A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, Georgia, California, Maryland, and New York.
The Washington Post: Sandy Triggers New Policies On Health Insurance, Leave-Sharing
The government is continuing to expand benefits policies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, clearing the way for certain emergency relief employees to be eligible for federal health insurance and soliciting donations of leave for affected federal workers. The Office of Personnel Management plans to publish on Wednesday rules effective immediately making relief workers who are hired on an intermittent basis by agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency eligible under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Yoder, 11/12).
The Boston Globe: [Cardinal] O'Malley Lauds Defeat Of Doctor-Assisted Suicide Bill
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, said Monday that the results of the Nov. 6 election do not reflect increased support for abortion rights in the United States, even though some of the candidates most staunchly opposed to abortion lost. ... [O'Malley] said a few prominent abortion opponents may have caused a backlash in their own races by talking about the issue in a way that alienated voters (Wangsness, 11/12).
ABC News: Advocates For Assisted Dying Deflated By Massachusetts Defeat
More than 1.5 million Massachusetts voters said "no" to a ballot measure last week that would have allowed doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, clinching a 51 percent majority. … Assisted dying advocates argue data from Oregon, where the Death With Dignity Act was passed in 1994, refutes concerns about safeguards and plan to push for the ballot measure again in 2014 (Moisse, 11/12).
The Boston Globe: State Names Six Organizations To Oversee Health Care For Neediest Adults
The state has selected six organizations to oversee health care for some of the neediest adults in Massachusetts, as it works to streamline coverage for about 110,000 people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. The program is aimed at saving money and lessening the confusion for doctors and patients caused by the two programs sharing responsibility for bills (Conaboy, 11/12).
The Boston Globe: Doubts Weaken Health Cost Data
Some health policy analysts and provider groups cheered last year when results from a 2010 national survey of employers showed that Massachusetts no longer had the most expensive health insurance coverage in the country. But the latest data show that the family plans offered through Massachusetts employers once again cost more, on average, than in any other state. "I’m not surprised,” said John McDonough, director of the Center for Public Health Leadership at the Harvard School of Public Health" (Conaboy, 11/12).
Kaiser Health News: Doctors' And Nurses' Licenses Snagged By New Immigration Law In Georgia
Hundreds of health care workers in Georgia are losing their licenses to practice because of a problem created by a new immigration law in the state. The law requires everyone -- no matter where they were born -- to prove their citizenship or legal residency as they renew their professional licenses. But with too few staff to process the extra paperwork, licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers are expiring (Burress, 11/12).
Georgia Health News: Piedmont-WellStar Alliance Shakes Up Marketplace
Two metro Atlanta hospital systems announced Monday that they are forming a partnership, and they predict it will improve medical quality and reduce costs in a health care marketplace remodeled by the Affordable Care Act. Piedmont Healthcare and WellStar Health System will create the Georgia Health Collaborative, combining 2,393 hospital beds, 10 hospitals, seven urgent care centers and more than 700 physicians (Milller, 11/12).
The Associated Press/CBS News: San Francisco Health Care To Cover Sex Reassignment Surgery
A panel has voted to cover the cost and provide sexual reassignment surgery for transgendered people as part of San Francisco's universal health care plan. The city's Health Commission approved on Tuesday the creation a comprehensive program for treating transgender people experiencing mental distress because of the mismatch between their bodies and their gender identities (11/12).
The Baltimore Sun: Paid Sick Leave Urged In Maryland
Forty percent of Maryland's private-sector workers — nearly 820,000 people — have no option to take time off with pay if they're ill, according to estimates from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Now three Baltimore groups that advocate for workers are launching a campaign to require paid leave in the state, calling it a public-health issue as well as a matter of basic fairness (Hopkins, 11/12).
ABC News: Applebee's N.Y. Franchise Owner Says Obamacare Could Lead To Hiring Freeze
Applebee's is making clear that it is not on a firing rampage because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after one franchisee [of 40 restaurants] was quoted saying that Obamacare is leading to a hiring and building freeze. Zane Tankel, chairman and CEO of Apple-Metro, an Applebee franchisee for the New York metropolitan area, told Fox Business last week, "We've calculated it will [cost] some millions of dollars across our system. So what does that say -- that says we won't build more restaurants. We won't hire more people." Apple-Metro did not immediately return requests for comment (Kim, 11/12).
HealthyCal: Children's Health Hangs In Balance
The health of nearly 1 million California children hangs in the balance this month as the state prepares to shift responsibility for their care to the troubled, cash-strapped Medi-Cal program from a popular service that subsidizes private insurance coverage, known as Healthy Families. The administration of Gov. Jerry Brown says the change will save the taxpayers’ money while also improving care for the children. But advocates for kids are not so sure (Weintraub, 11/12).
California Healthline: Rural Health Care At A Crossroads
How to handle and benefit from changes affecting health care will be the central topic of conversation at the annual conference of the California State Rural Health Association, according to Steve Barrow, its executive director. The rural health conference takes place today and tomorrow in Anaheim. Rural communities, with higher percentages of Medi-Cal beneficiaries and seniors, feel the effects of change more than other parts of California -- and those percentages are increasing, according to Barrow (Gorn, 11/13).
California Healthline: Diana Dooley On 2 Years Of Budget Cuts, Controversy And Reform
It's hard to believe Diana Dooley has been on the job only two years, given the number of large and historic health care changes under way in California. Appointed secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), Dooley has overseen billions of dollars in budget cuts, realignment of county and state responsibilities and the building of a foundation for comprehensive reform that includes creating a statewide insurance exchange and launching multiple conversions from fee-for-service to managed care in Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program (Gorn, 11/12).