A selection of health policy stories from California, Iowa, Maryland, Georgia, Oregon and North Carolina.
Los Angeles Times: California Deems UnitedHealth Rate Hikes Unreasonable
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the nation's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., is imposing unreasonable rate hikes on about 5,000 small businesses. Jones said Wednesday that UnitedHealth couldn't justify the average annual increase of nearly 8 percent, which reflects both higher premiums and a reduction in benefits (Terhune, 5/1).
The Associated Press: House GOP Seeks To Bar Medicaid-Funded Abortions
Iowa's Medicaid program would no longer pay for any abortions under a massive budget bill for state health departments that the state House approved Wednesday. In a 52-46 vote, the House approved the roughly $1.7 billion state Health and Human Services budget, which includes funding for the Medicaid program. The plan approved by the Republican-controlled House offers less money for health programs than the version approved by the Democratic-majority Senate (Lucey, 5/1).
Los Angeles Times: Coalition Working On Ballot Measure To Limit Prescription Drug Abuse
Fearing lawmakers may fail to pass a package of medical reform bills, a coalition of consumer groups and trial lawyers is mounting a campaign to put before voters an even more ambitious slate of initiatives aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and holding doctors more accountable for misconduct (Glover and Girion, 5/1).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Fort Detrick Critics Hail Md. Law Requiring State Scrutiny Of Cancer Cluster Investigations
Critics of Fort Detrick in Frederick are hailing a bill requiring closer scrutiny of cancer cluster investigations. Gov. Martin O'Malley is set to sign the measure Thursday in Annapolis. It requires an appointed workgroup to examine the state's process for investigating suspected cancer clusters (5/2).
Georgia Health News: Phoebe Subpoenas Other Hospitals In FTC Fight
Hospital executives across Georgia have been receiving a surprise delivery in the past week: a subpoena requesting loads of financial information. The subpoenas were sent by attorneys representing Phoebe Putney Health System, which is locked in a long-running, contentious fight with the Federal Trade Commission over the 2011 Albany hospital merger. A spokesman for Phoebe Putney told GHN on Wednesday that every Georgia hospital has been sent the requests, and so have some facilities in neighboring states if they treat Georgia patients. There are two forms of requests (Miller, 5/1).
The Lund Report: Oregon Pioneered Home Care Workers, Who’ve Waited Six Years For Raise
Oregon has pioneered home care workers for the indigent elderly, helping them to live with greater dignity and freedom in their old age. Many of Oregon's 10,000 homecare workers are family members who often take on the full-time work of assisting elderly Medicaid clients with long-term care needs. Others are hired from a registry of homecare workers that’s managed by the Oregon Home Care Commission (Gray, 5/1).
North Carolina Health News: Sex-Selection Abortion Ban Heads To House Of Representatives
A new bill that seeks to restrict the practice of abortions based on the gender of the fetus. It could make doctors liable to being sued by a woman or her family members if they feel the physician should have realized that gender bias played a part in the decision to terminate the pregnancy (Hoban, 5/2).
California Healthline: Home Services Workers Balk At Regulation
The Assembly Committee on Human Services yesterday voted to approve a bill designed to register and regulate home health care workers. "An unknown number of independents operate without any oversight or regulation in California," said Gary Passmore, who sits on the board of directors at the California Congress of Seniors. "AB 1217 requires both the owners and aides of the organization to pass a background check and meet basic licensure standards. … And it requires all home care aides … to be certified." The bill also would publish the names of workers and their occupational data on a public website (Gorn, 5/1).