A selection of health policy stories from Kansas, Connecticut, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Texas, Florida, Minnesota and California.
Kansas Health Institute: County Meals On Wheels Program Aims To Prevent Hospital Readmissions
Officials at Johnson County Meals on Wheels say they are hoping the program can become a national model for preventing hospital readmissions among senior citizens. The program was one of seven nationally to be awarded a $50,000 grant by the Walmart Foundation, which officials plan to use to pilot a home nutrition program designed to get needy seniors seven frozen meals within 72 hours of their discharge from a hospital (Sherry, 4/18).
CT Mirror: Barnes, Exchange Board Want To Limit Health Insurers’ Profits, Administrative Costs
Concerned that high health insurance costs could undermine federal health reform, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes on Thursday suggested changing state law to limit health insurance carriers' administrative costs and profits beyond what federal law requires. The board of the state's health insurance exchange -- the authority that oversees a health insurance marketplace being created as part of health reform -- agreed in a unanimous vote to recommend that legislators do so (Becker, 4/18).
Oregonian: Oregonians Saved $80 Million Through Beefed-Up Health Insurance Oversight, Consumer Group Says
Beefing up Oregon's review of health insurance rate requests saved consumers and small businesses $80 million since 2010, according to a consumer advocacy group. Lawmakers' passage of a 2009 bill giving regulators more authority to deny rate hikes has resulted in lower premiums and less administrative overhead, according to a foundation affiliated with the Oregon State Public Interest Research group (Budnick, 4/18).
Washington Post: D.C. Officials Postpone Vote On Hospital Cancer Treatment Option
D.C. health officials postponed making a recommendation Thursday on two competing hospital proposals to establish a controversial cancer treatment. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Sibley Memorial Hospital, part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, are both vying to offer proton beam therapy, a cutting-edge radiation treatment that hospital executives say is more precise in targeting tumors and safer for healthy tissue than conventional X-rays (Sun, 4/18).
Texas Tribune: House Backs Bill On Psychotropic Drugs For Foster Kids
The Texas House approved legislation Thursday on a voice vote that would require the guardians of foster children to give informed consent before a foster child could be put on psychotropic drugs (Aaronson, 4/18).
Health News Florida: Safety Questions Arise On Pharmacy Staffing
The Florida House has passed a bill that makes a lot of pharmacists nervous. Patients might be, too, if they were aware of it. The bill sharply raises the number of technicians who can be assigned to a single pharmacist for supervision, from a maximum of three to six. And it takes away the Florida Board of Pharmacy's power to keep the ratio below the limit in cases where it sees a risk (Lamendola and Gentry, 4/19).
Des Moines Register: Anti-Abortion Amendment Fails As Health Bill Advances
The Iowa Senate passed a $1.9 billion spending bill Thursday for state health and human services programs, although much of the debate focused on whether taxpayer money should pay for certain abortions. ... The bill provides money for the Departments on Aging, Department of Public Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, Iowa Veterans Home, and the Department of Human Services. This is an increase of $230.2 million compared to the current state budget year and $72.6 million higher than Gov. Terry Branstad’s recommendation. ... Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, proposed an amendment to restrict the use of taxpayer money for certain abortions. It failed with 23 lawmakers in support and 24 opposed (Petroski, 4/18).
MPR News: Health Costs Worry Minnesota Manufacturers
A survey of Minnesota's manufacturing executives shows that the cost of health care is one of their top concerns. Since 2008, the trade group Enterprise Minnesota has conducted a yearly survey of 400 manufacturers about their confidence in the future. The percentage of respondents citing health care as their top concern peaked in 2011, the year after Congress passed the federal health care overhaul. However, it continues to be a major worry (Baxter, 4/18).
California Healthline: Bill Aims To Reverse 10% Provider Rate Reduction
Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) yesterday said he wants to undo the 10% Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rate cut passed by the Legislature in 2011. The across-the-board reductions were challenged in a lawsuit still pending in federal court and have not taken effect. California lawmakers in 2011 faced a huge budget shortfall, and this particular cut was made to save the state an estimated $50 million a month, health officials say. Physicians and other providers of Medi-Cal services have been leery of this further reduction, when California already ranks near the bottom in the nation in Medicaid reimbursement rates (Gorn, 4/18).
California Healthline: Competition Spurs Northern Expansion In San Diego
Competition is heating up among San Diego's health care systems as they work to capture the area's most lucrative patient population in an economic environment of shrinking reimbursement and growing uncertainty. The northern part of the county, with its wealthier and better-insured population, has seen an expansion of services among a number of the region's health systems, as outlined in California HealthCare Foundation's Health Care Almanac, published earlier this year. CHCH publishes California Healthline. Strategies vary among the region's big players in terms of how they compete for market share under the Affordable Care Act (Zamosky, 4/18).