A selection of health policy stories from California, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon and Colorado.
Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Picks Four New HMO Plans For 5-Year Contracts
The California Public Employees' Retirement System picked four new HMO plans for five-year health insurance contracts starting next year, a blow to incumbent carrier Blue Shield of California. The giant pension fund voted Wednesday to split up Blue Shield's statewide HMO contract and offer additional plans from Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Sharp Health Plan and Health Net Inc. alongside Blue Shield (Terhune, 4/17).
The Hill: Norton Fires Warning Shots Over Impending DC Abortion Bill
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) vowed Wednesday to join with abortion-rights groups and fight a forthcoming GOP bill to ban most abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy (Viebeck, 4/17).
The Associated Press: Doctors Flee Puerto Rico For U.S. Mainland
Going to the doctor in Puerto Rico has for years often meant getting in line. Now, it might mean getting on a plane. A medical exodus is taking place in the Caribbean territory as doctors and nurses flee for the U.S. mainland, seeking higher salaries and better reimbursement from insurers. Many of their patients, frustrated by long waits and a scarcity of specialists, are finding they have no choice but to follow them off the island (Coto, 4/16).
Georgia Health News: Southeast Seniors Get Risky Meds More Often
Seniors in the Southeast take more high-risk medications than their counterparts in other regions, a study has found. Nationally, about one in five people in Medicare Advantage plans take at least one of these dangerous drugs. But in many parts of the Southeast, including Georgia, the percentage of seniors in these plans taking high-risk medications is about one in three (Miler, 4/17).
MPR News: Rochester Town Hall Focuses On Mayo Clinic Expansion Plan
Mayo Clinic's proposed expansion plan in Rochester drew more than 200 people to a town hall meeting Wednesday evening. The hour-long forum focused on what Rochester needs to do to retain Mayo Clinic and improve infrastructure over the next 20 years. Mayo Clinic's proposal is still making its way through the state Legislature. Panelists included the bill's sponsors, DFL Rep. Kim Norton and Republican Sen. Dave Senjem, as well as Mayo Clinic representatives and city officials (Baier, 4/17).
Lund Report: Private Insurers May Be Forced To Keep Coverage For Inmates
Jails and prisons are required by law to provide necessary health care to anyone in custody -- the Supreme Court has said anything else would be inhumane. But the minute someone is arrested or jailed, the federal government stops providing health care coverage, and many private insurers follow suit. The situation leaves county sheriff’s offices with an unfunded mandate -- precisely at the time health care costs are skyrocketing and county budgets in Oregon are being decimated, either from the recession or the loss of timber subsidies (Gray, 4/17).
Lund Report: Bates Offers Path For CCOs To Roll In Dental Networks
Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, has pushed a last-minute bill that would require coordinated care organizations to first provide contracts to all the dental care organizations in its geographic area before hiring independent dentists. Senate Bill 373 has an escape clause allowing a CCO to boot a dental organization that fails to meet the CCO's standards. The amended bill also allows dental organizations to pool their resources and sign a uniform contract with a CCO (Gray, 4/17).
Oregonian: Legislation Calling For Healthier Snacks In Oregon Vending Machines Turns Into Task Force Bill
A divisive bill that would have mandated healthier snacks in vending machines has turned into more palatable legislation creating a new 15-person task force to study how to offer more nutritious options in public buildings. Oregon Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, offered the friendly "gut and stuff" of her original bill, saying that the idea warranted a broader look at the barriers to and benefits of healthful snacking among state workers (Har, 4/17).
Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Fight For Universal Care Just Beginning
Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, withdrew her universal health care bill but has no intention of giving up the fight. … Aguilar introduced a different measure calling for a study of universal care. That measure … passed the Senate and now moves to the House. Aguilar has twice introduced measures into the Colorado Legislature -- both in 2010 and this year -- seeking universal health care only to face a buzz saw of opposition from health insurance and business lobbyists. This year, Aguilar hoped to win support from at least one Republican colleague so that she could put an amendment to the Constitution before Colorado voters seeking universal care (Kerwin McCrimmon, 4/17).
California Healthline: New Bill Proposes Insurer Fee To Expand Residencies
An Assembly committee yesterday approved a plan to provide a major boost to California's physician-training residency programs by generating roughly $100 million a year with a $5-per-covered-life fee to be imposed on health care insurers. The new bill is one of several legislative efforts to address a provider shortage in California that's likely to intensify when the Affordable Care Act is implemented and Medi-Cal is expanded starting in 2014. AB 1176, co-authored by Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), would expand the number of resident physicians in California by an estimated 1,000 with the expectation that new physicians would remain in California and practice in the underserved areas where they fulfilled their residency training (Gorn, 4/17).