Health Roundup: Minn. Orders Counseling Before Patients Get Long-Term Care

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

Sacramento Bee: Woman's Death Raises Questions About Nursing Home Medical Records
(Johnnie Esco) died after a 13-day stay at the El Dorado Care Center in Placerville. (Her) death on March 7, 2008, led to a contentious civil lawsuit, investigations by California's Department of Justice and Department of Public Health – and the exhumation of her body from Arlington National Cemetery. Last week, amid inquiries from The Bee, the state Department of Justice reopened its criminal investigation into Johnnie Esco's treatment at the facility. The case also raised questions about an aspect of nursing home care that many patients and families take for granted: the integrity of medical records (Lundstrom, 9/19).

Minnesota Public Radio: New State-Mandated Counseling For Seniors Irks Assisted-Living Industry
But one of the ways (the legislature) put the breaks on spending is to require seniors to receive counseling before they enter assisted living facilities and other senior housing. And representatives of the long-term care industry complain that the mandate represents government overreach enacted by legislators with no public debate. Lawmakers and officials with the Department of Human Services say the counseling is necessary because a family's decision about long-term care for a loved one can affect the state budget (Scheck, 9/19).

Connecticut Mirror: Nearly All State Employees Choose Controversial Wellness Plan
Ninety-six percent of the employees covered by the state health care plan have enrolled in a new wellness plan that was the subject of controversy surrounding a union concession package earlier this year.State Comptroller Kevin Lembo announced Friday that more than 50,000 state employees enrolled in the Health Enhancement Program, which begins Oct. 1. The plan requires members to get recommended preventive care, and requires those with certain chronic conditions to participate in disease management programs. People who don't participate will be required to pay an additional $100 a month in premiums and face a deductible (Levin Becker, 9/16).

Hartford Business Journal: Health Insurance Rates Slow
Connecticut employers, who have been hit hard by skyrocketing health care costs in recent years, could be getting some relief in 2012, industry experts say. Average rate increases being proposed by some health insurance companies for the end of 2011 and 2012 are coming in lower than previous years. Local brokers say they are observing lower rate hikes, ranging, on average, from upper single digits, to low double digits (Bordonaro, 9/18).

CNN Money: Poverty Grows In Rick Perry's Texas
While it's true that Texas is responsible for 40% of the jobs added in the U.S. over the past two years, its poverty rate also grew faster than the national average in 2010. ... And being poor in Texas isn't easy. The state has one of the lowest rates of spending on its citizens per capita and the highest share of those lacking health insurance. It doesn't provide a lot of support services to those in need: Relatively few collect food stamps and qualifying for cash assistance is particularly tough (Luhby, 9/18).

Deseret News: Utah Cities Among Lowest In Spending For Health Care
What the average person spends on health care varies throughout the nation, but residents of one northern Utah city shell out 36 percent less than their counterparts in the Midwest. The Ogden-Clearfield area has the lowest medical care spending in the United States, with $2,623 per capita, whereas spending in Anderson, Ind., runs up to $7,231 a year, according to a recent report released by Thomson Reuters, which assessed the health care experiences of more than 20 million Americans who are insured through employer-sponsored plans (Leonard, 9/17).

The Miami Herald: Judge Sends Medicare Offender To Prison For 50 Years
On Friday, a federal judge slammed (Lawrence) Duran, 49, with a 50-year prison sentence for orchestrating a staggering $205 million scam at his Miami-based chain of mental health clinics. The sentence may end up being the longest prison term ever imposed on someone convicted of Medicare fraud (Weaver, 9/17). 

Los Angeles Times: State Senate Health Chairman Doing Business With Kaiser
A Southern California lawmaker who helped defeat legislation opposed by Kaiser is benefiting from a business relationship with the nonprofit health group. The proposal, which died in the Legislature earlier this month after a dispute over its provisions, would have required state approval for health insurers including Kaiser to raise their rates (McGreevey, 9/17). (Kaiser Health News is not associated with Kaiser Permanente.) 

Montgomery Advertiser: Legislators: State Could Save Millions If Prison Officials Seek Medicaid Funding For Inmates
Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Alabama, who have not agreed on much in recent months, are questioning why the state prison system is not seeking reimbursement for medical treatment of Medicaid-eligible prisoners -- a change they believe could save the state millions during tough economic times. The prison commissioner in Mississippi, Christopher Epps, told the Montgomery Advertiser his state has saved $10 million through the program since implementing it in 2009 and that Mississippi has fewer inmates than Alabama…. But a spokesman for the state's health care provider said they have found it is rare that such programs work and the state's finance director said there are multiple reasons it would not work in Alabama (Kitchen, 9/19).

Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune: New Minn. Fraud Czar Has Eyes On Health And Welfare Programs
Jerry Kerber has his eye on a huge chunk of Minnesota's budget, as inspector general for fraud, waste and mismanagement in state health and welfare programs. The 56-year-old lifelong Minnesotan was named to the new position at the Department of Human Services last month. Kerber spoke with The Associated Press last week (Lohn, 9/18). 

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