In The Health Care Debate
Teeth are crucial. When free health care clinics for poor people are held in California, the number one activity is extractions. The California Dental Association says the top chronic childhood disease is tooth decay. But a third of Americans say they skip dental checkups because of the cost. Until 2009, in California, dental care was part of Medicaid, or Medi-Cal as it's called in California. More than three million poor, disabled and elderly adults had been eligible for subsidized care of their teeth. But cash-strapped California, looking for ways to save money, eliminated dental care for adults under Medi-Cal two years ago, and pocketed $109 million. At the same time the state gave up $134 million in federal matching funds (Michels, 11/17).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Union Leery Of Possible Prison Health-Care Outsourcing
Most times, prison nurse Mark Sokolski thinks like a nurse: The 3,500 inmates at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford -- his patients -- need their medicines and their care, no matter who they are, no matter what they've done…. Knowing your way around, he said, takes years -- the period of time to build rapport with the inmates and learn the job's special challenges. ... Sokolski, and his union, Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania, ... object to the state's exploring a plan to hire outside contractors for prison nursing and medical-record services (Von Bergen, 11/17)

The Associated Press: Theft Of Medical Records For 4M Calif. Patients Highlights Widespread Health Industry Problem
The theft of a computer containing information on more than 4 million patients of a major Northern California health care provider may be among the largest breaches of health care data in recent years, but it's far from the only incident of its kind. Over the last two years, health care organizations have reported 364 incidents involving the loss or theft of information ranging from names and addresses to Social Security numbers and medical diagnoses on nearly 18 million patients — equivalent to the population of Florida (Thompson and Wohlsen, 11/17).

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