State Roundup: Poverty, Disparities Create Public Health Issues

A selection of state health policy news from Massachusetts, California, Kansas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, Georgia and Alaska.

Boston Globe: Area Cities Adopt Changes To Curb Health Costs
Amesbury, Chelsea, and Newburyport have adopted union-backed changes to their employee health insurance plans that they say will bring much-needed savings. The changes in Amesbury and Newburyport, to take effect July 1, involve moving from a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts plan with no deductibles to one that has deductibles and higher copayments (Laidler, 5/17). 

The Miami Herald: Miami Has Highest Health Care Costs In Country For Private Insurance
The Miami area continues to have the highest health care costs in the country, according to the latest edition of the Milliman Medical Index. The average annual cost of an employer-sponsored, preferred provider organization (PPO) for a family of four runs $24,965 in the Miami area, the highest of 14 cities surveyed by Milliman, the national consulting firm. The total includes all employer and employee costs (Dorschner, 5/16).

Health News Florida: FL Institute Is Part Of New Alzheimer's Trial
Florida will be "deeply involved" in the national initiative to prevent Alzheimer's Disease by the year 2025, and not only because nearly half a million residents have been diagnosed with the irreversible, progressive brain disease. The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute will be one of the sites conducting a test of an insulin nasal spray for patients with early-stage disease, one of two major clinical trials announced on Tuesday (Gentry 5/16).

Related, earlier KHN Capsules blog story: Obama Administration: A Plan To Prevent Alzheimer’s By 2025  (Torres, 5/15)

Kaiser Health News: Alaska Targets An Old Foe: Tuberculosis
Until 1950, TB was the No. 1 cause of death in Alaska. That legacy means that a large number of Alaskans still carry the bacteria that can cause the disease. They have no symptoms and they aren't contagious, but full-blown TB can flare up at anytime and then spread (Feidt, 5/17). 

Georgia Health News: A Forgotten Scourge, TB Still A Problem In Ga.
The U.S. rate of TB has been declining. Last year, a total of 10,521 new tuberculosis cases were reported in the U.S., an incidence of 3.4 cases per 100,000 people. That's the lowest rate recorded since national reporting began in 1953, the CDC says. But Georgia's tuberculosis rate, though dropping, is still higher than the national average. Georgia reported 347 TB cases (3.5 cases per 100,000 population) in 2011, a 16 percent decrease from 2010 (Miller, 5/16).

Healthy Cal: Life And Health In A Low-Income Neighborhood
[E]merging research continues to highlight the connection between place, lifespan and quality of life. ... The poorest counties in California have the worst health, while the richest, generally, have the best. This series of info-graphics looks at the stressors identified by residents in one low-income, high-crime area in the city of Hayward in Alameda County. ... The numbers of teenagers feeling sad, hopeless or contemplating suicide were shocking to the research teams (Jones and Flynn, 5/16).

Kansas Health Institute News: New Stevens County Facility To Address 'Mexican Mennonite' Health Needs
The population of Stevens County is less than 5,800, but its health department has more than 7,000 patients, and it's out of space. Many of those patients are so-called Low German Mennonites, or Mexican Mennonites, said Paula Rowden, administrator of the health department ... they have come to Kansas from Mexico, looking for jobs on farms, feed lots, or in meat packing plants. "They seem to be at the greatest risk. They're the ones that are utilizing the emergency room for medical care," Rowden said (Cauthon, 5/16).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: 8 Twin Cities Hospitals, Workers Reach Tentative Contact
Workers at eight Twin Cities hospitals reached a tentative contract agreement Wednesday, averting a potential strike later this month. Hospital negotiators and the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, which represents 3,500 nursing assistants, technicians and support staff, have been negotiating a contract since January. The current contract had been extended several times (Smith, 5/17).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Threatened Twin Cities Hospital Strike Averted With Contract Deal
Hospitals said they were seeking contract changes that would allow for more flexibility while letting medical centers be "good stewards of our limited resources." Union officials said the changes proposed by hospitals would mean less for workers who three years ago agreed to a wage freeze (Snowbeck, 5/16). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Philadelphia-Area Hospitals Report Higher Profit Margins
Profitability at hospitals in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs improved slightly last year, but the revenue growth rate continued sliding, according to an annual report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. ... The report, which is appearing as hospital interests are lobbying hard in Harrisburg to undo funding cuts proposed by Gov. Corbett in February, showed that the overall operating profit margin at 41 area for-profit and nonprofit hospitals edged up to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent (Brubaker, 5/17).

The New York Times: U.S. Expected To Retry Ex-Senator On 4 Unresolved Charges
Federal prosecutors will try to recover nearly $500,000 that Pedro Espada Jr., a former Democratic state senator from the Bronx, was convicted this week of stealing from a nonprofit health care network, as they seek a retrial for Mr. Espada and his son (Hu, 5/16).

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.