A selection of health policy stories from California and Massachusetts.
Los Angeles Times: Health Insurers To Reduce Rate Hikes For California Small Firms
Tens of thousands of small businesses in California collectively will save $48 million on their health insurance bills starting this month now that three insurers have agreed to reduce pending rate hikes (Lifsher, 7/7).
Boston Globe: Students, Doctors Protest Easing Of Gift Ban
Governor Deval Patrick is scheduled to sign a new $32.5 billion state budget Sunday that would probably loosen a ban on gifts to doctors from drug and medical device companies. The proposed measure scales back restrictions imposed in 2008 and would now allow companies to pay for "modest" meals and refreshments for doctors as part of informational sessions about their products (Shen, 7/6).
Modern Healthcare: Mass. Governor Backs Easing Of Industry Gift Ban
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in a letter this week that he will support amendments to the state's law banning drug and medical-device companies from giving gifts to health care providers. Legislation banning gifts to providers was passed in 2008. The Massachusetts Public Health Council later issued related regulations in March 2009 (Lee, 7/6).
HealthyCal: Low-Income Patients Want Closer Connection To Health Providers
Low-income Californians want closer relationships with their doctors' offices -- but not only with their doctor, according to a new poll that plumbed the needs and desires of a population that will be at the heart of federal health reform. The survey, released Monday, found that most low-income patients would be happy to have a "team approach" to treatment that included not just a doctor but nurses, medical assistants, dieticians and health outreach workers (Weintraub, 7/9).
HealthyCal: Free Clinic Struggles To Meet Surge In Demand
Lestonnac, a free health clinic in Orange County, is struggling to keep up with increasing demand. Clinic resources can no longer cover the needs of patients, 60 percent of whom are from Santa Ana. People who lost jobs that once provided them with decent health policies, and do not qualify for Medi-Cal, the insurance program for the poor, now rely on free and low-cost health care services at the clinic. Undocumented workers also turn to the clinic as their only option. Sometimes, it saves their lives (Afrasiabi, 7/9).
San Francisco Chronicle: Romney Aides Gave Advice On State Health Care Law
California officials are moving quickly to deliver services to millions of people as a result of crucial legislation signed two years ago by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here's the twist: Schwarzenegger consulted with advisers to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and presumptive GOP presidential nominee, before signing a package of seven health care bills after Congress passed the federal Affordable Care Act. Among other things, the 2010 legislation made California the first state to establish a health insurance exchange aimed at giving residents more affordable choices (Marinucci, 7/6).
San Francisco Chronicle: Hospitals See Pros And Cons To Health Care Law
Hospital administrators in the state said they largely support the federal health care reform legislation upheld by the Supreme Court last month, but many are apprehensive about major pieces of the law, including the possible expansion of the state's Medicaid program. … Locally, hospital executives said they've been preparing for the onset of the reforms, mainly through administrative changes, such as moving to electronic medical records expected to streamline the health care process. But most added that there are significant unanswered questions about how health care reform will affect their business and the patients they serve (Cuda, 7/8).
Boston Globe: Curbing Health Care Costs May Cost State $40 Million A Year
The state will have to spend money to save money on health care costs, according to preliminary estimates from Governor Deval Patrick's administration. The cost to the state of implementing cost-control legislation being finalized by House and Senate leaders could be $20 million to $40 million a year, the governor's staff said yesterday (Kowalczyk, 7/7).
Boston Globe: Thousands In Massachusetts Still Forgo Health Care Insurance, Pay Penalty
Massachusetts had the nation's highest rate of health coverage even before passage of a pioneering 2006 law requiring most residents to have insurance. Yet tens of thousands of people like [Francisco] Machado go uncovered each year and pay a fine. Starting in 2014, when much of the national Affordable Care Act kicks in, millions of other Americans could face a similar fine, putting Massachusetts in the spotlight as a possible indicator of what lies ahead for the country (Conaboy, 7/6).
California Healthline: Kaiser, State Close On Healthy Families Pact
Officials from Kaiser Permanente and the state Department of Health Care Services are finalizing a deal to enable Kaiser's participation in the state's planned elimination of the Healthy Families program. That is welcome news for the 193,000 Kaiser-enrolled children in Healthy Families -- almost one-fourth of all children in the program. Up till now, it looked like the state and Kaiser were at an impasse over Kaiser's participation in the conversion of Healthy Families to Medi-Cal managed care (Gorn, 7/9).