State Roundup: Texas Lawmakers Ready Health Budget

A selection of health policy stories from Oregon, Texas, Colorado, Florida, New York, California, Kansas and Arizona.

The Texas Tribune: Senators Take On Health Care Costs, Medicaid Expansion
Texas budget writers got a briefing on the state's health care programs Wednesday, and many of the biggest questions focused on how the state can reduce fraud and what to do about ever-increasing health care costs. The state Senate's initial budget proposal spends more than $70 billion on health and human services, a 2 percent increase from the current budget (Philpott, 1/31).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Public Health Agencies Lose $4 Million In Vaccine Funds
Deep into a whooping cough epidemic and a long struggle with poor immunization rates, Colorado can no longer tap a $4 million pot of federal money to give vaccines to needy children. As of Jan. 1, the federal government barred local public health agencies from using so-called "317 funds" to give children vaccines if they have health insurance other than Medicaid (Kerwin McCrimmon, 1/30).

The New York Times: Federal Agents Raid Offices Of Donor Linked To Senator Menendez
The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday raided the offices of a prominent South Florida eye surgeon who is a wealthy Democratic Party donor with close ties to Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. ... At the West Palm Beach office, agents from the F.B.I. were joined by the Office of the Inspector General of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which investigates fraud in Medicare, Medicaid and other agency programs (Robles, 1/30).

Kaiser Health News: Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Is Back, But Changed, After Sandy
When a ferry crashed in lower Manhattan earlier this month, ambulances took dozens of people to hospitals around Manhattan. Bellevue Hospital took in 31 passengers who all had minor injuries. Despite their bruises and bandages, something was missing: the most seriously hurt patients from the crash. Dr. Suzi Vassallo said that's because Bellevue currently can't handle serious traumatic injuries. Hurricane Sandy closed Bellevue, and it re-opened in December, but doing only partial duty" (Mogul, 1/30).

Los Angeles Times: Beach Cities Are Getting Healthier, Data Show
A comprehensive effort to improve the health of residents living in the beach cities is doing just that, according to new data released Wednesday. Beginning in 2010, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach started making changes in homes, workplaces and schools to improve the well-being of people living in the region. They revamped restaurant menus, started "walking school buses" for children and created neighborhood gardens. Hermosa Beach passed an anti-smoking ordinance and the beach cities began working on adding bike lanes (Gorman, 1/30).

Los Angeles Times: County Health Clinic To Open In Skid Row Apartment Building
Recognizing the high cost of treating homeless patients, Los Angeles County plans to open a health clinic inside a skid row apartment building. Residents of the 102-unit building, scheduled to open this summer on 6th Street, will be carefully chosen based on their health needs and their regular use of the emergency health care system (Gorman, 1/30).

The Associated Press: Students Call For End To UC Health Insurance Cap
Students have called on the University of California to end caps on health care coverage that could leave them to foot the bill for their medical treatment. Most UC campuses limit students' coverage to $400,000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday (1/30).

The Lund Report: Gov. Kitzhaber Steps Into Debate Over Medical Liability Reform
A heated debate over medical liability reform pitted physicians against each other and came extremely close to the tipping point when the Oregon Medical Association's board of trustees met last Saturday. Legislators, defense attorneys and malpractice insurers even joined the fray. The governor had appointed a committee of physicians and trial attorneys last year, which reached agreement on an early disclosure process for medical errors, allowing physicians to apologize and enter into mediation before facing litigation. Shortly before the OMA met, that legislative proposal was altered -- making it voluntary in order to curry the favor of physicians. But there was still dissension in the ranks, particularly among physician specialists who feared the proposal would open them up to more lawsuits because of the lack of confidentiality (Lund-Muzikant, 1/30).

The Lund Report: Legislature Considers Evidence-Based Approach For Insurance Reform
Dr. John McAnulty, a cardiologist at Legacy Health System, knows all too well that medicine can't sort out every last detail -- particularly when it comes to evidence-based care. That’s why he supports a legislative proposal allowing the Oregon Insurance Division to initiate a pilot program using the protocols developed by the Health Evidence Review Commission. Created in 2011 after passage of House Bill 2100, that commission is charged with coming up with evidence-based findings -- known as guidances -- for providers, consumers and health care purchasers, including the state’s Medicaid plan (Lund-Muzikant, 1/30).

The Lund Report: Oregon Midwives Face New Regulation
Practitioners of one of medicine's oldest professions could face new regulation in Oregon after this coming legislative session. And implementation of the Affordable Care Act could bring even more changes – though that remains far from clear. What is certain is that many midwives across the state are worried. … The number of medical professionals affected is relatively small -- about 120 midwives -- and they deliver only about 3 percent of the state's roughly 50,000 births per year (Sherwood, 1/30).

Health News Florida: 950 FL Pharmacies Called High-Risk Compounders
Almost 950 Florida-licensed pharmacies engage in "sterile compounding," the type of high-risk drug-making that led to a deadly fungal meningitis epidemic last year, according to a Department of Health survey released last week. Sterile compounders are now given priority for state inspections, but it’s going to be a daunting task to check them all, judging from the survey report and interviews with pharmacists and health department officials (Gentry, 1/31).

Kansas Health Institute: Independent Pharmacies Pinched By Preferred Provider Networks
Preferred provider networks can help seniors save money on their prescription drugs. If a senior’s Medicare Part D plan includes a network of preferred providers and if they have their prescriptions filled at one of the participating pharmacies, they get a discount. ... But most of the participating pharmacies are large, corporate owned stores in towns large enough to have a Walmart, and owners of smaller, independent pharmacies say the chains' Medicare arrangements are hurting their businesses (Ranney, 1/31).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Governor, Lawmakers Support Help For The Disabled
Colorado's notorious and seemingly endless waiting list for services for people with developmental disabilities numbers at least 2,692 including 69 people who are in hospice care. Gov. John Hickenlooper wants lawmakers to spend at least $13 million to begin reversing the backlog. Colorado lags behind most states on funding for the disabled. Hickenlooper’s proposal calls for covering all children whose families care for them in their homes and would chip away at the adult waiting list. ... So far, lawmakers from key health committees on both sides of the aisle are indicating support to boost funding for the disabled after the economic downturn forced Colorado to cut spending on the disabled in recent years (Kerwin McCrimmon, 1/30).

Arizona Republic: Arizona Prisons' Health-Care Contractor Replaced
The Arizona Department of Corrections and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. have agreed to terminate the company's medical-services contract that provides health care for inmates statewide. Wednesday's abrupt announcement of the split came in the wake of accusations last year that the company improperly dispensed medicine to inmates and wasted state resources. The corrections department, in a joint statement with Wexford, said both parties encountered unforseeable challenges and decided to end the deal. The state has reached an agreement with Corizon, Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., to become the health care provider for all state-run prisons, and it will take over March 4 (Harris, 1/30).

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.