A selection of health policy stories from California, New York, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Arizona.
Stateline: States Confront “New Mindset” On Home Care Workers’ Wages
A new rule from the Obama administration designed to provide better pay and working conditions to 2 million home care workers is forcing many states to rethink how they look at Medicaid payments and may result in higher Medicaid costs. Starting Jan. 1, home care workers in 29 states will, for the first time, be eligible for the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and overtime pay, under a new regulation from the U.S. Department of Labor. These workers go to homes of the elderly and the disabled to help with cooking, bathing and other daily tasks, and are paid by the clients or through Medicaid (Prah, 4/25).
Los Angeles Times: State To Provide $75 Million In Mental Health Grants
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer announced the approval Thursday of $75.3 million in grants that aim to stabilize residents with severe mental illness before they land in jail or suffer multiple hospitalizations. The 20 grants will go to 28 counties for new or expanded services. They will add 827 residential mental health beds and crisis "stabilization" beds, and pay for more than three dozen vehicles and five dozen staff members for mobile support teams, which often accompany local law enforcement to defuse tense situations and direct those in need to care (Romney, 4/24).
The New York Times: NYU Langone Reopens Emergency Room That Was Closed by Hurricane Sandy
A striking sight appeared earlier this week outside the emergency room of NYU Langone Medical Center: an ambulance. Then another. And then many more. The emergency chairman, Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, watched a procession of stretchers throughout the day as if he was welcoming long-lost friends. Other doctors came around so they could witness it for themselves. The occasion was so moving that Dr. Steven Hofstetter, a surgeon, felt that one Yiddish expression for feeling pride was not enough. So he used two. "We just came down to, as they say, kvell nachus," (Hartocollis, 4/24).
The Des Moines Register: Iowa Senate Approves Medical Cannabis Oil Bill
The Iowa Senate voted Thursday to decriminalize medical cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy, responding to emotional pleas of Iowa parents with children stricken by seizures. Senate File 2360 was approved 36-12 after a lengthy debate that included several Republican lawmakers who warned that legalizing any form of marijuana would send the wrong message to young people in jeopardy of abusing drugs (Peroski and Noble, 4/25).
The Boston Globe: Boston To Shutter Drug Treatment Facility
More than 400 opiate addicts in Boston who receive daily doses of methadone from a public clinic on Frontage Road will be steered to a for-profit facility by summer, health officials said. In a 6-to-1 vote last week, Boston’s Board of Health decided to end more than 40 years of city-run methadone treatment, which uses the narcotic to wean addicts from heroin and other opiates. The addiction services will now be handled by Community Substance Abuse Centers as the state confronts a startling rise in heroin overdoses and deaths (MacQuarrie, 4/25).
The CT Mirror: How Different Are For-Profit And Nonprofit Hospitals?
One of the major issues legislators are trying to tackle this session is the ability of nonprofit hospitals to convert to for-profits. It’s a complex and highly charged issue. Some people fear that without the ability to become for-profit, small community hospitals could struggle to survive. Others say allowing hospitals to become for-profit could hurt workers and communities unless protections are built into law (Becker, 4/25).
The Arizona Republic: Phoenix VA Health-Care Probes Expected To Widen
U.S. House members kept the spotlight on the Phoenix VA Health Care System Thursday during hearings on veterans' access to mental-health care, vowing to further probe allegations that up to 40 vets died while waiting for medical appointments. The field hearing Thursday on southern Arizona veterans' experiences came as Arizona's Senate delegation announced that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, will hold a hearing on allegations of VA patient neglect in Phoenix after the VA Inspector General completes an independent investigation. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, told The Arizona Republic Thursday that his staff would continue examining allegations of misconduct at the Phoenix facility as part of an ongoing inquiry into VA hospitals nationwide (Harris, 4/24).
The Arizona Republic: Health Care Nightmares Day 5: Injured Good Samaritan Billed $165,000 By Aetna
After a week of intense treatment, (Cliff) Faraci was discharged from the hospital. But he hadn't been home two full days when he received a letter from his insurance company informing him that he wasn't covered for the hospital stay. Aetna claimed Faraci's injuries were not sufficient to warrant a weeklong stay in the hospital's burn unit, which was deemed an out-of-network facility. Maricopa County Medical Center had billed him about $165,000. He filed an appeal with Aetna. It was denied in August. Almost overnight, the freeway Good Samaritan had become a victim of a health-care nightmare (Anigen, 4/24).