State Highlights: Mass. Enforcing Individual Mandate; Improving Kids' Dental Coverage

A selection of stories from Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Montana, Arizona, Connecticut and Maryland.

Boston Globe: Healthy Advice: Outreach Workers Making Sure People Know Of New Law
Getting the word out is half the battle, and the state is well into a $3 million media campaign ...  [E]very adult must have insurance by December. If they don’t and if the state determines that insurance was affordable for them, they will be fined $219 next year. The penalty increases substantially in 2009 (Dembner, 3/22).

California Healthline: Legislative Hearing Looks at Transition Plans
The budget subcommittee on Health and Human Services heard proposals by the Department of Health Care Services to cut health plan rate reimbursement for Healthy Families' children by 25%. In addition, DHCS intends to move 900,000 children from that program into Medi-Cal managed care. The committee also heard from a long parade of people who opposed those proposals. (Gorn, 3/23). 

The Sacramento Bee: Senate Panel Backs Choice In Medi-Cal Coverage Of Sacramento County Kids Dental Care
The legislation also would establish stricter standards for dental plans and tougher enforcement by state agencies. Steinberg said the legislation is necessary because Sacramento County's mandatory managed care dental program, the only one of its kind in the state, has left some children waiting months for treatment for painful, rotted or broken teeth (Bazar, 2/23).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Maryland Oral Health Program Targets Families Not Taking Advantage Of Medicaid Dental Care
[In 2007, Deamonte Driver, from Prince George's County] died from a tooth infection that spread to his brain after his coverage lapsed and his mother couldn’t find a dentist to treat him (3/23). 

The Sacramento Bee: Sutter 'Navigators' Steer Routine Patients Out Of Emergency Rooms
At least one in four visitors to Sutter Health's emergency rooms in Sacramento has problems better suited to a regular doctor's office or urgent-care clinic, the company reports. … Sutter is working with the Effort, a local nonprofit health care provider, to attack this problem ... The companies created a new job description, the emergency department navigator. Full-time navigators station themselves in the emergency rooms at Sutter General and Sutter Memorial in Sacramento (Rubenstein, 3/23).

Alaska Public Radio: Providence Hospital Tests New Breed Of Medical Professional: Health Coaches
Health coaches are still rare in the medical profession. But they are becoming more popular as chronic and often preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes consume more and more health care dollars (Feidt, 3/22). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Critics Filing Legal Challenges To Malloy Executive Orders
Opponents of two executive orders allowing home care workers and daycare providers to unionize are filing lawsuits this week alleging that the orders violate state and federal law. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued the orders in September (Levin Becker, 3/22).

The Associated Press/Arizona Republic: Arizona Prison Health-Care Lawsuit Tossed
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged that Arizona prisons don't meet the basic requirements for providing adequate medical and mental-health care to inmates. ... Judge Frederick Martone said in a ruling Wednesday that the prisoner who filed the lawsuit 18 months ago didn't have permission to add 13 more inmates as plaintiffs and seek class-action status (3/22).

Kaiser Health News: Sheriff: State Mental Health Cuts Undermine Public Safety
Three-quarters of states have cut their mental health budgets during each of the past four fiscal years, for a combined reduction of $4.35 billion, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute ... local law enforcement agencies say they’re bearing the brunt of the cuts (Gold, 3/22).

KQED's State of Health blog: S.F. Doctor New Head of National HIV Office
President Obama has tapped San Francisco's own Dr. Grant Colfax to head the Office of National AIDS Policy in Washington, D.C. Dr. Colfax is the former director of HIV prevention and research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health (Schwartz, 3/22). 

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.