State Roundup: Nearly 13,000 Calif. Hospital Workers Set To Strike

A selection of health policy news from California, Louisiana, Vermont, Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

Los Angeles Times: Patient Care Workers Set To Start Walkout At Five UC Hospitals
Respiratory therapists, nursing aides, surgical technicians and other patient care workers plan to stage a walkout starting Tuesday morning at five University of California medical centers. More than 12,000 workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are expected to participate in the two-day strike over staffing, pay and pension reform, union officials said. An additional 3,400 workers from the University Professional and Technical Employees union plan a one-day sympathy strike (Gorman, 5/21).

Reuters: Health Care Workers Set To Strike California Public Hospitals
Nearly 13,000 health care employees at five University of California medical centers plan to strike on Tuesday in a move that threatens to back up emergency rooms and already has forced the postponement of elective surgeries (Cohen, 5/21).

The Associated Press: Proposals Would Limit Cuts In La. Medicaid Program
Proposals that would make it more difficult to cut the rates paid to private hospitals and nursing homes for taking care of Medicaid patients are nearing final passage in the Louisiana Legislature. Overwhelming support from lawmakers comes despite concerns the constitutional amendments would further limit budget areas available to cut when Louisiana has financial woes -- and leave public colleges more vulnerable to slashing (Deslatte, 5/20).

New Orleans Times Picayune: Louisiana Senate Panel Approves Dual Provider Rate Bills
Two pieces of legislation designed to draw down more federal Medicaid dollars for Louisiana's hospitals and nursing homes were passed by a Senate committee Monday, even as they faced opposition from the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal and two prominent think tanks. House Bill 532, sponsored by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-N.O., would allow hospitals to assess a fee on themselves, which would then be placed into a state-run "Hospital Stabilization Fund." This fund would then be used to draw down matching federal Medicaid dollars. House Bill 533, sponsored by the same two representatives, would constitutionally protect provider rates already issued by nursing homes, pharmacies and intermediate care facilities used to draw down Medicaid dollars. Both bills would involve amendments to the state constitution and would go to the state's voters before final approval (McGaughy, 5/20).

The Associated Press: Vermont Is 4th State To Legalize Assisted Suicide
After years of debate, Vermont became the fourth state in the country Monday to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law at a Statehouse ceremony even as opponents vowed to push for its repeal (5/20).

WBUR: Vermont Legalizes Physician-Assisted Suicide
Vermont has become the third state in the country, and the first in the east to legalize physician assisted suicide. The Vermont state legislature passed a so-called death with dignity bill last week. And in so doing, it became the first state to approve such a measure through legislative efforts, rather than through a voter referendum. The bill was signed into law just moments ago by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (5/20).

KQED: Surgery Rates Vary Dramatically Across California: Look Up Your City
Where you live matters. And in health care, it matters in all sorts of ways you might not think of immediately. If you're having elective surgery, one of the major factors determining what kind of treatment you will receive depends on where you live, according to new research released Tuesday. In health policy, "elective" does not necessarily mean cosmetic surgery. Treatments for early stage cancers are considered "elective" because there are a range of options (Aliferis, 5/21). 

The Associated Press: Bill Would Bring Sunshine To California Health Care Reform
Two lawmakers are pushing legislation to strip broad secrecy provisions from the state agency overseeing health-care reforms in California that could shield from the public how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent, officials said Monday. The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Emmerson and Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier was introduced in the state Senate less than two weeks after The Associated Press reported the degree of privacy granted Covered California appears unique among states attempting to establish their own health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama's signature law (Blood, 5/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Minnesota To Allow Home Day-Care Workers To Unionize 
Minnesota is set to allow unions to organize workers who provide home day-care services and other home care, giving organized labor a rare victory at the state level. The state House, by a vote of 68 to 66, passed legislation Monday that allows unions to negotiate on behalf of providers whose clients receive government subsidies -- including through Medicaid, the federal health program for low-income and disabled people (Peters and Maher, 5/20).

North Carolina Health News: A First Look At Health Care In The Senate Budget
Senate leaders rolled out their proposed $20.58 billion budget for the coming biennium late Sunday night with a plan that increases overall state spending by 2.3 percent, including increased spending on Medicaid. But the plan also includes a lot of cuts (Hoban, 5/20).

Politico: Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban Blocked For Now
A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Arkansas law banning abortions after 12 weeks into pregnancy, the first legal test of state early abortion laws passed in 2013. Judge Susan Webber Wright of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on Friday granted a preliminary injunction against the law, ruling from the bench after a hearing on a challenge brought by abortion rights advocates (Smith, 5/20).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Casey Promotes Health Care Research As A Job Source
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says he doesn't have an answer to the national need for balance in creating health-care financing solutions, but he knows that National Institutes of Health funding helps put and keep jobs in the Philadelphia region. … A Democrat from Scranton, Casey said at the Friday meeting that unlike most topics dividing Congress, funding for medical science has a "bipartisan consensus, less so on financial levels, but we're not as far apart as we are on other issues." Pennsylvania got about $1.46 billion in NIH funding in 2012. That was fourth highest among the states (Sell, 5/21).

California Healthline: Federal Ruling, State Law May Conflict
In 2011, the Legislature went along with the governor's plan to cut Medi-Cal provider rates by 10 percent. Provider groups immediately went to the courts to stop it, saying that patient access to care would be threatened by such a severe reduction. Now the final decision rests with a federal judge. A ruling is expected soon. If a federal judge signs off on the law, Medi-Cal providers in California will have rates cut by 10 percent and also will need to pay back two years' worth of that 10 percent reduction. The effect would be a 15 percent rate cut for the next four years and a 10 percent cut thereafter (Gorn, 5/20).

California Healthline: Health Care Issues High On Latino Community Agenda
Health care, traditionally a vital issue in Latino communities, is still high on the list, but the focus may be shifting, according to Latino leaders who convened for a statewide summit last week in Sacramento. … The Latino Community Foundation, a statewide philanthropy based in San Francisco, convened more than 100 leaders of California Latino organizations for a "Sacramento Summit" last week. The event launched the California Latino Agenda, a campaign to unite leadership, establish goals and lobby for policy positions (Lauer, 5/20).

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