State Highlights: N.M. High Court Rules Malpractice Law Covers Doc Businesses

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, New Mexico, California, South Carolina, Iowa, Florida, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: A Growing County Fights For Every Resident To Be Counted
Armed with maps, photos and data, Hidalgo County officials say they are fighting to undo the consequences of what they see as a drastic undercount of the county in the 2010 census. In this rapidly growing, overwhelmingly Hispanic county in the Rio Grande Valley, where more than a third of residents have incomes below the federal poverty level, such population figures are crucial. They can translate into millions of dollars, as federal and state programs like Medicaid use population data to allocate money (MacLaggan, 9/5).

The Associated Press: Malpractice Law Covers Doctors' Businesses
Businesses formed by doctors are covered by a state law that caps the damages that victims of medical malpractice can collect from health care providers, New Mexico's highest court ruled Thursday. The state Supreme Court said that medical professional corporations and limited liability companies fall under the law's definition of a health care provider under the state's medical malpractice law (9/5).

California Healthline: Biosimilars, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Bills Pass, Head To Governor's Desk
The state Assembly and Senate yesterday passed dozens of bills, including a proposal to regulate the dispensing of biosimilar medications and another to give more penalty authority to the office of the state's long-term care ombudsman. SB 609 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) continues Wolk's efforts to beef up the ombudsman's office for handling long-term care complaints. Wolk authored a successful bill last year, which gave the long-term care ombudsman more of an advocacy role and called for creation of an annual report. This year's bill increases penalties for any providers of long-term care who interfere with investigations by the ombudsman's office (Gorn, 9/5).

The Associated Press: Director: Medicaid Agency Wants To Increase Access
South Carolina's Medicaid agency is working to make health care more convenient for its enrollees, as part of efforts to improve residents' health while decreasing costs, director Tony Keck told The Associated Press. Initiatives to expand access include covering visits to walk-in pharmacy clinics and paying doctors more when they see patients outside normal business hours (Adcox, 9/5).

The Associated Press: Iowa Gets Grant To Help Boost Child Dental Care
Iowa public health officials have received a $1.8 million federal grant to help ensure children and some adults get adequate dental care. The money from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be used to expand a school-based dental program called I-Smile Dental Home Initiative and to monitor and evaluate the state's dental public health program (9/6).

Health News Florida: Telemedicine: The Next Big Thing?
Florida lawmakers say they have to expand access to doctors now that millions of uninsured people in the state are set to gain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. One tool they may encourage is telemedicine. But there's a problem, as state Rep. Cary Pigman explains: Insurers don't pay for it. It's not that they can't, they just don't. Neither does Medicare (Gentry, 9/5).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Health Law Confusion Could Draw Scammers
With consumers still confused about the federal health law and how it might affect their insurance coverage, a consumer group warned Thursday that its prime time for scammers to strike. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota said reports are coming in from across the nation of consumers receiving phone calls telling them they need to provide personal or financial information to receive health coverage or to keep the coverage they currently have (Crosby, 9/5).

California Health Report: L.A. Clinic Expands Services With ACA Funding
When Ema Rowe found out that she was pregnant with her third child, her physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center referred the South Los Angeles resident to Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center. Rowe soon entered Eisner's centering pregnancy program at the clinic's main location in downtown Los Angeles. A nurse called her after noticing she had been a little depressed at a recent centering pregnancy class (Fulton, 9/5).

Boston Globe: Long Term Care Insurance Premiums On The Rise 
Sharp increases in rate requests for long-term care insurance are raising the chances that the next wave of retirees may not be able to afford coverage for assisted living, nursing homes, and related health services. Since early 2012, the Massachusetts Division of Insurance has regularly approved premium increases of about 10 percent for the insurance, which was introduced in the 1980s as a hedge against the high and extended costs of nursing care. Regulators are now reviewing requests by some companies to nearly double their rates -- potentially increasing premiums by thousands of dollars a year (Fernandes, 9/6).

California Healthline: Bill Aimed At Kaiser Hits Home Stretch
Proponents of a bill aimed squarely at Kaiser Permanente say the legislation is needed to level the playing field for health insurers setting premium prices in California. Kaiser officials say they're not playing on the same field and the attempt to put them there will be costly, confusing and ultimately a financial burden for Kaiser members. SB 746 by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) would require insurers selling to large employers to provide detailed reports to state officials explaining pricing and justifying premium increases. The bill would require insurers contracting with two or fewer medical groups to provide additional information on cost increases, as well as claims data to large purchasers that request it (Lauer, 9/5).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.