State Highlights: Ill. Plans Medicaid Contraception Boost; Minn. Union Vote

A selection of health policy stories from California, Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Los Angeles Times: State Audits Find Prison, Hospital Payroll Abuses
Audits of a state prison and psychiatric hospital detail hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper payments and financial problems, including outright payroll fraud, and medical staff and guards receiving questionable bonuses and holiday pay, according to reports released Wednesday (St. John, 8/20).

Chicago Tribune: State Plans To Boost Medicaid Funding For Contraception 
Medicaid patients in Illinois could gain increased access to contraception under policy changes proposed Wednesday by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Health care providers would receive more money for providing vasectomies to men and birth control to women under the proposal, which also includes a possible new referral requirement for Roman Catholic providers and others that object to contraception. The department expects to implement most of the proposed changes this fall, but department Director Julie Hamos said Medicaid will immediately start paying more toward the cost of long-term contraception at walk-in providers such as Planned Parenthood clinics (Venteicher, 8/20).

The Star Tribune: Judge Won't Block Union Vote By 27,000 Minnesota Home Health Care Workers
U.S. District Chief Judge Michael Davis ruled Wednesday that he will not stop the union election for thousands of Minnesota home health care workers, and the national group that tried to block the vote said it will not appeal the decision. However, the National Right to Work Foundation, which sought a temporary injunction, said that it will continue to argue in court that the unionization effort is illegal if the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) wins the election. Ballots will be counted next Tuesday to determine whether the union will represent nearly 27,000 personal health care workers, the largest unit in Minnesota to seek union certification since the Wagner Act was passed in 1935 (Furst, 8/20).

Georgia Health News: A County’s Difficult Question: How To Save Its Local Hospital
Elbert Memorial Hospital has served its northeast Georgia county for more than 60 years. But the future of the hospital is now unclear. Its fate will hinge on the coming days and weeks. Elbert County commissioners are holding public hearings this week and next on a proposed one-mill property tax increase for one year to raise about $500,000 to offset the Elberton hospital’s costs for indigent care. Without the money, the 52-bed hospital will close, officials warn (Miller, 8/20).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. Law Mandates Information With Down Syndrome Diagnosis 
Pennsylvania has joined a small but growing number of states requiring that a Down syndrome diagnosis be accompanied by useful, accurate information about the genetic disorder. The Down Syndrome Prenatal and Postnatal Education Act, effective Oct. 1, mandates that medical practitioners give expectant or new parents "informational publications," to be provided online by the state health department. The Down syndrome advocates behind such state laws -- five in the last two years, including in Delaware and Maryland -- promote them as a way to give unbiased information to pregnant women at a momentous, stressful juncture (McCullough, 8/19).

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