State Roundup: Wis. Judge Keeps Law Barring Most Collective Bargaining On Shelf

A selection of health policy stories from Wisconsin, Mississippi, the District of Columbia, Nevada, New York, Florida and Oregon.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Wis. Judge Rejects Request To Reinstate Union Bargaining Rights Law While Appeal Is Pending
A Wisconsin judge refused Monday to put on hold his earlier decision repealing major parts of Gov. Scott Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. … The ruling last month overturned the law as it pertained to school and local government workers. The law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 applied to all public employees except police, firefighters, local transit workers and emergency medical service employees. It limits collective bargaining on wage increases to the rate of inflation. Other issues, such as workplace safety, vacation and health benefits, were excluded from collective bargaining (10/22).

The Associated Press: Mississippi Medicaid Expansion Costly In 2017-25, Study Says
Expanding Medicaid would bring Mississippi more federal money from 2014 through 2016 but could cost the state millions of dollars from 2017 through 2025, according to a study released Monday by the state's University Research Center. The study examines the economic impact of adding hundreds of thousands of people to the federal-state health insurance program for the needy, aged, blind and disabled -- an option under the federal health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 (10/22).

Bloomberg: Doctor Shortage Spreading In U.S. Presaged In Las Vegas
Mary Berg is paying the price for a shortage of U.S. doctors that by most accounts is about to get much worse. … In the Las Vegas area, with about 2 million people, patients and doctors said it can take six months to see a primary-care doctor for a simple check-up. For more serious matters, the waits are far longer -- more than a year, for example, to get an appointment with a neurologist who specializes in autism. … Once a problem limited to rural areas, the doctor shortage is now hitting large population centers such as Las Vegas and Detroit where people are forced to wait weeks or months or travel hundreds of miles for care (Pettypiece, 10/22).

The Washington Post: Health Plan Takeover In D.C. Eases Concerns But Doesn't Erase Them
The District government's takeover of its largest health contractor has eased concerns among care providers, but anxieties remain about the effects on the city's half-billion-dollar system of providing health care to the needy (DeBonis, 10/22).

The New York Times: 2 Women In Queens And Many Others Find A Sick Day Could Mean They're Fired
There is now a Dickensian feel to New York City. You walk below the El on Roosevelt Avenue in Corona and find so many hard-fought-for laws -- against overcrowded tenements, and wage violations and sanitary conditions -- winked at. In this Upstairs, Downstairs city, those at the bottom of the pile learn the virtues of silence. Of late, however, a coalition of community groups has taken up the cudgel in support of paid sick days. This is a luxury denied to 700,000 to 1.2 million New Yorkers (Powell, 10/22).

The Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Commission Inches Closer To Health Care Deal With Unions
With three votes scheduled for Tuesday, Miami-Dade County government will be closer to reaching contract agreements with all 10 of its employee unions. Commissioners are expected to ratify contracts with transportation workers, as well as general services employees and supervisors. Both unions have agreed to accept the restoration of a 4 percent health care concession and pay higher health insurance co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs (Rabin, 10/22).

The Oregonian: Walden Wants Details As Thousands Of Oregon Military Retirees Face Higher Copays
The Pentagon's health care program is poised to cut back its low-cost HMO-style plan across five Western states, meaning either longer drives or higher copays and additional hassle for thousands of Oregonian military retirees and their families. Officials say details aren't final; and the changes for Tricare, the Pentagon's health care program, won't go into effect until April. But the outlines of the changes were reported in Army Times, a military newspaper, late last week. Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., has asked the Pentagon to release more information immediately, noting that the people most affected are in the dark (Budnick, 10/22).

Health News Florida: State Awards $35 Million For Primary Care
Twenty-eight health-care organizations in Florida will receive a total of $35 million in state grants to enhance primary care for low-income people, officials announced Monday. Winners include hospitals, county health departments and federally qualified health centers. Lakeland Regional Medical Center received the single largest award, $4 million. In July, LRMC set up a primary-care clinic across the street to divert patients who didn't need emergency-room care to a less-intensive setting (10/22).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Nurses Object To Abele's Proposed Health Benefits Cutback
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's plan to deny health benefits to part-time workers unless they work at least 30 hours a week would result in an exodus of part-time nurses at the county's Mental Health Complex, nurses and their supporters said Monday. The change would trigger an immediate staffing crisis at the complex, nurses' union president Candice Owley said at a news conference at the courthouse. Many of the 75 part-time nurses at the complex work part-time primarily for the health insurance, she said (Schultze, 10/22).

The Lund Report: Oregon Public Education Employees Drop Thousands Of Pounds
Oregon public education employees have lost nearly 200,000 pounds in a 20-month period that began in October 2010 after the state added free Weight Watchers classes as a benefit, an administrator for the Oregon Educators Benefit Board (OEBB) told The Lund Report. Joan M. Kapowich, who also administers the Public Employees’ Benefit Board, said those workers lost over 175,000 pounds since the free weight loss classes became part of their benefits in 2009. Some 20 percent or 12,181 of OEBB employees participated in the Weight Watchers classes, meaning they achieved an average 16-pound weight loss. Kapowich said participation was "a much higher percentage than expected" (Widman, 10/22).

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