State Roundup: Public Employee Benefit Controversy; Calif. Hospital Woes

A selection of stories from various states on health care.

Reuters: Public Sector Union Curbs Face Fierce Fight In Ohio
A centerpiece of Republican Gov. John Kasich's legislative agenda, the bill passed the Republican-dominated assembly in the spring. But opponents were able to gather 1.3 million signatures to halt the law's enactment and put it on the November 8 ballot for repeal. ... The bill allows bargaining on wages but bans it for health coverage, pensions or staffing levels. ... The law also requires firefighters, police officers and teachers to pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance premiums (Wisniewski, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: Hard Times Beset Hospital In San Pablo
Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo is among the most troubled hospitals in California. ... Along with more and more other hospitals in California and nationwide that serve poor communities, Doctors is going broke. It loses money on many of the patients who walk — or are wheeled — through the door. Often such facilities — with the notable exception of teaching hospitals — can't afford to offer the most competitive salaries, shiniest equipment, best security or most cutting-edge programs (Garrison, 10/31).

The Associated Press/Businessweek: Neb. Health Exchange Would Need 83K-100K Enrollees
As many as 100,000 Nebraskans would need to enroll in a state-based health insurance exchange before the program could sustain itself as required, according to a report presented to lawmakers Friday. Department Director Bruce Ramge told a legislative panel that 83,000 to 100,000 Nebraskans would need to join the exchange to comply with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The state health care exchanges -- one option Nebraska is exploring -- would have to become self-supporting by 2016 (Schulte, 10/28). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Drugstores In Pennsylvania Fight Rise Of Mail-Order Pharmacies
(Jim) Reginelli and other independent pharmacists are stepping up efforts this month to pass bills in the Pennsylvania Senate and House -- H.B. 511 and S.B. 201 -- that would, in their words, "level the playing field." The bills, sponsored by local Republicans, … would ban financial incentives such as lower copayments that channel subscribers to mail-order drugs as well as insurance rules requiring customers to use mail-order. Local pharmacists would get the chance to accept the same terms (Burling, 10/31).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: $45 Million Federal Check Not In The Mail
Gov. Scott Walker's administration has conceded that it will not receive a $45 million windfall from the federal government that the administration was counting on to help close a budget shortfall in the state's health plans for the poor. ... in a letter sent Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that she lacked the legal authority to make the payments or provide a "quick solution" to the issue (Stein, 10/30). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Rep. Gottwalt: Regardless Of Health Reform Law, More Improvements Needed
A Republican state lawmaker says Minnesota needs to continue improving its health care system whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the federal health care overhaul or Congress repeals it. Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, spoke about the future of health care at the University of St Thomas Friday. Gottwalt said what happens with the Affordable Care Act or Congress doesn't really matter. "We still need to do the stuff that moves Minnesota ahead," Gottwalt said (10/28).

WBUR: Mass. Support Grows For Medical Homes
There is growing support in Massachusetts for making sure that every resident has a medical home, one doctor or center that would coordinate all their care. Supporters say this person would prevent duplicate tests, save money and help patients navigate the health care system. For many of us, our medical home would be our family physician. But what about patients such as [Diana] Burns, whose main concern is their mental health? (Bebinger, 10/31). 

HealthyCal: Armstrong Place Offers New Approach To Independent Living
Progressive city public health officials have long recognized a revolving door among San Francisco's homeless population; living in unstable environments, health conditions ranging from mental illness to chronic disease worsen, and then require expensive emergency room treatment. In response, the city created Direct Access to Housing (DAH) in 1998 to provide permanent housing for at-risk residents. There are currently 24 city sites housing nearly 1,000 formerly homeless residents (Perry, 10/27). 

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