State Highlights: 'Balance Billing' Protection In N.Y.; L.A. Nursing Home Complaint Backlog

A selection of health policy stories from New York, California, Hawaii and Georgia.

Bloomberg: Surprise Medical Bills Lead To Protection Laws 
Hospital patients in New York are the latest in the nation to gain legal protection against unexpected bills from doctors who won’t accept their insurance. New York this week extended patient protection laws to restrict out-of-network providers from “balance-billing” consumers for emergency care or when patients can’t choose their doctors (Chen, 4/4).

The Associated Press: Study: Asthma Has $1.3B Impact On New York
Asthma is costing New York's Medicaid system more than half a billion dollars a year, according to a report released Friday that urges the state to do more to help those affected by the respiratory illness. The study by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that Medicaid costs related to asthma were $532 million in 2013, an increase of more than 26 percent over five years (4/4). 

Kaiser Health News: Los Angeles County Audit Finds Backlog Of Nursing Home Complaints
A lack of central oversight of nursing home investigations in Los Angeles County has contributed to a backlog of hundreds of complaints, according to an audit released late Friday. The Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller determined that there were 3,044 open investigations as of March 14, including 945 that have been open for more than two years. The auditor found that there is no central management of the investigations and that surveyors within the Health Facilities Inspections Division, or HFID, do not have set deadlines for completing cases (Gorman, 4/5).

Los Angeles Times: Hawaii's Trailblazing Health Care Underscores Disparity 
Hawaiians live longer than their counterparts on the mainland. They die less frequently from common diseases, such as breast and colon cancers, even though these cancers occur more often here than in most other states. They also pay less for their care; the state's health care costs are among the lowest in the country. Hawaii's success owes much to the state's trailblazing health system and its long history of near-universal health insurance. Forty years ago, the state became the first to require employers to provide health benefits (Levey, 4/5).

The New York Times: New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law Quietly Takes Effect
Shiv Puri gathered his employees together after the lunchtime rush last week to deliver the big news: This year, the cook and kitchen staff at the Bombay Sandwich Co. on West 27th Street will receive paid sick leave for the very first time. ... His eight employees were thrilled. No surprise there. But Mr. Puri, a new business owner, was feeling pretty good, too ... The law went into effect on April 1. ... [W]ithout hoopla or hullabaloo, the city quietly became the largest in the nation to ensure that the vast majority of workers wouldn’t lose their jobs or a portion of their paychecks if they or their close relatives got sick (Swarns, 4/6).

Kaiser Health News: When Connecting With A Dentist Doesn't Mean An Office Visit
It’s all part of a free "teledentistry" program for low-income patients in California who don’t have access to regular dental care. Often they’re stymied by high costs and a shortage of dentists who treat the poor. Many also face language barriers, lack legal immigration status, are afraid of dentists or have a poor understanding of what causes dental problems (Hernandez, 4/7).

Georgia Health News: Key Part Of Hospital Provider Fee Still Unresolved
Last year, a bill that would renew a financing mechanism for the state’s Medicaid program hurtled irresistibly through the Georgia General Assembly. Gov. Nathan Deal signed it into law almost as soon as it was passed. The high priority the measure received was easy to understand. The funding mechanism, known as the hospital provider fee -- called by opponents a “bed tax’’ -- was designed to fill a nearly $500 million hole in the state’s Medicaid program (Miller, 4/4).

CBS' 60 Minutes: On The Road With The Health Wagon
[T]he Health Wagon, a mobile health clinic in a beat-up Winnebago [is] run by Teresa Gardner and Paula Meade, two nurse practitioners who navigate the hills and hollows of Appalachia, providing free medical care to the working poor. ... "Obamacare was supposed to change all of this," says Pelley. "These folks, many of whom work full time at minimum wage, make too much money in those states to qualify for Medicaid, but they don't make enough money even to buy insurance on the health care exchanges" (Pelley, 4/6).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major 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.