State Roundup: Mass. Premium Increases Muted

News outlets report on a variety of health policy stories from states including California, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington.

Boston Globe: Mass. OK's Health Plan Increase Of Just 1.2%
State regulators on Monday approved third-quarter health insurance rates that will raise premiums an average of just 1.2 percent in the market serving small businesses and individuals, continuing a trend of more modest increases seen over the past three quarters. And several carriers, including Tufts Health Plan of Watertown and Fallon Community Health Plan, based in Worcester, will reduce their rates -- a rarity in Massachusetts health care -- according to data from the state Division of Insurance (Weisman, 5/1). 

Los Angeles Times: Insurance Rate-Hike Initiative Gains High-Profile Backers
Several high-profile business names, such as San Francisco hedge-fund manager Thomas Steyer and agribusiness magnate Stewart Resnick, have contributed to a proposed ballot measure seeking tighter regulation of health insurance rates, according to campaign finance records (Terhune, 5/1).

Los Angeles Times: California Agency Ripped Over Disparities In Autism Spending
California lawmakers and advocates for children with autism assailed the state Department of Developmental Services during a hearing Monday over the deep racial and ethnic disparities in how it spends money on the disorder (Zarembo, 5/1).

The Associated Press: Idaho Case Shows Midwife Tension With Hospitals
Midwives and doctors are longtime rivals in the politics governing where women should give birth: Home or hospital. But that tension, typically played out privately between pregnant women and their health care providers, was laid bare this month in the case of two Idaho midwives suspended by the state after three babies died during a 14-month period between 2010 and 2011 (Miller, 5/1).

Des Moines Register: Iowa Halts Payments To Des Moines Charity
The state of Iowa has suspended payments to a taxpayer-funded Des Moines charity that provides counseling for children and families. The charity, A New Beginning, was the subject of a March 29 Des Moines Register report that said the organization was the subject of examinations by the Iowa Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the U.S. attorney’s office (Kauffman, 4/30).

Georgia Health News: Agency Urges Restricted Use Of Some Scarce Drugs
The Georgia Department of Public Health has asked EMS providers to reserve certain medications for the most critically ill patients, amid a shortage of drugs to treat people in emergency situations. ... A recent article in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services said the shortages first surfaced nationally in 2010, starting with epinephrine, which treats cardiac arrest, and dextrose, which replenishes bodily fluids and nutrients (Miller, 4/30). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Study: Disparity In Population With New Cases Of HIV/AIDS
A new report from the state health department shows wide disparities among people with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, with more new cases in 2011 among communities of color, gay and bisexual men and people in their 20s than other groups. Overall, the number of new HIV cases reported in Minnesota last year fell slightly from the year before, with 292 new cases reported in 2011 (Mador, 4/30). 

Modern Healthcare: Safety Effort Targeting Handoffs Cut Errors 40%: Boston Hospital
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have developed a specialized set of protocols they say will improve patient handoffs and reduce the risk of adverse events. Using a number of bundled interventions, including team-based training and printed handoff instruction sheets, the initiative led to a 40% drop in medical errors during a three-month pilot study, the hospital said in a news release. The program is now being rolled out in 10 pediatric training programs (McKinney, 4/30).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Aim Cuts Jail For One Class Of 'Criminals'
Georgia Bureau of Investigation director Vernon Keenan isn't known for being soft on crime, but he is working to keep one class of "criminals" out of jail. Keenan, like sheriffs statewide, contends law enforcement turns jails into asylums at huge human and financial costs. Now, a study in which the GBI is partnering with the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance of Mentally ill, shows how to keep people with schizophrenia, bipolar and other mental diseases out of jail, Keenan said (Visser, 4/30).

Houston Chronicle: Houston Hopes Mileage Fee Boosts Ambulance Revenue
A year and a half after raising the price of an ambulance ride from $415 to $1,000, Houston City Council is scheduled to consider Wednesday whether to charge for mileage, too. If the $13-per-mile charge passes, few people will pay it. The city does not collect a cent from the indigent uninsured who account for about 45 percent of the 131,000 ambulance rides the fire department's Emergency Medical Services units give annually. About a third of Harris County adults have no health insurance. The remainder of the rides are covered primarily by insurance, whether private or Medicaid or Medicare (Moran, 4/30).

San Francisco Chronicle: Nurses To Strike Sutter Health Hospitals Tuesday
As many as 4,500 registered nurses at 10 Northern California hospitals operated by Sutter Health are expected to walk off their jobs Tuesday for a one-day strike as part of a contract dispute with the Sacramento hospital chain.The California Nurses Association of Oakland and the hospitals have been in negotiations for more than a year. Union officials say the major points of contention are sick pay and reductions in employee benefits (Colliver, 5/1). 

Kansas Health Institute News: McPherson Doctor Leads In Recruiting, Training Of Rural Surgeons
After working 15 years at a large hospital in his native Dallas, [Dr. Tyler] Hughes picked up his family and moved 400 miles north to a Kansas town where he could be a "real surgeon," averting the administrative track he was on, he said. "I wanted to take care of patients and I felt there was a need out in the rural environment," Hughes said. That was 17 years ago. Since then, he has trained some 80 students, most of them through KU's program (Cauthon, 4/30). 

Earlier, related KHN story: Wanted: Mavericks And Missionaries To Solve Mississippi's Doc Shortage (Hess, 4/26).

The Lund Report (an Oregon news service): Court Ruling Denies CUP Injunction Request
Legislators representing Clark County are disappointed by a court ruling last week that will keep Columbia United Providers (CUP) out of Medicaid in Washington state starting July 1. The health plan ... had filed an administrative appeal with the state's Health Care Authority after contracts were awarded to Centene and Molina, two out-of-state, publicly-traded insurance companies (Jorgensen, 4/30). 

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Bipartisan Love Abounds For Health And Human Services Bill
Republicans and Democrats beat their swords into plowshares Monday as Gov. Mark Dayton ceremonially signed this year's health and human services budget measure…. The measure restores funding or delays cuts to funding for millions of dollars of programs slashed last year as part of the deficit-fixing budget. The restoration includes $4.7 million for the Emergency Medical Assistance program, which helps those who need dialysis and cancer treatment, and delays a $5.9 million cut to personal care attendants, who help people with disabilities with basic daily needs. It also delays a rate cut to long-term care facilities, which means paying out an additional $20.6 million and could give the state time to negotiate a deal with the federal government to make the cut unneeded (Stassen-Berger, 4/30). 

Associated Press/Chicago Sun-Times: Quinn Ties Cigarette Tax Hike To Health Benefits
Whether successful or not, Illinois governors repeatedly have aimed at the same target for additional money to address the state's financial gap — cigarette smokers. But for the first time, Gov. Pat Quinn has floated the idea of tying a cigarette tax hike to improving health care. The Democrat says a $1-per-pack increase would bring in nearly $700 million — including federal matching funds — to help close a $2.7 billion Medicaid shortfall, with the benefits going well beyond (4/30).   

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major 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.