State Highlights: Medi-Cal Rate Cuts Loom; Latin American Docs Help Meet Need

A selection of health policy stories from California and Massachusetts.

Los Angeles Times: Doctors Brace For Pain As 10% Cut To Medi-Cal Rates Looms
In an office decorated with Chinese art and diagrams of body parts, Dr. George Ma cares for more than 4,000 patients. Nearly three-quarters are covered by Medi-Cal, the state's public insurance program for low-income Californians, and Ma said he receives $10 a month to treat most of them (Gorman and York, 6/10).

San Jose Mercury News: Kaiser Permanente Research Method Has Potential To Transform U.S. Health Care System
It was a nuisance and David Gassman put it off for three weeks, but he finally put a little stool sample into a tube and mailed it to a Kaiser Permanente lab. It's a good thing he did. The test indicated he had colon cancer. The 68-year-old Oakland resident, who is recovering from surgery, can thank an emerging field known as "comparative effectiveness research." It's an idea that sounds so obvious it's hard to believe it isn't already routine: Rather than simply analyzing whether a drug or treatment method works, researchers compare options to determine which ones do the best job for patients. Many experts say the approach has such potential to transform the U.S. health system that the federal government will spend $3.5 billion on it through 2019 under national health reforms (Sleffman, 6/10).

HealthyCal: Latin American Doctors Fill U.S. Physician Shortage
Dr. Ana Solis, who was born in rural Mexico, felt helpless when her mother was bedridden during a high-risk pregnancy. Seeing her mother's agony prompted her to pursue a career in medicine. ... The University of California (Los Angeles) International Medical Graduate program, which aims to recruit doctors from Latin America like Dr. Solis, hopes to increase the number of Spanish-speaking physicians who have the cultural background to treat the growing Latino population at a time when the state is poised to face a doctor shortage (Ramirez, 6/11).

Los Angeles Times: Experts Seek Better Health Outcomes For Homeless
Years after facing patient dumping allegations and hefty legal settlements, Southern California hospital executives have begun working with advocates for the homeless to improve the health of homeless patients and to reduce their use of area hospitals. Hospital administrators are driven by the national health care law, which offers incentives to provide better care at lower cost and imposes penalties when patients are unnecessarily readmitted to hospitals. Homeless patients are among the most frequent users of the region's medical centers, often because they lack regular medical care (Gorman, 6/10).

Boston Globe: Unit At Morton Hospital Essential, State Says
Morton Hospital's pediatric unit, slated to close next month, provides critical access to health care for children in the Taunton region, according to a strongly worded state finding that, though not binding, is meant to pressure the hospital to reconsider. Steward Health Care, the for-profit hospital group that bought the troubled facility in 2011, has said it will close the 13-bed unit because it sees a low number of children and teens, with on average fewer than one patient admission each day (Conaboy, 6/11).

California Healthline: State 'De-Links' Mandatory Enrollment From Duals Project
The Department of Health Care Services last week announced a new provision of Cal MediConnect that would establish a means of abandoning the state's duals demonstration project  if it doesn't meet a financial benchmark. The department also wants to "de-link" mandatory enrollment from the demonstration project, according to Jane Ogle, deputy director at DHCS (Gorn, 6/10).

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