State Highlights: Groups Weigh In On Mass. Cost Control Bills

A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, Minnesota, California, Kansas and Washington state.

Boston Globe: Interest Groups Weigh In On House And Senate Health Cost Bills
Now that both the House and Senate have released their plans for reining in health care costs -- the former with stronger regulatory controls and the latter encouraging hospitals and doctors to continue efforts to cut costs themselves -- consumer advocates and interest groups are taking sides, staking out their own ground or mulling over their options (Conaboy, 5/10).

Chicago Tribune: Senate Approves Cuts To Retirement Perk
Retired state workers stand to pay more for health insurance that thousands of them now get for little or nothing under legislation the Senate approved Thursday and Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign (Groeninger and Long, 5/11).

Chicago Sun-Times: Plan To Charge State Retirees For Health Insurance Heads To Gov. Quinn's Desk
The Illinois Senate followed the House and overwhelmingly approved a plan Thursday to begin charging retired state workers, lawmakers, judges and university workers for their health insurance. The Senate's 31-20 vote, with one voting present, now sends the issue to Gov. Pat Quinn, who quickly issued a statement saying he plans to sign the bill. … The move affects 78,000 retirees and takes aim at an $876 million program that could climb to more than $1 billion in a year, placing enormous pressure on a state budget already pinched by growing Medicaid and pension costs (McKinney and Maloney, 5/10).

Health News Florida: Medicaid Doctors' Pay Could Soar 
Most primary-care doctors who treat Medicaid patients in Florida would see their pay rate almost double, according to data from a Health Affairs study published in 2009. Urban Institute health economist Stephen Zuckerman, author of the study, said more recent data show that if anything, the Medicaid-to-Medicare ratios in Florida have fallen since then (Gentry, 5/10).

Minnesota Public Radio: Nursing Shortage Largely A Myth For Job Seekers 
One recent forecast from The American College of Medical Quality projects a national shortage of 300,000 to 1 million nurses in 2020. ... But in the last few years, demand has softened. As the recession hit, people used health care less, prompting hospitals to hire fewer new nurses. Some nurses delayed retirement, which meant fewer positions coming open. Meanwhile, schools kept churning out new nurses (Baxter, 5/10). 

Sacramento Bee: Jerry Brown Fires Doctor In Anti-Tobacco Tax Ad
Under pressure from health advocates, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday removed a controversial physician from a state health board after she appeared in an industry-funded ad against a tobacco tax hike on the June ballot. La Donna Porter, a physician at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, had served since 2005 on a state advisory panel of medical experts and scientists that identifies chemicals known to cause developmental or reproductive harm. She was an appointee of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Yamamura, 5/11).

Sacramento Bee: Vaccination Bill Advances To California Senate
The Assembly approved legislation Thursday requiring parents to receive counseling about the risks and potential benefits of vaccinations to prevent communicable diseases before opting out of their children receiving the medicine. The measure, Assembly Bill 2109, was approved by a vote of 44-19 and now goes to the Senate (Sanders, 5/11).

California Healthline: Assembly Casts Its Vote for Vaccinations 
The Assembly yesterday approved a measure to require parents to meet with a licensed medical provider if they want to exempt their children from immunizations. ... California recently has had several outbreaks of preventable disease, [Bill author Richard Pan] said, such as whooping cough and measles. Schoolchildren are not the only ones who could be hurt by these diseases, he said. (Gorn, 5/11). 

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Dayton Signs Bill On Newborn Blood Screening, Retention Of Test Samples
Parents of babies who are tested through the state's newborn screening program will have the option of letting public health officials retain the infant's blood sample and test results for up to 18 years, according to a bill signed into law Thursday, May 10, by Gov. Mark Dayton. The law fills a gap created by a state Supreme Court ruling last year that found the health department's previous practice of simply retaining the samples and test results indefinitely should stop because parents had not given informed consent for such uses. The Minnesota Department of Health says old samples and test results play an important role in developing new tests and conducting other public health research (Snowbeck, 5/10).

The Kansas City Star: Bill Restricting Abortion Hits Roadblock In Kansas Senate
A bill that would use the state tax code to restrict abortion hit a roadblock Thursday in the Kansas Senate. Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, sent the bill to a committee for review with only a couple of days left in the legislative session. Morris was specifically concerned about how the bill would affect the accreditation of the University of Kansas Medical Center (Cooper, 5/11).

The Associated Press: Whooping Cough Epidemic Declared In Wash. State
Washington state's worst outbreak of whooping cough in decades has prompted health officials to declare an epidemic, seek help from federal experts and urge residents to get vaccinated amid worry that cases of the highly contagious disease could spike much higher. It's the first state to declare a whooping cough, or pertussis, epidemic since 2010, when California had more than 9,000 cases, including 10 deaths (Blankinship, 5/10).

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