State Roundup: Calif. Essential Benefits Bill Progresses; Where Are The Doc Waits

A selection of health policy news from California, Arizona, New York, Iowa, Florida and Minnesota.

California Healthline: Essential Health Benefit Bill Clears Committee
[California Assemblyman Bill Monning, chair of the Assembly Committee on Health] introduced AB 1453, which laid out a plan for what essential benefits will be covered in California under the Affordable Care Act. The proposed set of benefits is modeled on the Kaiser small group HMO plan. … The federal government requires states to choose essential benefits in 10 broad categories. In California, that process looked daunting because of the many health care mandates passed by the Legislature, including coverage of autism. This package includes all current California mandates -- including autism coverage -- and everything in the package fits the federal profile as well, which means there would be no extra mandate costs to the state, Monning said. … The bill passed committee, and now heads to Appropriations (Gorn, 4/11).

Reuters: Arizona Lawmakers Vote To Ban Late-Term Abortions
Arizona state lawmakers gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, handing Republicans their latest win in ongoing national efforts to impose greater restrictions on abortion. The measure, passed in the state House of Representatives by a 37-22 vote, would bar health care professionals from performing abortions after 20 weeks, except in the case of a medical emergency. The bill now goes to the state's Republican governor for approval (Schwartz, 4/10).

The Associated Press: Ariz. House OKs Ban On Abortions After 20 Weeks
The Arizona Legislature has approved an anti-abortion bill that includes generally banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The House's vote of 37-22 on Tuesday sends the bill to Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who has signed previous anti-abortion legislation (Davenport, 4/10).

The New York Times: Even Without New Contracts, Many Public Employees Get Raises
In Westchester County, where all eight labor contracts have expired, the executive, Robert P. Astorino, a Republican, has sought to have union members pay a share of their health care costs. But in December, the county's largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, balked and declared negotiations at an impasse (Hakim, 4/10). 

Fox Business: Where Do Patients Wait The Longest?
According to a recent analysis by Vitals.com of more than 700,000 physicians' offices, Wisconsin doctors have the shortest average wait time of 15 minutes. Patients in Mississippi face the longest time with 25 minutes and four seconds of flipping through magazines, filling out forms and trying not to catch the cold of the person next to you (Fuscaldo, 4/10).

Arizona Republic: 7 Arizona Doctors Lose Medicaid Contracts
The state's Medicaid program said it has terminated the contracts of seven doctors who were top prescribers of powerful pain pills and mental-health prescription drugs. Their dismissals were made public as the result of an ongoing probe by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of drug-prescribing patterns in Medicaid programs across the country. Medicaid programs, which provide health care to the nation's poor, reimburse doctors and practitioners. Grassley's probe centers on health-care professionals who prescribe large amounts of pain pills and psychiatric drugs (Alltucker, 4/10).

Des Moines Register: Communication Is Key To Better Health Care
Patients and health care providers can learn ways to better communicate with each other as part of the state’s first-ever health literacy conference this week. ... Iowa Health Systems has worked on health literacy since 2003 and joined forces with other organizations to form Health Literacy Iowa about 18 months ago. Iowa Health has teams raising health literacy awareness among all staff to improve the care environment and make patients feel comfortable asking questions (Villanueva-Whitman, 4/10).

Sunshine State News/News Service of Florida: Appeals Court Rejects Huge Award in Tobacco Death Case
An appeals court Monday rejected a North Florida jury's call for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay $79.2 million to the daughter of a dead smoker -- overturning what could have been the largest verdict in a barrage of lawsuits against cigarette makers (Saunders, 4/10).

Pioneer Press: Minnesota Blue Cross Announces Executive Appointments
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced Tuesday, April 10, a series of new executive appointments to its leadership team. Among other changes, James Eppel becomes the company's chief operating officer, the Eagan-based health insurance company said. Eppel previously served as the company's senior vice president of health management and commercial markets (Snowbeck, 4/10).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major 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.