Health policy news from Texas, Maryland, California, Wisconsin, Oregon, Kansas and Michigan.
The Associated Press/Crain's Detroit Business: Mich. Panel Discusses Blue Cross Overhaul Plan
The Michigan Legislature took its first steps Wednesday toward tackling a proposed overhaul of the state's largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Joe Hune introduced bills that would end the nonprofit health insurer's tax-exempt status and align it with competitors. ... [Republican Gov. Rick Snyder] said last week he aims to "level the playing field" for insurers and modernize the only Michigan company that has to provide insurance coverage regardless of a customer's health status (Karoub, 9/20).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Medical Society Wants Planning For End-Of-Life
The Wisconsin Medical Society is launching a statewide initiative to make advance care planning -- including the sensitive and often difficult conversations about end-of-life care -- a standard part of patient care. The initiative -- Honoring Choices Wisconsin -- is modeled after a communitywide initiative in La Crosse that has drawn national attention as well as a similar initiative by the Twin Cities Medical Society in Minnesota (Boulton, 9/20).
The Oregonian: Oregon End-Of-Life Care Program Spreads, Report Finds
An Oregon effort to ensure people near the end of life receive the care they want continues to spread across the country, according to a new report. The Oregon Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program, created two decades ago and put into state law by the Legislature in 2009, has been adopted by 15 states and is under consideration in 28 others, according to the report (Budnick, 9/20).
Related, earlier KHN story: Oregon Emphasizes Choices At Life's End (Foden Vencil, 3/8)
Kansas Health Institute News: Dentist Shortage Proposal Not Funded In Regents' Recommended Budget
Proposals for dealing with the state's dentist shortage did not make the cut today when the Kansas Board of Regents approved recommending a $47 million budget increase for state universities…. Board chair Tim Emert said that funds are clearly not available to begin a dental school — and temporarily securing seats from other schools came at the expense of other programs (Cauthon, 9/20).
The Texas Tribune: Better Hepatitis Treatment Costly For Prisons
Prison health officials estimate that as many as 50,000 of the state's more than 150,000 inmates could be infected with hepatitis C. The cost to treat Texas inmates with hepatitis C is expected to soar by as much as 380 percent next year, a result of the growing prevalence of the disease among inmates and a more effective, but more expensive, treatment protocol. Legislators, already facing a strained budget, will have to find millions more dollars to pay for this care (Grissom, 9/21).
The Texas Tribune: Interactive: Mental Health Treatment At State-Funded Centers
Texas has a severe shortage of mental health professionals: 202 out of 254 counties do not have enough psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists and family therapists to treat the needs of the population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Aaronson, 9/20).
The Baltimore Sun: Health Officials Consider Increasing Plastic Surgery Center Oversight
Maryland health officials may ask state lawmakers for permission to oversee plastic surgery centers, a move inspired in part by the death of a Lochearn woman after liposuction. ... Surgical centers currently are subject to state inspection only if they meet certain criteria in how they bill insurance companies, (Secretary Joshua Sharfstein) said (Dance, 9/20).
Los Angeles Times: Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill To Overhaul Disabled Access Law
The disabled are being promised better wheelchair access to businesses at the same time that business owners are gaining some protection against expensive, "predatory" lawsuits under legislation just signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. ... [The bill prohibits] lawyers from sending "demand for money" letters to owners of restaurants and other high-traffic businesses (Lifsher, 9/20).
The Washington Post: Johns Hopkins, Other Major Area Hospitals Left Off Top-Performer List
When the nation's main hospital accreditation group released a list of top-performing hospitals last year, Johns Hopkins got a nasty surprise: It wasn't included. Instead, Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring — a much smaller institution that lacks the global reputation of the Baltimore-based behemoth — was the only area hospital to make the cut (Sun, 9/20).
The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Pushes Insurer To Explain Coverage To Members
New York regulators say they've fined an insurer $665,000 for failing to explain health plan coverage to members, including ways to challenge claims they believe were improperly denied. Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky says Oxford Health was cited for approximately 300,000 instances of not providing required statements about service plans and appeals from 2001 to 2008 (9/21).