A selection of health policy news from Montana, Massachusetts, Georgia, Minnesota, California and Arizona.
The Associated Press: Settlement Cash To Pay For Pharmaceuticals
The Montana attorney general's office says nearly $1 million collected in drug company settlements will be used to help pay for prescription medicine for people who are uninsured and underinsured. Attorney General Steve Bullock said in a statement Thursday the money came from settlements dating back to 2010 with four drug companies accused of inflating the wholesale prices of drugs paid by Medicare and Medicaid (9/14).
The Boston Globe: New Cost-Control Law Expands Role Of Physician Assistants
A stay-at-home mom for 10 years, Martha Tuff wanted a career in medicine. But at 38 and raising four boys, she decided the decade-long preparation to become a doctor "would be too much for me."’ So she enrolled in a two-year master's degree program to become a physician assistant. She will be ready to care for patients by next fall. Under the state's new health care cost-control law, legislators are counting on physician assistants like Tuff as critical partners in the effort to curb medical spending, improve the coordination of treatment, and give patients easier access to basic care amid a shortage of primary care doctors (Kowalczyk, 9/17).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta To Trim $3.2 Million From Health Care Premiums
The city of Atlanta expects to cut $3.2 million from its health care costs over the next fiscal year, bucking a broad trend of higher health care costs around the country. The city's contributions to health plans for more than 19,000 employees, retirees and dependents were originally expected to rise by $4.3 million, or 5 percent. But costs are now expected to drop for the city and for many employees. City officials attribute the savings to successful negotiations with insurance companies on new contracts, as well as new initiatives focused on preventative care and physical fitness (McWiliams, 9/17).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: VA Clinic In Ramsey Exceeding Expectations
The new VA clinic in Ramsey was designed for veterans from the northwestern suburbs. But it is attracting clients from California to North Carolina, from Brainerd to Warroad. And, perhaps more surprisingly, the 10-month-old community-based outreach clinic has drawn 59 patients from Minneapolis -- veterans who choose a 30-mile drive to the Ramsey site over the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, the region's largest VA hospital (Levy, 9/15).
California Healthline: October Start For New Adult Day Program Could Be Halted
Disability Rights California on Saturday filed a motion in U.S. District Court to stop the Department of Health Care Services' implementation of portions of the Community Based Adult Services program, saying the department violated terms of a previous settlement agreement. … The motion asks the court to intervene in 11 specific areas of the CBAS program, including several that would halt DHCS plans to convert CBAS to a Medi-Cal managed care benefit in some counties on Oct. 1 (Gorn, 9/17).
California Watch: Judge Dismisses Prime Healthcare Antitrust Conspiracy Lawsuits
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by hospital chain Prime Healthcare Services that alleged Kaiser Permanente conspired with a health care workers union to drive Prime out of business. The lawsuit cited the Sherman Antitrust Act, which is meant to limit monopolies, and claimed Kaiser and the union "joined forces" to drive up Prime's costs, in part, by forcing the chain to pay high wages to workers (Jewett, 9/17).
HealthyCal: Community Clinics Switching To Electronic Health Records
Community clinics are turning technologically savvy. Spurred on by federal funds, they are adopting electronic health records at rates exceeded only by HMOs. Community health centers once had the lowest rate of electronic health record use. Only eight percent had them in place in 2006. Today community health centers have the second highest rate of use. Seventy-four percent have made the switch from paper to electronic records, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (Shanafelt, 9/17).
The Arizona Republic: Tests, Screenings Help Those 50 And Older Keep Tabs On Health
For those with health insurance, there's the co-pay to cough up and then whatever percentage of the bill the insurer won't cover. For those without health insurance, the reality of getting stuck with the entire tab can have them hoping their bodies will hold out for as long as possible. Health insurance or not, the costs for tests can vary widely, said Bill Kampine, co-founder and vice president of the Healthcare Blue Book, a free online resource that shows "a fair price for health-care products and services to consumers." (Sexton, 9/14).
Georgia Health News: Dentistry At A Distance: Filling Gaps In Southeast Georgia
In the small towns and rural counties of Georgia, telemedicine has become a viable alternative to the shortage of physicians willing to provide health care to a seriously underserved population. … But what about dental care? The shortage of dentists in rural Georgia is just as acute -- maybe even worse -- than it is for primary care (King, 9/14).