State Highlights: N.H. Pushes Back At Health Care Costs Ahead Of Obamacare

A selection of health policy stories from New Hampshire, Kansas and California.

The Associated Press: New Hampshire Chipping Away At Health Care Costs
Health care spending has increased faster and reached higher levels in New Hampshire than in most other states, but hospitals, insurers and others have been trying to tackle the problem long before the Affordable Care Act. The New Hampshire Citizens Health Initiative, which promotes affordable, effective and accessible health care, has overseen several of the largest efforts, including a medical home pilot project in 2011 and an accountable care organization model (8/26).

Kansas Health Institute: Deadline Looming For State's Patient Record Exchange
Kansas' health information exchange has been years and millions of dollars in the making but because of an ongoing dispute between its two networks, it still lacks the capability to handle the exchange of digital patient records across the entire state. Negotiations aimed at resolving those differences have so far failed to produce a data-sharing agreement (Cauthon, 8/26).

San Francisco Chronicle: State Has Healthy Jump On Affordable Care
The program is Alameda County's iteration of the Low Income Health Program, a statewide initiative that has provided more than 500,000 low-income state residents with health care. The initiative was conceived with the federal Affordable Care Act in mind and is often referred to as a "head start" to the health reform law because it is enrolling uninsured people ahead of it (Brown, 8/27).

Los Angeles Times: Man Sentenced In Skid Row Health Fraud Scheme, Fined $9.8 Million
A Los Angeles man who recruited homeless medical patients on skid row as part of a scheme to defraud federal programs of millions of dollars was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison. Estill Mitts, 68, of Los Angeles was sentenced by U.S. District Judge George H. King five years after Mitts pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme. Prosecutors said he recruited homeless people in downtown Los Angeles and sent them to hospitals, which drained their Medi-Cal and Medicare benefits before sending them back to the streets (Winton, 8/26).

California Healthline: Pros And Cons Of Step Therapy
For the third time in the past four years, the California Legislature is considering a bill that would limit and regulate a prescription drug protocol known as "step therapy." Also known as "step protocol," "fail first" and "prior authorization," step therapy is a tool used by insurers and providers to control rising costs and limit the risks of prescription drugs. The practice calls for patients to start with the most cost-effective, safest drug available and then to proceed to more costly, and sometimes more risky, drugs if the preceding step is not successful. AB 889, by Assembly member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), proposes a limit of two steps and requires health plans to create a process for exceptions to the rule (8/26).

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