A selection of health policy stories from Minnesota, Texas, California, Florida and Massachusetts.
USA Today: States Rein In Health Insurance Expenses
Financially strapped state and local governments are saving billions of dollars on health insurance by cutting back on free coverage for employees and raising worker contributions, a USA Today analysis finds. Government workers still enjoy more generous health benefits than privately employed workers but the advantage has narrowed from $1,523 in 2007 to $891 in 2012, adjusted for inflation, federal data show (Cauchon, 10/23).
MPR: MN To Ask For More Health Exchange Funds
The [Gov. Mark] Dayton administration will seek between $60 million and $80 million more in federal grants to fund a cornerstone of the federal health care overhaul -- a state insurance exchange. ... Administration officials disclosed the new request during a testy legislative hearing about a previous federal exchange grant of $42 million. ... Republican House Ways and Means Committee Chair Mary Liz Holberg pressed administration officials to say what would happen if lawmakers and the governor can't reach agreement on exchange policies (Stawicki, 10/23).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Insurers Head To The Malls For Customers
As health reform efforts move toward letting consumers comparison-shop for coverage, insurance companies are diving into the world of retail, starting with low-cost, temporary "pop-up" stores timed to coincide with open-enrollment season. Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare earlier this month opened 30 pop-up stores and more than 1,400 kiosks in shopping malls around the country to sign up seniors for its Medicare plans (Crosby, 10/23).
(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Health Insurers Adding 'Pop-Up' Stores to Malls, Shopping Centers
On Thursday, Oct. 25, Bloomington-based HealthPartners plans to open a temporary store at Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka so shoppers on their way to Jamba Juice or Aeropostale can stop to buy health plans. The opening of the "pop-up" shop helps mark the local arrival of a national trend in which more health insurers are trying to reach customers by selling policies in malls, shopping centers and retail storefronts (Snowbeck, 10/23).
Los Angeles Times: CVS Caremark Has Become A Frequent Subject Of Government Probes
CVS Caremark Corp. is no stranger to government scrutiny. In recent years, the company has paid more than $80 million to resolve allegations of overbilling Medicaid, improperly changing patients' prescriptions and, in one case, using blow dryers to peel off patients' mailing labels to resell returned medicine. Federal authorities say they are reviewing whether the latest allegations, made by pharmacists and consumers in several states, including California, violate any terms of previous settlements with the government (Terhune, 10/24).
The Dallas Morning News: Dallas Commissioners Likely To OK Health-Care Subsidy For Workers With Domestic Partners
A slim majority of the Dallas County Commissioners Court said Tuesday morning that they support offering employees with domestic partners a subsidy to help them pay for health insurance. County Judge Clay Jenkins and his two Democratic colleagues, Commissioners John Wiley Price and Elba Garcia, said they support the proposal, which is expected to cost no more than $100,000 per year. They said it was the right thing to do for employees and something that is needed for the county to be able to attract and retain quality workers (Krause, 10/23).
HealthyCal: Lack Of Dental Care Assistance Puts Patients, Hospitals In Painful Cycle
Dr. Jeffery Luzar will see up to fifteen patients a day in the Puente a la Salud Mobile Community Clinic, an auxiliary facility belonging to St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange that provides dental services. Luzar has served the indigent population since starting his dental practice in 1997 and has watched their situation grow dire over the years. ... The most recent survey by Pew, conducted in 2007, showed 8 percent of the 83,000 Californians who visited emergency rooms for preventable dental conditions returned to the emergency room within a year (Afrasiabi, 10/24).
The Texas Tribune: Report: More Funding Needed For Juvenile Mental Health
State juvenile facilities for girls are failing to provide adequate mental health support for victims of trauma, according to a report released Wednesday by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. To address such needs, the coalition recommends implementing more "trauma-informed programs" and increasing funding for programs that "keep youth in their home counties" (Chammah, 10/24).
California Healthline: Premium Reduction Approved For State High-Risk Coverage
Change is coming for the 5,823 current enrollees in California's Major Risk Medical Insurance Program, and it's change they're going to feel in their pockets. Premium rates are about to go down to match the rates paid in the similar federal program, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. ... the new rate goes into effect Jan. 1 and will remain in effect for the 2013 calendar year. It sets a premium rate that is 100 percent of the commercial rate charged for insurable people, instead of the 125 percent rate that has been previously charged (Gorn, 10/24).
Stateline/Kaiser Health News: Oklahoma Looks for Ways to Keep Mentally Ill Ex-offenders Out of Prison
Shawna Gordon isn’t alone in worrying what will happen on that day in the future when she ventures beyond the familiar barbed wire that circumscribes her existence now. ... Because Gordon suffers from schizophrenia, she is eligible for counseling and life-management services as well as money for housing, clothing and food that Oklahoma offers to keep mentally ill ex-cons stable and less likely to return to prison. Central to that program is ensuring that participants leave custody already signed up for Social Security Disability and Medicaid (Ollove, 10/23).
Health News Florida: Florida Rate Of Uninsured Children Dips Below 12%
Florida is making great progress in getting children enrolled in health insurance, according to a report released Tuesday. But the authors warn the trend could stall if the state rejects Medicaid expansion. Between 2009 and 2011, despite the bad economy, Florida was able to reduce the number of uninsured children by 125,000, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families (Gentry, 10/23).
The Boston Globe: American Express OPEN Survey: Massachusetts Small Business Owners Are More Upbeat Than National Counterparts
Thanks partly to the Bay State economy’s reliance on health care and education, Massachusetts-based small business owners seem to be more optimistic about economic issues than their national counterparts, suggests the recently released American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, which looks to take the temperature of the small business climate twice a year (Reidy, 10/23).
(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota To Get $4.5M From Abbott Lab
The state of Minnesota will receive about $4.5 million from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories as part of a national health care fraud settlement, the Minnesota Department of Human Services announced Tuesday, Oct. 23. The settlement calls on Abbott to pay $9 million related to the use of a drug called Depakote by patients in the state's public health insurance programs, including Medicaid. The sum will be split between the state and federal government (Snowbeck, 10/23).