State Roundup: CalPERS Savings; Harvard Pilgrim Challenges 'Partners'

A selection of state health policy stories from California, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

Modern Healthcare: Stay Away
The California Public Employees' Retirement System happily ended 2010 with insurance rates $15 million lower than they might have been ... Catholic Healthcare West, now Dignity Health, which helped deliver those savings, ended that year with millions of dollars less in revenue. The San Francisco-based hospital system was among the early adopters of accountable care ... Hospital executives trying to control spending face the costly prospect of actively trying to keep patients out of the hospital (Evans, 3/17).

San Francisco Chronicle: Calif. Court Rules Nurses Can Give Anesthetics
Nurses who are trained as anesthetists do not need a doctor's supervision to give anesthetics to California hospital patients, a state appeals court has ruled. Thursday's decision by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco was particularly important for rural areas, where nurses commonly administer anesthesia in hospitals, under a doctor's orders but without in-person supervision (Egelko, 3/19).

Boston Globe: Schools Retool Mental Health Counseling Tack
[S]chool officials in Boston and other cities are increasingly importing private clinicians to deliver much-needed mental health services to behaviorally troubled students. ... Some private insurers also pay for mental health visits in school settings, though often with limits on the number of sessions or with large copayments. Children whose insurance will not cover the visits, or who are uninsured, cannot see the therapists unless special arrangements are made (Wen, 3/19).

Boston Globe: Urgent Care Center Trend Growing In Eastern Mass.
With health care costs climbing and emergency rooms overwhelmed, one potential solution is gathering steam across Eastern Massachusetts ... a national company, Doctors Express, said it plans to open 19 urgent care centers in Eastern Massachusetts by the beginning of 2014 (Kowalczyk, 3/19).

Boston Globe: Harvard Pilgrim Set To Launch A Lower Cost Network
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is teaming up with more than 50 hospitals and 16,500 doctors across the state to offer Massachusetts employers and their workers a 10 percent savings on health insurance by forming what they call a "focused network"’ of medical care groups that excludes Partners HealthCare System Inc. and other high-priced providers (Weisman, 3/18).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Community Clinics Key To Improving Access To Care
Next month, Progressive Community Health Centers expects to find out whether it will receive a $5 million federal grant to build a clinic in the heart of one of the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee. ... Hiring additional doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other staff would take years. But expanding Progressive's main clinic is one example of what could be done to increase access to health care in low-income neighborhoods in Milwaukee (Boulton, 3/17).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota Seniors Facing A Spike In Long-Term Care Cost
Premiums are soaring by 20 to 90 percent for thousands of Minnesotans who carry long-term care insurance, and many older people are struggling to figure out what to do. ... [Peter Wyckoff, 67, of Shoreview] got a letter recently saying that the annual premium for the John Hancock policy covering him and his wife, Sue, will rise from $1,816 to $3,834. The unforeseen premium increases have caused a rash of calls to state regulators and advocates from worried or irate older Minnesotans (Wolfe, 3/19).

HealthyCal: Suicide Prevention Line Reaches Out To California Seniors
The Friendship Line is a suicide prevention and mental health hotline for seniors. Last year, they got 18,000 calls. But they also make outgoing calls to remind elders to take their medication or to offer emotional support to people ... They made 40,000 of those calls in 2011  (Shanafelt, 3/18).


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