State Roundup: Report Finds Racial Gap in Colo. Dental Coverage; Health Cuts Part Of Conn. Budget Plan

News outlets report on a variety of state health news developments.

The Associated Press: NH Hospital Hepatitis Problems, Fixes Detailed
Though Exeter Hospital has fixed problems discovered after a hepatitis C outbreak last spring, federal officials say the hospital initially failed to conduct an adequate investigation. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said last week it no longer plans to terminate the hospital's Medicare funding now that multiple issues raised by inspectors have been addressed (Ramer, 12/10).

The Denver Post: Huge Colorado Racial Gap In Dental Coverage As More Lose Access
The number of Coloradans without dental insurance jumped by 17 percent — 300,000 people — over two years and widened a troubling ethnic gap, with more than half of Latinos reporting no coverage, according to a broad study by the Colorado Trust. Those using dental care in a given year also fell, even among those who had insurance, because of high co-pays and a lack of dental providers willing to give low-cost care, the study showed (Booth, 12/10).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Access To Dental Care Declining In Colorado
The crisis in access to dental health care in Colorado is growing more severe even as the effort by the state Department of Health and Environment this year continues to highlight improved oral care as one of its 10 "winnable battles." A new analysis released Monday by The Colorado Trust found that the number of Coloradans without dental insurance grew 17 percent between 2009 and 2011, and that even people with dental insurance failed to receive care due to cost or a lack of available dental providers. "Coloradans need to speak up for the care they need to stay healthy, including oral health," said Ned Calonge, MD, who is president and CEO of The Colorado Trust, which funds the biannual surveys (Carman, 12/10).

CT Mirror: Malloy Defends His Plan To Collect More Revenue From Businesses
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended his plan Monday to seek an extra $22 million in revenue from businesses and power plants to help close the current budget deficit, arguing this doesn't break his pledge not to raise taxes. ... Though details were limited, the "road map" -- as referred to by the administration -- called for $220 million in spending cuts and $22.6 million in new revenue. … Malloy also acknowledged he could face a tough road with his fellow Democrats in the House and Senate majorities. The largest single-reduction proposed Friday involves $122 million aimed at the Department of Social Services, which administers a wide array of health care and other support services for the poor, aged and disabled, most of which are partially supported with federal aid. That proposed $122 million cut is expected to save the state just $63.5 million since the reduction would trigger a $58 million loss in federal assistance (Phaneuf, 12/10).

MPR: Program To Shift People From MinnesotaCare To Vouchers Off To A Slow Start
The Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program was supposed to shift 4,200 people from the MinnesotaCare program to a voucher system. But the program itself is having a hard time getting off the ground. Judie Nyholm has not had health insurance since July, when the 61-year-old Brooklyn Center resident was dropped from MinnesotaCare. "One month came up, and I had $52 a month too much for one month, so they dropped me and told me that I could go on the Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program," Nyholm said. She is the subject of an experiment being discussed on both the state and federal level. Instead of relying on state-subsidized, government-based health insurance, Nyholm became eligible to receive a state voucher of $395 monthly to buy health insurance on the private market (Scheck, 12/10).

Modern Healthcare: Maine System, Hospital Exploring Deal
Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems said it signed a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Mercy Hospital, a 168-bed hospital in Portland, Maine, which was previously in talks to be purchased by Steward Health Care System. Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, based in Brewer, is one of the largest systems in Maine and owns seven hospitals. Mercy Hospital is owned by Catholic Health East (Lee, 12/10).

The Boston Globe: Letter To Lawmakers: In Light Of Recent Scandals, Invest More In Public Health
As the Legislature begins planning for next year's budget, public health leaders are calling on the state to "reverse the trend of disinvestment" in programs meant to protect the public from infectious diseases, environmental contaminants, and medical errors. The Department of Public Health could see a small budget cut as Governor Deval Patrick looks to close a $540 million shortfall this year (Conaboy, 12/10).

HealthyCal: Program Cuts Health Costs By Housing The Homeless
Sixteen months after a coalition of San Diego nonprofit groups took the county's most costly homeless people – highest consumers of ambulance rides, emergency room and police resources – and put them into permanent housing, the cost savings are adding up. Early calculations suggest that costs are down by nearly $1 million (Graham, 12/10).

Kansas Health Institute News: KanCare Workforce Shift Hampering Local Agencies
Workforce shortages prompted by the overhaul of the Kansas Medicaid program are hampering operations at some social service agencies in Johnson County and elsewhere in the state, according to executives at the organizations. Human Services Director Debbie Collins said since September, her Johnson County agency had lost three of its nine case managers that assist frail elderly Medicaid clients through the Area Agency on Aging. Collins said the workers all left for similar positions at UnitedHealthcare, one of the three insurance companies hired by the state as part of the new Medicaid program, which the state has dubbed KanCare (Sherry, 12/10).

Kansas Health Institute News: Regents Take A Pass For Now On Mid-Level Dental Practitioner Issue
The Kansas Board of Regents will not consider a proposal from Fort Hays State University to create a new training program for mid-level dental practitioners until the Kansas Legislature decides whether it wants to authorize licensing for the new category of dental worker. Andy Tompkins, chief executive of the state's higher education governing board, today said the panel's governance committee had decided to wait and see what the Kansas Legislature would do before taking up the issue. A coalition of consumer and health advocates have been pushing for the new type of dental technician in each of the past two legislative sessions (Shields, 12/10).

California Healthline: Time Running Out To Opt Back In To Adult Day Program
About 4,400 frail and elderly Californians who qualified for Community Based Adult Services opted out of the managed care program to remain in traditional fee-for-service care. Less than three weeks remain for them to change their minds. On Dec. 31, the state Easy-Way-Back program will close, and those "opt-outs" who declined Medi-Cal managed care will officially forfeit their CBAS benefits, according to Norman Williams, director of public affairs for the Department of Health Care Services. The opt-outs -- or the providers who are advising them to opt out -- may be operating on false assumptions, Williams said in a written statement. "[They] may have a misunderstanding that entering Medi-Cal managed care would negatively affect their Medicare options, including which providers they may visit," Williams wrote (Gorn, 12/11).

California Healthline: Northern California Addresses Safety-Net Challenges
The California Health Policy Forum predicts that once the ACA is fully implemented, about four million previously uninsured Californians could obtain coverage. But it won't be everybody. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that four million Californians still will be uninsured after 2014, and many of them will rely on safety-net providers for care. A report by the institute underscores the new role of safety-net providers -- treating both those not eligible for coverage under reform and low-income, newly insured Californians (Edlin, 12/10).

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