State Roundup: Texas House Dems Ask CMS To Reject Medicaid Waiver

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

CQ HealthBeat: Texas Democrats Ask CMS To Deny State Medicaid Waiver
The nine House Democrats from Texas want the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reject their state's request that Medicaid beneficiaries get their prescription drugs through managed care plans. In a letter to Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey & Certification, the delegation said approving Texas' proposal "could force small Texas pharmacies to close and seriously endanger patient access to vital prescription drugs" (Bunis, 9/22).

The Arizona Republic: Side Effect Of Mental-Health Cuts: Job Losses
As much as the state's behavioral-health system has suffered cutbacks over the past year, it's about to suffer more. Agencies that treat Arizona's mentally ill and provide substance-abuse treatment face a double whammy. The state's Medicaid program soon will again reduce the amount it pays for services. And a 30-year-old class-action lawsuit that ensured state-funded treatment for the seriously mentally ill may be nearing its demise. The latest round of payment reductions, spurred by a need to balance the state budget, has forced care providers to lay off hundreds of mental-health workers statewide (Reinhart, 9/23).

The Dallas Morning News: Dallas Smokers Say They Feel Targeted By New Rules, Higher Costs
Smokers know that it's tougher lighting up these days, navigating bans and paying more out of their pockets. But eliminating them from job consideration because they use nicotine? "I think that’s ridiculous," said Christy Caveny after hearing about the new hiring policy that will begin Jan. 1 at Baylor Health (Boardman, 9/22).

The California Report/KQED: California Nurses On Strike
Organizers say it's the biggest nurses' strike in U.S. history: involving two hospital chains -- Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health -- and two unions -- the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the California Nurses Association. ... Ironic though it may be -- that a healthcare worker is worried about her own health care benefits -- it's an issue that's erupting in contract negotiations at hospitals across California. Employers are pushing to raise co-pays and employee contributions. Another issue driving the strikes is staffing levels (Clark, 9/22).

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: Twenty-Three Hospitals Face Financial Penalties For Preventable Readmissions
At least 23 hospitals across the state are facing financial penalties because their so-called "potentially preventable readmissions rates," are too high, according to MassHealth administrators. The penalties, slated to take effect Oct. 1, are part of the new, 2012 rate contracts between the state and the 65 hospitals who care for MassHealth patients. Hospitals deemed by the state to have too many re-admitted patients will be hit with a 2.2 percent reduction in their standard payment amount per discharge (Zimmerman, 9/22). 

WBUR's CommonHealth Blog: New Partners Option Aims To Keep Employees In-House For Care
Partners HealthCare, the state's largest employer, is in the process of notifying its 60,000-plus employees of a new option in their health insurance: a plan that charges them more out-of-pocket for non-Partners care. ... Now, this is nothing new, for a hospital network to aim to keep employees in-house for care. But when Partners does it, it raises an obvious question: Partners — which includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as community hospitals and health centers — has repeatedly been cited by state authorities as a key driver of high medical costs. If more people from among its multitudinous employees get care at Partners, won't that drive costs still higher? (Goldberg, 9/22). 

Georgia Health News: Budget Squeeze Dooms Public Health Clinic
Public health officials are closing a primary care clinic at the Lowndes County Health Department on Sept. 30 because of budget problems. The Valdosta clinic has been serving patients for more than a decade. The 400 to 500 low-income people who regularly get free services there are mostly middle-aged, and roughly 80 percent of them have diabetes or hypertension, says Dr. William Grow, who is district health director. They don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, he says. ... What's happening in Lowndes County has played out in other areas of the state after years of tight budgets (Miller, 9/22). 

California Healthline: New Law Allows Physicians To Move Children From Acute Care
Physicians in California are not allowed to transfer children who are under care of the state and in acute care facilities, even if moving them to a subacute facility would be a better option for them. Assembly member Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) wanted to change that with AB 667. Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) agreed and signed that bill into law (Gorn, 9/22).

Kansas Health Institute News: Small-Biz Health Insurance Legislation To Be Revived
A health insurance bill from the 2010 legislative session that pitted the state's small-business lobby against the Kansas Insurance Department will be revived in the 2012 session. ... The measure, if approved, would allow small-business owners to buy or subsidize an employee's purchase of an individual health insurance policy and get a tax credit, as do employers who offer coverage through a group plan (9/22). 

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.