A selection of health policy stories from the District of Columbia, Texas, California, Oregon, Connecticut, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The Washington Post: Lawmakers Won't Weigh In On Chartered Health Plan Settlement
How do you spend $48 million in unbudgeted taxpayer money without getting an OK from elected lawmakers? In the District of Columbia, there's pretty much only one way, and that's the way Mayor Vincent C. Gray is proposing to settle a high-stakes dispute with D.C. Chartered Health Plan. Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro confirmed Wednesday that the plan is to pay the District's share of the settlement -- a little over $35 million, with federal Medicaid dollars accounting for the rest -- out of the city's contingency cash reserve (DeBonis, 7/24).
Texas Tribune: AG, Planned Parenthood Affiliate Reach $1.4M Settlement
The Texas attorney general's office announced Wednesday that it obtained a $1.4 million settlement with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast for overbilling the state's Medicaid program. "Texas' ability to help the poor is hampered by actions like those Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast was accused of committing," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement (Aaronson, 7/24).
California Watch: Despite Need, No Plans To Add Veterans Health Centers At More Colleges
As a community college classmate brushed off the significance of civilian war casualties, Daniel Acree, a machine gunner in the Iraq War, felt a searing pain, his body filling with rage. In Iraq, Acree had watched powerlessly as a 5-year-old boy died in a rocket-propelled grenade attack. That was all he could think of as the professor turned to him for perspective (Glantz, 7/25).
The Lund Report: Big Changes Ahead For Insurance Rate Review, Accountability
Oregon's new insurance commissioner thinks there's an opportunity to make insurance companies more accountable to consumers and drive health care costs down as the Affordable Care Act is implemented and the state seeks ways to bolster its rate review process. "We have a responsibility [to consumers] that insurance companies are charging an appropriate rate," Laura Cali said. "We need to be very strong in terms of the questions we ask [and] the documents we request" (Waldroupe, 7/24).
CT Mirror: Connecticut Takes On Abuse Of Prescription Painkillers
Connecticut is one of 17 states whose residents are more likely to die from unintentional drug overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents, with the majority of those deaths caused by common prescription opioid painkillers. From 1998 to 2010, the latest year for which data are available, an average of 272 people, ages 20 to 64, died each year in Connecticut of unintentional overdoses, while the average number of motor vehicle deaths was 201, according to state Department of Public Health statistics. Overall deaths from drug overdoses have tripled since 1990. Today, most of those deaths are caused not by street drugs like heroin, but by prescription painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to this as a growing and deadly epidemic (Gambina, 7/24).
North Carolina Health News: Health & Human Services Budget -- The Winners
State lawmakers in both the North Carolina House and Senate voted for final passage of the biennial budget late Wednesday afternoon. The $20.6 billion plan reflects the revenue goals created in the tax reform bill passed last week and cuts $53 million from last year’s budget total (Hoban, 7/25).
CQ HealthBeat: Refusing To Comply With Wellness Program Will Cost Penn State Workers
Pennsylvania State University is joining an increasing number of large employers by rolling out a comprehensive wellness program this fall. But the educational giant has decided to use a stick rather than a carrot to get its workers to participate (Bunis, 7/25).
California Healthline: Penalty Checks Arriving For Late Hearings
State penalty checks for some people in the Community-Based Adult Services program have begun to arrive in the mail, but a consumer advocacy group said yesterday that cashing those checks could have unintended consequences. "Medi-Cal benefits are not affected in any way. But some people could lose SSI (Social Security Income) dollars" from the unexpected windfall of penalty money, according to Elizabeth Zirker, staff attorney at Disability Rights California. The state has to pay penalties to some people who were initially denied eligibility to the CBAS program. If the state took more than 90 days to process a request for a hearing and the appeal was granted, a penalty is owed (Gorn, 7/24).