A selection of health policy stories from Maryland, Texas, California, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona and Massachusetts.
The Washington Post: Filling In The Details Of How Prince George's Should Revamp Its Publicly Funded Medical System
Maryland officials are preparing to unveil this week a detailed plan for a $600 million regional hospital to replace the ailing Prince George's Hospital Center and establish a new health-care network throughout Prince George's County. The plans are part of a broad effort to improve health care in a county where an estimated 150,000 residents lack health insurance or have insufficient coverage and often rely on hospital emergency rooms for primary care (Spivak, 7/21).
Kaiser Health News: States Efforts To Outsource Prison Health Care Under Scrutiny
States, in an attempt to cut costs, are increasingly outsourcing health care for inmates to for-profit companies, but the trend is raising concerns among unions and prisoners' rights groups. About 20 states, including Arizona, Illinois and Maryland, have shifted all or portions of their prison health care operations to private firms (Leonard, 7/22).
Kaiser Health News: Texas Advocates Push Insurance Rate Review
In an effort to make insurance affordable, the federal law requires every state to conduct a special review whenever a health insurer wants to raise premiums more than 10 percent. This rate review would help protect small businesses and individuals who buy their own policies. The provision went into effect last September, and since then, insurers made nine such requests in Texas. But so far the Texas Department of Insurance has not completed any reviews (Feibel, 7/20).
HealthyCal: Navigating Patients To Better Health And Lower Costs
Dale was homeless and uninsured when he moved to Santa Cruz last year to live with his sister. Shortly after that, he ended up in the hospital and underwent emergency surgery. On top of his surgical recovery, he suffers from mental health problems and diabetes. Dale (not his real name) is the type of patient the Health Improvement Partnership of Santa Cruz County is aiming to assist with its second health navigator pilot project. Due to launch in July, the project will help people who have limited access to medical care travel the often complicated road from hospital bed to recovery, because those patients are often the most likely to land back in the hospital (Graebner, 7/23).
North Carolina Health News: Winston-Salem Center Will Provide Support For Mentally Ill
Mental health advocates in Winston-Salem are opening a drop-in center dedicated to people with mental illness helping one another. They're driven by an emerging movement in the mental health world that focuses not just on symptom management, but recovery from serious illness.
Oregonian: Alaska Native Medical Center A Model For Curbing Costs, Improving Health
James has stumbled into the primary care center of one of the most effective and innovative health systems in the nation. Southcentral Foundation, run by and for Alaska Natives, assumes it improves health only by developing relationships with patients. It has dramatically reduced health disparities that persist among Native Americans and across the country, including the Portland area. The nonprofit has attracted health leaders from all over the world, including Oregon, which drew on Southcentral's design in making coordinated care teams the centerpiece of state health reform (Graves, 7/21).
San Francisco Chronicle: Alameda County To Vote On Drug Disposal
With a law believed to be nationally unprecedented, Alameda County is about to tell the pharmaceutical industry it must pay to get rid of the unused pills in people's medicine cabinets. On Tuesday, the county's Board of Supervisors will cast its final vote on the Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance. It would require makers of drugs sold or distributed in Alameda County to pay for a countywide program to safely collect and destroy unused medications (Lee, 7/22).
Arizona Republic: Maricopa County Nixes Hospital-Tax Vote
County health officials scuttled a plan to ask voters in November for a new tax to upgrade county health facilities, but the matter could go on the ballot within the next two years. The board of directors of the Maricopa Integrated Health System on Friday rejected the proposal by Betsey Bayless, MIHS president and chief executive, to put the measure on this year's general-election ballot. It would have asked voters to raise taxes for a $950 million bond issue to pay for a new county hospital and improvements to existing facilities (Lee, 7/20).
Boston Globe: Laptop Theft May Affect 3,900 Beth Israel Patients
About 3,900 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center patients will be getting letters alerting them that some of their personal health information may have been breached after a physician's personal laptop computer was stolen from a hospital office. The theft occurred May 22, hospital officials said Friday, and the stolen laptop, which contained a tracking device, has not been recovered (Lazar, 7/21).
Boston Globe: Cancer Drug Bill Moves Through The State Senate
Legislation that would require health insurers to cover chemotherapy equally, regardless of whether it was given intravenously or in pill form, passed the state Senate late Thursday evening and is being sent to the House. The bill was drafted to address an inequality in cancer care: Many patients who receive chemotherapy through an infusion have their care covered by insurance or pay a copayment for their office visit, whereas pills often have higher out-of-pocket costs. The disparity has grown in importance as the trend in cancer drug development has meant a surge in treatments administered as pills (Johnson, 7/21).
The Associated Press/Arizona Republic: Arizona County Attorneys At Odds Over Abortion Law
Two prominent Arizona prosecutors who would have to enforce a new abortion restriction are taking opposite positions on whether it should be allowed to take effect as scheduled. A lawsuit recently filed by abortion-rights groups challenges the new law's ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall were named as defendants in the suit because of their law-enforcement positions (Davenport, 7/20).
California Healthline: DHCS Rejects Judge's Opinion On Adult Services Eligibility
An administrative law judge from the Department of Social Services issued an opinion that the Department of Health Care Services does not have the legal authority in two cases to deny eligibility for the Community Based Adult Services program. That opinion was rejected in an alternate decision issued Wednesday by DHCS director Toby Douglas. The appeals process, contained at this point within the state Health and Human Services Agency, is overseen by DSS, which submits its findings to Douglas, who has final word on appeals decisions (Gorn, 7/23).