State Highlights: Conn. Democrats Eye Shifting $400M In Medicaid Money

A selection of health policy stories from California, Connecticut, American Samoa, Georgia, Oregon and West Virginia.

Los Angeles Times: Geography Has A Role In Elective Surgery Decisions, Study Finds
Geography plays a role in whether patients in California have elective operations such as joint replacement, weight loss surgery and gallbladder removal, according to a new study. The California HealthCare Foundation study showed wide variations in patient surgeries across the state (Gorman, 5/22).

CT Mirror: Democrats May Sidestep Spending Cap
Struggling to secure the super-majority necessary to exceed the current spending cap by half-a-billion dollars, legislative leaders are weighing a plan to green-light the extra spending with a simple majority. According to sources close to budget negotiations, the Democratic majority has discussed effectively shifting more than $400 million in Medicaid spending off the books next fiscal year. The process is common in other states, but rarely used here and never involving that much money (Phaneuf and Becker, 5/22).

Modern Healthcare: HHS Finds $2.2M In Billing Errors At Cedars-Sinai
Administrators at Los Angeles' largest community hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, were well aware of the flaws in their inpatient admissions process before an audit report Wednesday from HHS' inspector general's office publicly pointed them out. The 892-bed hospital posted a case manager in its emergency department last year to review all decisions to admit so-called "short-stay" inpatients, and that person now has access to standardized admissions criteria software from InterQual to evaluate make those decisions, hospital administrators wrote to the OIG (Carlson, 5/22).

Los Angeles Times: Most Unionized UC Hospital Workers Go To Jobs Despite Strike
As University of California patient care workers returned to the picket lines Wednesday, hospital administrators said they were gratified that so many others chose to come to work. More than three-quarters of union members who had been scheduled to work Tuesday did so, said Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC office of the president. Hospital officials said they expected a similar turnout Wednesday (Gorman, 5/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: American Samoa To Keep Frequent Flier Miles Of Government Travelers; Use For Sick, Students
American Samoa plans to take away frequent flier miles from government workers who travel on behalf of the U.S. territory and use the loyalty points to help medical patients and students travel off the islands when necessary (5/22).

Georgia Health News: State Psychiatric Hospital In Thomasville To Close
A state agency Wednesday announced that its psychiatric hospital in Thomasville will close by the end of the year. The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities told GHN that Southwestern State Hospital currently has a patient census of 116, divided between people with mental illness and development disabilities, and those housed in the facility’s forensic unit. The closing of the hospital continues the revamping of the state’s services for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the wake of Georgia’s landmark 2010 agreement with U.S. Department of Justice, which aims to move people from mental hospitals into community living situations (Miller, 5/22).

The Lund Report: Cultural Competency In Health Care Heads To Governor
Sen. Jackie Winters said 40 or 50 years ago, when some black Americans had diabetes, they had a colloquial term for it -- "the sugars" -- which their doctors may not understand. Winters, a black Republican senator from Salem, told The Lund Report that ethnic and racial minorities often face increased health disparities, often for purely cultural reasons, since physicians and nurse practitioners are more likely to come from an ethnic group different than their own. That's what's led her to find a legislative route that would compel health professionals to become educated in cultural competency (Gray, 5/22).

The Associated Press: W. Va. Gov Picks New Health Secretary
Former hospital executive and nurse Karen Bowling will become West Virginia's Health and Human Resources secretary on July 1, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday, taking over a sprawling department recently scrutinized by an audit and assigned the daunting task of expanding the state's Medicaid program (5/22).

San Jose Mercury News: California Bill Would Prevent Genetic-Testing Firms From Using Surreptitiously Obtained DNA
If you want to keep your DNA to yourself, be sure not to leave any stray hairs, Q-tips or underwear lying around. There are genetic testing companies out there willing to reveal your most intimate biological secrets to anybody -- without your knowledge or permission. And under California law, such genetic snooping is perfectly legal. Now, legislators in Sacramento are considering a bill to change that. Senate Bill 222, which faces a key hearing Thursday, would require a donor's consent to collect, analyze or share genetic information (Shugart, 5/22).

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