State Highlights: Pushback By Penn State Employees; Medi-Cal Cuts Loom

A selection of health policy stories from California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The Wall Street Journal: Penn State Employees Protest Wellness Effort
Pennsylvania State University employees are protesting a new wellness program that requires them to provide detailed health information or pay penalties that can total $1,200 a year, in an unusually public backlash against an increasingly common employer practice (Mathews and Martin, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Medi-Cal Cut Starts Next Month, State Says
A controversial cut to the California's healthcare program for the poor will begin next month, according to a bulletin distributed by state officials. Doctors and other healthcare providers who serve Medi-Cal patients will be reimbursed 10% less once the changes are fully phased in by next January. The first people to feel the pain will be dentists and medical transporters on Sept. 5. Next come providers of medical equipment and supplies on Oct. 24. The last to be affected are physicians, pharmacists and nursing facilities on Jan. 9 (Megerian, 8/15).

Kaiser Health News: Moving People Home After Nursing Home Stay Is Complicated
Napierski, a case manager at WestMass Elder Care in Holyoke, Mass., drew up a plan for Holmes's transition. … Napierski says Holmes would not have gone home without this help, buoyed by money the federal government is giving states for a Medicaid program called Money Follows the Person. The program identifies patients, old and young, who've been in a nursing home for at least 90 days but don't really need to be there. Massachusetts is one of 45 states and the District of Columbia in the program, created by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (Bebinger, 8/16).

North Carolina Health News: Rural Hospitals Drive Local Economies As They Evolve
In this second 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 evolving model of health care delivery in rural counties and what benefits rural counties derive from keeping a hospital in town (Hoban, 8/16).

WBUR: How Many Patients Does One Nurse Treat: Ballot Question On Staffing
Just Ask!” That’s the slogan for a new campaign by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The union is encouraging people to ask how many other patients their nurses will be treating that day. The slogan is meant to draw awareness to what the nurses union sees as a growing disconnect between the profit-driven healthcare industry and the quality care of its patients (Tian, 8/15).

California Healthline: Amended Mid-Level Provider Bills OK'd
The Assembly Committee on Health this week passed two bills that would redefine the role of physician assistants, nurse practitioners and advanced pharmacists in the California health care system. SB 493 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) and SB 494 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) don't expand scope of practice, the authors of both bills said, in that mid-level practitioners and advanced pharmacists won't have new responsibilities, but they will be able to practice with a little more autonomy. The bills are an effort to address the looming access-to-care issue in California (Gorn, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: 10 California Hospitals Fined A Total Of $675,000 
Ten California hospitals, including Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, were slapped with fines Thursday totaling $675,000 because they failed to follow certain licensing requirements that "caused, or was likely to cause, serious injury or death to patients." The fines ranged from $50,000 to $100,000, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health (Bloomekatz, 8/15).

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