A selection of health policy stories from Oklahoma, Texas, California and Massachusetts.
The Associated Press: Fallin Urges Last-Minute Health Care Fix
Gov. Mary Fallin proposed a last-minute legislative change Friday to the state's Insure Oklahoma program that would direct $50 million in state tobacco taxes to pay for more than 9,000 people who are expected to lose their health insurance under the program. Insure Oklahoma currently uses federal Medicaid funding, state tobacco tax revenue and payments from workers and employers to provide health insurance to about 30,000 low-income Oklahomans, but the federal government notified Oklahoma last week that the program must change in order to qualify for federal funding (Murphy, 5/18).
The Associated Press: Legislators Devote New Funding To Mental Health
For the first time since (Texas) state lawmakers made historic budget cuts a decade ago, legislators are dedicating hundreds of millions more dollars to mental health care. (Haven for Hope in Bexar County) serves as a model of the services and success they aim to accomplish. ... As Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House and Senate hash out the details of the state’s 2014-15 budget — there are fights over water, roads and education — one issue they are not arguing about is support for mental health. "One thing we could all agree on was mental health was, to a large extent, a driver of crime," said state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton (Grissom and Rocha, 5/19).
The Texas Tribune: House OKs Bill To Expand Mental Health In Managed Care
Managed care plans would be required to offer more mental health services to Medicaid recipients under a bill tentatively approved by the House on Friday. … The majority of mental health services -- such as medication management and counseling -- are already provided to Medicaid recipients through managed care (Aaronson, 5/17).
Los Angeles Times: City Of San Francisco, Worker Unions Protest Kaiser Premium Hike
It's a trend many public employees can relate to: Health insurance premiums climb year after year, while at the bargaining table workers have agreed to kick in more for pensions, take salary cuts and sign on to furlough days. But when Kaiser Permanente -- which insures 45,000 public workers here -- proposed another hike for 2014, San Francisco's Health Service System teamed up with labor unions to say "no more" (Romney, 5/19).
Los Angeles Times: St. John's Picks Providence Health & Services In Bidding War
After months of controversy, the owner of St. John's Health Center said it plans to sell the landmark Santa Monica hospital to Catholic chain Providence Health & Services. The hospital has been at the center of an intense competition that featured bids from UCLA Health System, other Catholic hospital chains and Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong (Terhune, 5/17).
The Texas Tribune: Texas On Track To Restore Cancer Research Funding
The Legislature is on track to restore financing for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. In an effort to restore public trust in the beleaguered agency, budget negotiators made the agency's financing for 2014-15 biennium -- $595 million -- contingent upon the passage of Senate Bill 149, which the House tentatively approved on Friday (Aaronson, 5/17).
Medpage Today: No Hike In Mass. Hospital Use Post Health Reform
Health care reform in Massachusetts did not increase overall use of inpatient resources, but other states may not be so lucky, researchers found. Before and after a reform, the average number of quarterly admissions per hospital was 1,502 and 1,557, respectively -- translating into a nonsignificant net change of 0.3 percent when compared with controls, according to Amresh D. Hanchate, PhD, an economist at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, and colleagues (Kaiser, 5/17).
California Healthline: Assembly Approves Race, Ethnicity In Quality Reporting
The Assembly yesterday passed a bill that requires state officials to include race and ethnicity when compiling health care quality data. AB 411 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) would not create any kind of difficulty for state officials, since that data already exists, according to Pan. The point is to make state officials use it, Pan said. … The information is already being collected by the state Department of Health Care Services so it's not really much more work to mine that data for health disparities by race or ethnicity, Pan said (Gorn, 5/17).