State Roundup: Conn. Retiree Health Plan Expansion Could Endanger Protections

A selection of health policy stories from California, New York, Iowa, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Alaska and North Carolina.

Los Angeles Times: Near Melrose, A National Health Care Predicament Plays Out
Neighbors were already concerned about the growing number of group homes for the elderly and recovering addicts in the area, many of them for profit. A Times analysis found 24 licensed facilities offering residential care for the elderly within a mile of the proposed project and three more waiting for state approval. It is one of several such clusters that have emerged in Los Angeles County -- including parts of the San Fernando Valley and South Bay -- where families can afford fees that run into thousands of dollars per month. Large swaths of the county's less affluent areas have no such facilities (Zavis, 5/7).

The New York Times: Cuomo Seeking New Agency To Police Care Of Disabled
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seeking to strengthen the state's chronically weak response to abuse of disabled people who live in publicly financed homes, plans this week to propose creating an agency dedicated to investigating problems with the care of nearly one million vulnerable New Yorkers (Hakim, 5/6).

The Connecticut Mirror: Federal Opinon Undermines State's Health-Pool Concept 
The U.S. Department of Labor has advised the Malloy administration that opening Connecticut's state employee and retiree health plan to nonprofits and small businesses could jeopardize the legal protections it now enjoys as a government plan. The advisory opinion sought by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy could undermine a health care pooling bill passed last year and an expansion proposed by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (Pazniokas, 5/4).

KQED's State of Health blog: High-Deductible Health Plans: Health Access or High Risk?
Health care costs are skyrocketing and premiums along with them forcing some employers -- especially small businesses -- to drop coverage altogether. But others are moving to "high-deductible health plans." Five times as many businesses offer high deductible health plans as in 2005, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. But how do these plans play out for employers -- and workers themselves? (Weiss, 5/4). 

Related, earlier KHN story: Quick Facts About High-Deductible Health Plans (Kulkarni, 4/27). 

Los Angeles Times: Hospital Violated Patient Confidentiality, State Says
State regulators determined that a Redding hospital owned by Prime Healthcare Services Inc. violated patient confidentiality by sharing a woman's medical files with journalists and sending an email about her treatment to 785 hospital workers (Terhune, 5/5).

Modern Healthcare: Cancer-Care ACO To Launch In Florida
Baptist Health South Florida and oncology practice Advanced Medical Specialties, both of Miami, are working with Florida Blue, a Jacksonville-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, to set up an accountable care organization specifically for cancer treatment. The program will use a value-based reimbursement model that aims to lower the cost of cancer care while also improving care quality, according to a Florida Blue news release. It will focus on the treatment of the most common types of cancer (Kutscher, 5/4).

Des Moines Register: Wellmark Selects 4 Cities For Health Campaign
Four northern Iowa cities have been chosen for the first "Blue Zone" demonstration projects as part of a campaign to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation. The winning towns are Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Mason City and Spencer. They will receive expert assistance in encouraging residents to lead healthier, more fulfilling and longer lives. The announcement was made Friday at the Des Moines headquarters ofWellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a health insurer that plans to spend more than $20 million on the five-year campaign (Leys, 5/4). 

KQED/The California Report: Traditional Hmong Healers Learning to Partner With Valley Doctors 
Thousands of Hmong refugees settled in the Central Valley in the 1970s. ... [T]he Hmong were more likely to see a shaman than a doctor when they got sick and that has presented something of a challenge for health care professionals here in California. A hospital in Merced is addressing that with a program called "Partners in Healing" (Kalantari, 5/4). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Minn. Test Of Meds Delivery In Emergency Goes Well 
The Minnesota Department of Health and U.S. postal workers responded to a fictional airborne anthrax attack in the Twin Cities this weekend. ... "Operation Medicine Delivery" was the first full-scale test of a strategy for distributing medicine in the event of an epidemic or large-scale anthrax attack. About 300 mail carriers on Sunday delivered empty pill bottles to thousands of homes ... Once she did start thinking about it, [Claire] Thompson realized she has lots of questions. "How would they know how much medication to deliver to a home? Where are you going to get this stockpile anyway? I assume if everybody is so sick they can't leave their house, how you going to count on your mail service?" (Shenoy, 5/7). 

Sacramento Bee: Bill Seeks To Ban California Chiropractors From Offering Laser 'Cure' For Allergies
Claims that laser therapy can be used to cure allergy symptoms have been popping up across the country, touted by some chiropractors who say the treatment represents an innovative approach to an age-old problem. But critics question the science behind the claims, and now a far-reaching bill before California's Legislature would prohibit chiropractors from performing and advertising allergy treatments altogether (Van Oot, 5/5).

MSNBC: Alaska's Senators Welcome Agreement For Rural Health Care
Alaska's Senators are welcoming an agreement by the Veterans Administration that allows Rural Alaska veterans to receive health care benefits at Native health clinics. A release from Senator Mark Begich's office says the VA, 14 Alaska Native Tribal Health Programs and the Department of Veterans Affairs signed an agreement that allows Alaska Native veterans to get care at participating village clinics. The VA will then reimburse the clinics. Before the veterans had to travel to Anchorage or as far away as Seattle for health care (Ebert, 5/5).

Healthy Cal: Community Clinics Try To Fill Dental Care Gap
Roughly three million poor and disabled Californians had their coverage for dental services cut three years ago, and community dental clinics have struggled to cover preventative services ever since. ... Dental services aren't mandated under the federal Medicaid program and California, with a program called Denti-Cal, was once one of the few states to cover non-emergency services for adults. But with the state budget crisis, legislators cut the non-mandatory services (Shanafel, 5/4).

California Healthline: Newborn Test Takes Baby Step Forward
A bill to require hospitals to screen all newborns for congenital heart conditions recently was presented to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations -- where it was expected to get a rough reception. ... California hospitals' cost of administering the screening test to newborns, the Assembly analysis estimates additional cost to the Department of Health Care Services to launch and run the program -- up to $1 million annually, as well as start-up costs of $300,000. The legislative analysis of AB 1731 also saw potential cost savings of $350,000 a year by avoiding expensive emergency room visits and operations to treat congenital heart disease (Gorn, 5/7).

North Carolina Health News: To Save Money, Improve Health, NC Changes Mental Health System – Again
Last summer, the legislature decided to turn the agencies that oversee $2.5 billion worth of publicly-funded mental health services into small insurance companies. The plan is based on the experience of one agency that has been functioning as a pilot project for the past six years. ... But for all the good intentions and high-minded rhetoric, the changes have been fraught with controversy in the courts, anxiety, and 'misunderstandings' between the state’s model provider agency, mental health consumers, local officials and advocates (Wilson, 5/7).

The Dallas Morning News: Texas Regulators Launch New Investigation Of Parkland Memorial Hospital
Parkland Memorial Hospital fired a social worker for complaining about pressure to break safety rules, a new lawsuit alleges. Texas regulators said Friday that they’re investigating the matter, which comes to light at a particularly difficult time for the Dallas public hospital. It is struggling to carry out a huge do-or-die overhaul that federal regulators recently ordered because of widespread threats to patient safety(Egerton, 5/4).

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.