State Highlights: Va. Gov. Candidates Differ On Mental Health System

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, California, Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Texas.

Stateline: 'Habilitation' Is Among New Obamacare Benefits
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), habilitation services will now be widely covered for the first time in private insurance plans. Rehabilitative and habilitative services are among the 10 "essential benefits" that must be provided by all plans sold on all the state and federally run health insurance exchanges. Starting in 2014, all individual and small group health policies sold outside the exchanges also will have to cover habilitative services. But as is the case with some of the other "essential benefits," the federal health law mandates coverage of habilitation services without spelling out exactly what that means (Ollove, 10/24).

The Washington Post: Virginia's Mental Health System Needs More Money; Candidates Differ On How To Provide It
When people talk about improving Virginia's mental health system, they inevitably return to one word: money. Money for treatment centers and hospital beds, money for staff, money for youth programs, money for housing. Money that has been cut significantly in recent years. The major-party candidates for governor of Virginia agree that mental health systems need more resources. But their approaches differ greatly, based in part on how they view the Medicaid expansion of the new health care law in Virginia (Jackman, 10/23).

California Healthline: State Agency’s Penalty Check Payout For Late Hearings Climbs Above $2.7 Million
The Department of Social Services has issued more than $2.7 million in penalty checks to Californians who successfully appealed their eligibility status for the Community Based Adult Services program, which was created and is overseen by the Department of Health Care Services. In July, Capitol Desk reported the state had paid more than $1.1 million in penalties to 670 CBAS recipients. DHCS officials yesterday said another $1.6 million in penalties will be paid to 145 successful eligibility appellants. For those new recipients, that's an average of more than $11,000 per penalty check (Gorn, 10/23).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Online Tax Credit System To Go Live Nov. 4
Managers at Connect for Health Colorado initially delayed the online feature until the end of October and in order to secure subsidies, customers have had to call clogged phone lines. Now, a spokesman said in a written response to questions that customers wanting to use the exchange website to cut their health insurance costs will have to wait until Nov. 4, the new target date for Colorado to have an online subsidy application (Kerwin McCrimmon, 10/23).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Low-Income Californians Want Better Information
For many low-income Californians, enrolling in health insurance is just one hurdle to overcome in getting the care they want. A new report says better communication with doctors and obtaining clearer information is also high on their wish lists (Rao, 10/23).

St. Louis Beacon: ConnectCare Patients Transition To Specialty Care At New Locations
Joyce Simms has been a St. Louis ConnectCare patient in the pulmonology program for four years.  Because she has asthma, she sees her pulmonologist, Dr. Barbara Lutey, as often as every three months…Health care providers throughout St. Louis and St. Louis County have been scrambling to come up with places to treat more than 2,000 ConnectCare specialty-care patients (Davidson, 10/23).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Children’s Hospital Of Phila. Funds Gene-Therapy Company
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has invested $50 million in a new biotech start-up that seeks to be the nation's first commercial provider of gene therapy, company officials announced Tuesday. Spark Therapeutics will assume control over two clinical trials that originated at the prominent teaching hospital -- one in which patients with a rare form of blindness already have regained some vision, the other an early-stage effort to treat hemophilia B (Avril, 10/23).

Kansas Health Institute: Outlook Mixed For Parent Companies Of KanCare MCOs
The parent companies of Kansas’ three main Medicaid managed care organizations posted mixed earnings reports this week and provided stock analysts with differing forecasts.  Centene, the St. Louis-based company that does business in Kansas as the Sunflower State Health Plan, reported third quarter earnings of $49.4 million on revenue of $2.7 billion (McLean, 10/23).

The Texas Tribune: Final Arguments Made In Case On Abortion Regulation
With days remaining until new abortion regulations take effect in Texas, attorneys for abortion providers and the state of Texas presented their final arguments Wednesday on whether those restrictions meet constitutional muster (Aaronson, 10/23).

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