State Roundup: Mass. AG Warns On Hospital Sale Market Impact

A selection of health policy stories from California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas and Colorado.

Los Angeles Times: Employer Health Premiums Rose 170% In California In Last Decade
Premiums for employer health insurance in California jumped 170 percent over the last decade, more than five times the 32 percent increase in the state's inflation rate. That escalation in premiums has taken a toll on employers' willingness to offer health benefits, according to an annual survey by the California HealthCare Foundation (Terhune, 4/24).

MPR News: Blue Cross Blue Shield Cut Payments, Hospital Organization Alleges
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is accused of slashing payments to hospitals by the Minnesota Hospital Association. The organization represents most of Minnesota's hospitals. Lawrence Massa, President and CEO of the association, says Blue Cross will change its payment system for at least a dozen hospitals by May 1 from a negotiated discount to a rate unilaterally set by Blue Cross (Stawicki, 4/24).

Boston Globe: Coakley: State Should Monitor Hospital Sales For Market Impact
The pace at which hospitals and doctors are consolidating or forming new affiliations could enable some health systems to gain significant market power, a factor that already contributes to high prices for medical care in Massachusetts, according to the latest report on health costs released Wednesday by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Coakley highlighted market clout as a driver of health care costs in a 2010 report. The latest findings point to the rate at which hospitals are consolidating or expanding their contracted physician networks, in the name of better care coordination for patients or management of risk-based insurance contracts under which providers could lose money if patient care is too expensive (Conaboy, 4/24).

The Associated Press: Care Worker Raises In Minn. House Health Budget
The Minnesota House passed a health and social programs budget late Monday with a small salary increase for nursing home and long-term care workers, but some lawmakers questioned whether they were enough for struggling homes in rural areas. The Democratic-sponsored, $7 billion health and human services bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 70-64 (Condon, 4/24).

Los Angeles Times: Federal Judge Renews Order For California Prison Mental Health Plan
Even as California makes preparations to appeal federal court rulings on the quality of care and crowding of conditions in state prisons, new orders are in the making. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton on Tuesday dusted off a pending August 2012 order for the state to produce a plan to improve the quality of inmate mental health care, and gave it a new July 1 deadline. The judge's order notes that compliance was interrupted by the state's bid in January to end court oversight of prison mental health care (St. John, 4/24).

The Associated Press: Rural Oregon County Sees More Physician Assistants
The number of physician assistants has more than doubled in Malheur County over the past five years, helping to fill a gap in medical care for a rural county at the edge of Eastern Oregon that has trouble attracting doctors. The county has one primary care physician for every 1,958 residents, but, statewide, the number is one primary care physician per 1,134 residents, the Ontario Argus Observer reported (4/24).

The Texas Tribune: Legislators Seek Action On Medicaid Fraud Measures
After the discovery that the state was spending millions of dollars on fraudulent Medicaid dental and orthodontic care, state lawmakers held hearings ahead of the legislative session to identify what went wrong and how to prevent future fraud. And this session, lawmakers have filed a handful of bills to reform how Texas addresses Medicaid fraud. But the bills aren't progressing as fast as some would like (Aaronson, 4/25).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Hidden Gun Injuries ‘Routine’ Among Children
The horror of 20 children being shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School shocked the nation and the world. But Colorado researchers — who initially set out to study playground accidents — found that gun violence is harming children every day. Very few people know about these gun injuries because federal law has prohibited funding for research on gun accidents and fatalities. The Colorado researchers combed through every single injury over an eight-year period at Denver’s two primary trauma hospitals that serve children, Denver Health and Children’s Hospital Colorado. They expected to find information about playground injuries and were surprised to learn that violence was harming a significant number of children every year (Kerwin McCrimmon, 4/24).

California Healthline: Committee Oks 'Culture Change' Spending
A new bill aimed at changing the culture of long-term care in part by redirecting nursing home penalty fees passed a surprisingly controversial hearing yesterday before the Assembly Committee on Health. AB 973 by Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) would direct roughly $150,000 a year in state penalty funds collected from long-term care facility violations to be used to "change the culture" at nursing homes, Quirk Silva said (Gorn, 4/24).

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