State Highlights: Calif. Bill To Fine Firms With Workers On Medi-Cal Fails

A collection of health policy stories from California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Georgia and Iowa.

Los Angeles Times: Bill To Fine Big Firms With Workers On Medi-Cal Comes Up Short
A California proposal to fine large companies that have workers on Medi-Cal came up short in an initial vote in the Assembly amid strong business opposition. The proposed fines could reach about $5,000 per full-time employee who receives Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program for the poor. The bill, AB 880, garnered 46 votes in the 80-member chamber Thursday, short of the 54 votes, or two-thirds majority, needed. The measure could come up for reconsideration as early as next week (Terhune, 6/27).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. 'Benevolent-Gesture' Bill For Physicians Advances
On the physician's checklist, somewhere between describing how difficult an operation was and which steps a family might want to take next, expressions of empathy may now become more prevalent. Again making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill -- "benevolent-gesture" legislation -- that would prohibit empathetic statements such as apologies and condolences from being used against medical personnel in court (Haghighat, 6/29).

The Lund Report: House Passes Bill To Help Diabetic Women; Cancer Screening Money In Influx
The House passed a bill that will require insurance companies to cover the prenatal medical needs of diabetic women at no extra cost during pregnancy. Rep. Sara Gelser, a Corvallis Democrat, sponsored the bill, saying it would not only ease the burdens that diabetic women face when they become pregnant, but also prevent devastating stays in neonatal intensive care units for newborn infants (Gray, 6/28).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Mississippi Dems: We Were 'Bamboozled' On Medicaid; 
With just two days to spare, and with plenty of political drama, Mississippi lawmakers approved a plan late Friday to renew Medicaid for another year. The joint federal-state program, which provides health insurance to some 700,000 poor Mississippians, was set to expire Sunday night (Hess, 6/29).

The Wall Street Journal: At Nation's Oldest Institution for the Disabled, 13 Lives in Limbo 
Michael Martin is 51 years old, but because of brain damage he lives his days like a very young and anxious child, prone to violent outbursts. He is learning to fold towels. Yet his abilities tower over a longtime neighbor, Teresa Kacinski, who can't walk, talk, see, feed herself or change positions. With help, she can strike a key on a toy piano. They are among the 13 remaining residents of the Fernald Developmental Center, the oldest [Massachusetts] state-run institution in the U.S. for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities (Ansberry, 6/28).

Oregonian: Oregon Health Reforms Start Up In Portland Area With New Ideas, Urgency
On a recent Tuesday in a Providence clinic in the Laurelhurst neighborhood, Corey Whitcomb and three other soon-to-be mothers sit in a circle and hold ice cubes in their hand, an exercise in managing the pain of childbirth. …  Elsewhere in the city, unemployed 24-year-old Amanda Skowronski jots down carb content in the foods she is about to eat. She's kicked her daily two-liter cola habit, and has lost nearly 10 pounds as she tries to get off insulin with the help of a caseworker. Similar subtle shifts are under way statewide to improve health care. Last year, lawmakers approved changes to the Oregon Health Plan to try and save money while improving care The changes harness $1.9 billion in federal reform funds and a waiver from federal Medicaid rules to reorganize providers and spend on prevention and keeping people healthier. Intended to make Oregon a petri dish for health reforms, the federal funds have people around the country watching to see if the investment pays off (Budnick, 6/29).

Georgia Health News: Phoebe Putney, FTC Could Reach Settlement
The Federal Trade Commission and Phoebe Putney Health System may be heading toward a settlement in their two-year antitrust battle. The federal agency has fought the merger of Phoebe Putney Hospital and its only competitor in the Albany area, Palmyra Medical Center, since the deal was announced (Miller, 6/28).

Georgia Health News: An Innovative Idea That's Crossing Boundaries
Last fall, members of the Athens Health Network invited the founders of an unusual alternative to conventional health insurance to visit this northeast Georgia college town and explain how their system works. The Athens group members, who includes hospital and clinic executives as well as public health officials and physicians, were so impressed that they vowed to try and copy the model founded more than 2,400 miles away, in Reno, Nev. (Zhang, 6/28).

Des Moines Register: Does State Still Offer 'Placement Of Last Resort'?
The Wapello County sheriff places much of the blame for Doug Newby's long jail stay on the refusal of the state-run Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute to accept him as a patient. Law enforcement and health professionals interviewed by the Register regard the state's four mental health institutes as the last resort for people who need long-term, secure placements because they can't safely stay in unlocked community facilities (Leys, 6/29).

Reuters: Pennsylvania Hospital's Ban On Hiring Smokers Prompts Debate
With just days to go before two of the city's most prestigious hospitals refuse to hire smokers, the ban has relit a debate about the wisdom of regulating workers' behavior away from the workplace. Both the highly rated University of Pennsylvania Health System, which includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, named by US News and World Report as America's top children's hospital this year, will join dozens of hospitals across the country when they implement their policy on Monday, July 1 (Warner, 6/28).

California Healthline: Health Committee Moves Mental Health Bill
The Assembly Committee on Health this week approved a bill aiming to ensure mental health needs are treated with the same concern as physical conditions by ramping up legislative oversight and enforcement efforts. Summer recess begins July 3, so the bill likely will remain in Assembly Appropriations until the Legislature reconvenes in August. SB 22 by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) would require health plans and health insurers to submit annual reports to the Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance, respectively, to certify they are complying with state and federal mental health parity laws (Hart, 6/28).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 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.