State News: Wis. Insurers Meet Health Law Medical Spending Requirements

A selection of health policy stories from Wisconsin, Oregon, Arizona, New York, Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts, Florida and California.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State-Based Health Insurers Meet Federal Spending Requirements
All of the major health insurers based in Wisconsin and at least two of the large national health insurers in the state have met the new federal requirement that health plans spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care and quality initiatives (Boulton, 6/7).

The Lund Report:  Communication To Oregon Health Plan Patients Increases As Reform Nears
Communication to Oregon Health Plan patients about what the monumental changes to the Oregon Health Plan’s delivery system means to them is beginning in earnest as the August 1 start date for 11 organizations likely to become coordinated care organizations throughout Oregon nears.  The Oregon Health Authority is expected to send a 30-day notice letter to Oregon Health Plan patients that will receive care from coordinated care organizations starting August 1. A rough draft of that letter circulating among advocates stresses the fact that benefits paid for by the Oregon Health Plan are not changing (Waldroupe, 6/8).

Los Angeles Times: Prop. 29 Backers Hold Out Hope As Gap Narrows
Proponents of the tobacco tax initiative on Tuesday's state ballot, Proposition 29, refused to concede defeat Thursday as election officials continued to count ballots and the gap narrowed. The measure was losing by just under 53,000 votes as updated tallies continued to trickle in from county elections offices. On election night, that number was 63,000 (Wilson, 6/7).

Reuters: New York City Official Defends "Supersize" Drink Ban
New York City's top health official shot back on Thursday at critics who have blasted the city's plan to limit the sale of oversized sugary drinks such as soda, calling beverage industry opposition ridiculous. ... "It's not saying 'no' to people. It's saying, 'Are you sure? Do you really want that?'" Thomas Farley, New York City's health commissioner, said. "It's sending people a message while giving people the freedom to drink as much as they want" (Heavey, 6/7).

Richmond Times-Dispatch:  Emptying Training Centers Sparks Pivotal Hearing Today In Federal Court
A federal judge today will weigh a proposed $2 billion settlement between Virginia and the federal government that is a pivotal step toward erasing what the U.S. Department of Justice has alleged is the state's archaic and unconstitutional warehousing of disabled people. U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. in Richmond is expected to take most of the day to allow parties affected by the proposed closing of four of the state's five training centers for physically and intellectually disabled individuals to air their opinions about a settlement, which is described as either dooming or freeing for more than 1,000 institutionalized adults and their families (Mckelway, 6/8).

Modern Healthcare: Texas Devicemaker To Pay Over $34 Million In Kickback Case
A Texas-based medical-device company has agreed to pay more than $34 million to settle allegations that it improperly waived patient co-payments, received overpayments from the federal government and paid kickbacks to physicians. According to a news release from the Justice Department, Lewisville, Texas-based Orthofix "paid kickbacks to physicians and their staffs in the form of 'fitter fees,' referral fees and other comparable fees to induce the use" of the company's bone growth stimulator devices (McKinney, 6/7).

Modern Healthcare: NYU Langone, Continuum Health Explore Merger
The potential merger of NYU Langone Medical Center with Continuum Health Partners moved closer to a deal as the New York hospital operators signed a memorandum of understanding. Negotiations are expected to continue for another six months as the prospective partners compare strategic and operating plans, the not-for-profits said in a joint statement (Evans, 6/7).

Boston Globe: South Shore Hospital To Join Partners System
South Shore Hospital in Weymouth has agreed to become a member of the Partners HealthCare medical system in a deal that falls short of an outright merger, according to a memorandum of understanding released Thursday by the hospital, Partners HealthCare, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. … South Shore Hospital, with 318 beds, serves a swath of Southeastern Massachusetts stretching from Quincy to Taunton to Cape Cod (Denison, 6/7).

Health News Florida: 'Report Card' Peeves Low-Scoring Hospital
Hospitals that got bad grades on this week's patient-safety report are fighting to reclaim their reputations. Florida hospitals, taken as a whole, scored several percentage points better than the national average when The Leapfrog Group released letter grades for 2,600 hospitals on Wednesday at www.HospitalSafetyScore.org. Only 5 percent of Florida hospitals received a "Grade Pending," which signifies a D or F. But that 5 percent includes some big names, including Jackson Memorial (Rabaza, 6/7).

California Healthline: Scrutiny Of Health Care Training Programs Increasing
As California gears up to increase an understaffed health care workforce, private schools training health care workers of the future are coming under more scrutiny on several fronts. … Common themes in the legislation, research projects and state oversight include the high costs of education compared with graduation rates and graduates' ability to find jobs. Most of the attention is trained on vocational training at private schools. The increased demand for a wide range of health care workers, from physician assistants to vocational nurses and dental assistants, has sparked an increase in private educational programs (Lauer, 6/7).

California Healthline: Long-Term Care Crisis Is Now, Report Says
By 2030, the number of Californians 85 and older will rise by 40 percent and the overall senior population will comprise about 18 percent of all Californians. That's the sobering news from a fact sheet released this week by the SCAN Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that tracks long-term care issues. … The fact sheet projects a population of 9 million seniors in California by the year 2030. [SCAN Vice President Gretchen] Alkema said state policies to encourage and facilitate the purchase of long-term care insurance will be important in the next few years (Gorn, 6/8).

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.