A selection of state health policy and politics stories from Texas, Washington state, Georgia, Iowa, Oregon, Connecticut and Minnesota.
The Associated Press/The Seattle Times: Gregoire Signs Insurance-Exchange Bill Into Law
Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday signed into law a bill setting rules for insurers preparing for the state's online-insurance exchange. ... The state exchanges for individual and small-group plans are set to go live on Jan. 1, 2014. ... State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said that his office is committed to getting the exchange in place on schedule. "If we slowed down to be anxious, we'd be in trouble," Kreidler said. "It's the [health] law, and we're proceeding as quickly and as prudently as we can" (Kaminsky, 3/23).
The Dallas Morning News: Hutchison Urges Fix To Women's Health Program That Fits State Law Barring Funding To Abortion Providers
One day after expressing support for Planned Parenthood in the fight over the state's Women's Health Program, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison appeared Friday to move closer to her fellow Texas Republicans by urging a solution that assures "compliance with state laws against funding abortion clinics." ... Hutchison’s comments Friday came in a letter asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for “personal involvement” in the standoff between Texas and the federal government, which funds 90 percent of the program (Collins Walsh, 3/23).
Des Moines Register: State Funding Changes Could Lead To Mental Health Services Cuts In Some Counties
At the same time that state leaders are promoting jail diversion programs and other methods to help mentally ill Iowans, some counties are planning to cut such programs because of changes in state financing. ... Some legislative leaders have pledged action to avoid program cuts (Leys, 3/24).
The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Southern Oregon Providers Work To Embed Behavioral Health into Primary Clinics
A quick, 15-minute appointment with a mental health counselor to talk about the effects of stress and anxiety when a person has an ulcer is radically different than a traditional hour long appointment with a counselor. But providers in southern Oregon are discovering that such appointments, which integrate mental healthcare in the same primary care setting, go a long way toward improving a patient's health (Waldroupe, 3/24).
The Connecticut Mirror: Free Dental Clinic Draws Overnight Lines, Hundreds Of Regulars
[Tom] Loftus, 37, of Waterbury, works as a carpenter and has medical insurance through his job, but no dental coverage. It's a relatively common problem in Connecticut, where close to 400,000 people don't have health care coverage and the number without dental insurance is far higher; experts have placed it at 600,000 to 1 million. Even people with dental coverage can struggle to get treated, particularly adults in Medicaid, which pays rates so low few dentists will accept many -- or any -- patients with it (Levin Becker, 3/23).
The Texas Tribune: Lawsuit Can't Cover All Kids in Long-Term Foster Care
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the national child advocacy group Children's Rights cannot file its class-action suit on behalf of all 12,000 youth in Texas' permanent managing conservatorship, otherwise known as long-term foster care. The suit was originally filed on behalf of nine children, and attorneys later filed a motion to expand it (Ramshaw, 3/23).
(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Hospitals, GOP Object To State Control In Health Program
The cuts and controversy surround the State Health Improvement Program, which was created as part of Minnesota's health reform legislation in 2008. The budget agreement last year that cut funding for the program - called SHIP, for short - also directed the Minnesota Department of Health to implement some SHIP strategies through what are known as "community benefit programs" administered by hospitals in the state. But hospitals strenuously object to the idea (Snowbeck, 3/24).
Georgia Health News: Obesity Is An Expensive Problem - And Getting More So
In Georgia, nearly one in three adults is obese, and our childhood obesity rates are second only to Mississippi's. The health care costs linked to excess weight in Georgia's adults are currently estimated at $2.5 billion per year, according to a 2009 report from United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention. But if trends continue, the report projects these costs could reach $10.8 billion by 2018 (Smith, 3/24).
HealthyCal: Healthcare Access Limited In East Valley
Thousands of families in the eastern Coachella Valley work in low-wage industries with no health insurance; many are migrants who can’t see a doctor regularly; and many are undocumented, and thus must seek care at low-cost or free clinics or the nearest emergency room. ... A study done by The California Endowment showed that 36% of adults in the East Valley lack health insurance (Potter, 3/25).
Sacramento Bee: Voters In Sacramento-Area District Hit With Political Claims Over Medicare
The messages in the phone calls and mail pieces targeting voters in one of the Sacramento region's most competitive congressional races vary, but the subject is the same: the future of Medicare. ... The efforts already are fierce in the 7th Congressional District ... The issue is fueling attacks and efforts to shore up support from outside groups looking to influence voters in the east Sacramento County swing district (Van Oot, 3/25).