State Highlights: Colo. Effort To Reduce Hospital Readmissions Pays Off

A selection of health policy stories from Colorado, Wisconsin, Georgia, California, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina.

The Denver Post: Effort To Reduce Colorado Hospital Readmissions Shows Results
A 2-year-old initiative between the Colorado Hospital Association and UnitedHealthcare to reduce costly unnecessary readmissions is reporting major gains on a lingering problem. The readmission rate for "same cause" patients -- those coming back for the same malady as their initial visit -- dropped to just over 5 percent from 9.8 percent the year before, at 19 Colorado hospitals, according to a release by the collaboration (Booth, 8/21).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Medical Records Network Preparing To Go
Wisconsin now has in place the basic building blocks for a statewide network that could enable hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health care settings to exchange key information from patients' medical records securely and effortlessly. The Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network, or WISHIN, a private nonprofit organization, expects to begin adding hospitals, including several in Milwaukee, to the network this year (Boulton, 8/23).

Georgia Health News: Phoebe, FTC Reach Deal To End Legal Fight
Phoebe Putney Health System and its local hospital authority have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the acquisition of a rival hospital harmed competition in six South Georgia counties. The agreement, announced Thursday, does not include Phoebe Putney divesting itself of the former Palmyra Medical Center, because that would trigger a state regulatory review under the certificate of need (CON) system, the federal agency said in a statement (Miller, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Prison Pharmacist Wins Judgment Against Firms Tied To Senator
An Orange County pharmacist has won a $20,000 judgment against two companies he said stiffed him on pay for work he did on a state contract while the firms were co-owned by the husband of state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine). The state labor commissioner found that pharmacist Larry Drechsler of Orange County had not been paid more than $4,000 that was owed him for services provided to the companies, American Healthcare Recruiting and Drug Consultants Inc. The rest of the award was for interest and penalties (McGreevy, 8/22).

Los Angeles Times: Harassment Allegations Against California Hospital Probed
The executive recruited two years ago to correct deep-seated problems at the state's mental hospitals is the subject of a sexual harassment investigation that was launched within a week of her state Senate confirmation, according to two independent sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter (Romney, 8/22).

Texas Tribune: Despite Additional Dollars, Doctor Shortage Hard To Fix
Texas lawmakers invested millions of additional dollars in the 2013 legislative session to address a looming physician shortage. Voters and university regents have rubber-stamped plans to open two new medical schools, in Austin and the Rio Grande Valley. But those moves have not placated the medical community, which remains concerned that Texas has no long-term solution to produce enough physicians, particularly in primary care, to support the surging population (Aaronson, 8/23).

Arizona Republic: Health Group To Hire Hundreds
A unit of UnitedHealth Group said it plans to fill roughly 500 jobs in the Phoenix area over the next 60 days, with an employment fair scheduled for Tuesday in Ahwatukee Foothills. Connextions, a business unit that helps insurers enroll, retain and provide services to members, already has started to hire "engagement specialists," who will help seniors and others understand their Medicare and prescription-drug benefits so they can evaluate, enroll in and effectively use their plans (Wiles, 8/22).

North Carolina Health News: Focus On Patient Transition From Hospital To Home Pays Off
Payment regimens in the health care system are changing and, increasingly, hospitals will be penalized when patients are readmitted frequently. But a focus on patients transitioning from hospital to home is paying off (Hoban, 8/22).

California Healthline: Contested Biosimilars Bill Clears Committee
The Assembly Committee on Appropriations yesterday passed a bill to require pharmacies to notify physicians when dispensing biosimilar drugs as a replacement for biologic medication. Biosimilars are a new type of biologic that isn't yet on the market, but is expected to be sold by 2015 (Gorn, 8/22).

California Healthline: Minimal Fallout Expected From State Auditor’s Mental Health Spending Report
Potential paths after an auditor's report criticized the way California agencies and government officials have overseen spending of mental health funding range from staying the course to replacing the entire oversight commission. Repercussions from the California State Auditor's report on the Mental Health Services Act released last week will probably fall closer to the former than the latter, most experts agree. The report concludes that government representatives have "provided little oversight of counties' implementation of MHSA programs, particularly as it relates to evaluating whether these programs are effective” (Lauer, 8/22).

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