State Highlights: Hundreds Lost D.C. Medicaid Without Cause, Some Allege

A selection of health policy stories from the District of Columbia, New York, California, Florida, North Carolina and Colorado.

The Washington Post: Hundreds In D.C. Lost Medicaid Assistance Without Cause, Attorneys Say
The Washington Post found that the District cut 366 people from all or some of the services they may have been eligible to receive in the nine months ended March 2012, according to records on file at the D.C. Attorney General's Office. About a third of those people died, the office said. The District doesn't know how they died because the program doesn't get copies of death certificates, officials said (Campbell, 8/11).

The New York Times: Two Firms Accused Of Using Political Ties To Bilk Medicaid
A Congressional committee released letters on Friday alleging that a pharmacy and a nutrition company in New York State "got away with inappropriately billing the Medicaid program by millions of dollars" by using political connections in the Democratic Party, including Edward G. Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, to influence the Cuomo administration (Bernstein, 8/9).

The New York Times: Public Unions Fight New York's Effort To Curb Health Costs
In his final months in office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg set himself an ambitious goal: tackling New York's rapidly rising health care costs by finding cheaper insurance for the city's nearly 300,000 employees, 200,000 retirees and their families. On Friday, his chances of accomplishing that appeared dimmer than ever. The Municipal Labor Committee, a coalition of unions that negotiates with the city on health benefits, filed a complaint against the city and obtained a temporary restraining order stopping the administration for now from seeking new coverage (Taylor, 8/9).

The Associated Press: Court Stalls NYC Plan To Get Health Insurance Bids 
A judge told the city Friday to hold off seeking bids for health insurance for its huge workforce, days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg spotlighted the plan in a speech about safeguarding the city's fiscal health. ... New York's health insurance bill has doubled since 2002, to $6.3 billion this year. The request for proposals will look to save up to $400 million a year, he said (8/9).

Los Angeles Times: OxyContin Maker Closely Guards Its List Of Suspect Doctors
Over the last decade, the maker of the potent painkiller OxyContin has compiled a database of hundreds of doctors suspected of recklessly prescribing its pills to addicts and drug dealers, but has done little to alert law enforcement or medical authorities. Despite its suspicions, Purdue Pharma continued to profit from prescriptions written by these physicians, many of whom were prolific prescribers of OxyContin (Glover and Girion, 8/11).

Los Angeles Times: California Cites 'Massive Prisoner Release' In Supreme Court Appeal
California lawyers late Friday filed the state's full appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the high court to set aside orders to reduce prison crowding by the end of December. ... The appeal cites the great progress the state has made in improving medical and mental health care of inmates. It says the three federal judges who in June issued the current prison population reduction order showed a "conspicuous insensitivity" to the powers Congress tried to give states when dealing with court orders to release inmates (St. John, 8/10).

Health News Florida: Inspectors: Surgery Offices 'Filthy'
Too many physician surgery offices in Florida are "filthy" and have poorly trained staff, putting patients at risk, health inspectors say. In some offices, floors are caked with dirt, surgical devices are not properly disinfected, no one knows how to run sterilizing machines and the doctors perform procedures after only minimal training, three inspectors told members of the Florida Board of Medicine at a recent meeting in Deerfield Beach (Lamendola, 8/9).

North Carolina Health News: Changes In Hospital Finances Drives Flurry Of Mergers
In this first part of a three-part series, North Carolina Health News looks at the challenges facing rural hospitals and what it means for small communities when the local hospital merges with a larger hospital system. Today’s story looks at the market and regulatory environments that are driving hospitals to merge (Porter-Rockwell, 8/12).

The Denver Post: Telemedicine Helps Doctors Beam Into Rural Hospitals, Treat Newborns
A premature baby born at high altitude faces challenges uncommon among newborns in Denver that often can't be treated by rural physicians. But expanded technology is helping beam the expertise of neonatal specialists in the city into critical-care situations at 33 remote hospitals in Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming (Marotti, 8/12).

The Sacramento Bee: California Supreme Court Decision Expected On Insulin Shots In School
The California Supreme Court is poised to rule today on one of the most emotional issues currently before it: whether school employees should be able to give insulin shots to diabetic students if a nurse is not available. The case pits parents who want voluntarily trained, non-nursing staff and faculty to give the shots to their children against a nurses union claiming that inappropriately administered shots could lead to harm and even tragedy (Walsh, 8/12).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): 'My Dear Watson' – From Jeopardy To A Doc's Office Near You
IBM is now trying to tap the silicon genius' remarkable ability to digest information in nanoseconds for a variety of health care applications. Dr. Martin Kohn, an emergency physician for 30 years who is now IBM's chief medical scientist for care delivery systems, came here to the Colorado Health Symposium this week to share the latest concepts with health policy experts from Colorado and the U.S. at the conference sponsored by the Colorado Health Foundation (Kerwin McCrimmon, 8/9).

California Healthline: Exchange Pediatric Dental Mandate
Covered California yesterday decided to hold off on embedding pediatric dental services in 2014 health plans offered by the exchange. In a special hearing convened for the single topic of pediatric dental benefits, the board unanimously voted yesterday to adopt a staff recommendation to delay the idea, and to target 2015 to implement an embedded policy. That includes an aggressive timetable for decisions about how to properly do that. If the state insisted on soliciting dental plans to offer the embedded benefit, it would have had no takers, according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California (Gorn, 8/9).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.