State Highlights: Will Doc Cuts Like Those In Conn. Become More Common?

A selection of health policy stories from Connecticut, California, Vermont, Minnesota, Virginia and Georgia.

The CT Mirror: In UnitedHealthcare Doctor Cuts, Some See Larger Trend
UnitedHealthcare sparked an intense backlash from physicians, seniors and elected officials last fall when it notified more than 2,000 Connecticut doctors that they would be dropped from its Medicare Advantage network. Some of the criticism has focused on things particular to the way the insurer made the changes. But many people in health care believe that what UnitedHealthcare is trying to do -- cover fewer doctors and other health care providers -- is likely to become increasingly common in Connecticut. In other states, some insurers already offer plans that cover narrow networks of doctors and hospitals, in some cases, excluding major medical centers. They're betting that customers will opt for reduced provider choice if it means lower premiums (Becker, 1/28).

Los Angeles Times: Report Criticizes California Health Plans For Treatment Of Chronic Ailments
Most California health plans make it hard for patients to get care easily and do a poor job of controlling chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, a new state report shows. The findings were published Tuesday in the state's annual report card on California's 10 largest HMOs, six biggest preferred-provider organization plans and more than 200 medical groups. The scores on clinical performance and patient satisfaction reflect care for about 16 million Californians with private health insurance (Terhune, 1/28).

NPR: In Vermont, A Network Of Help For Opiate-Addicted Mothers
While it may not fit Vermont's bucolic image, the state's addiction problem has long been acknowledged. And as the state has expanded treatment, it's also been coming to grips with one of the most difficult and emotional aspects of the issue: addicted mothers (Zind, 1/28). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Doctors Learning The Art Of Negotiation
Agents, car salesmen and lawyers all have to be good negotiators. But what about your doctor? Do you ever find yourself negotiating with him or her? A recent essay in the New York Times says that you probably do. Dr. Jon Hallberg, a physician in family medicine at the University of Minnesota and regular medical contributor for All Things Considered, spoke with MPR News' Tom Crann about negotiation (Crann, 1/28).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Mental Health Task Force Backs Doubling Emergency Custody
With time a matter of life and death, a gubernatorial task force wants to double the duration of emergency custody orders to evaluate people in psychiatric crisis and find a hospital bed for them if they pose a threat to themselves or others. The Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response voted Tuesday to recommend a 12-hour time limit for the orders, which now expire after six hours, and require state mental hospitals to take the patients if no bed can be found in community psychiatric facilities. The 37-member task force also endorsed a 72-hour limit on temporary detention orders -- now capped at 48 hours -- to hold someone involuntarily for additional evaluation in a psychiatric crisis (Martz, 1/29).

Georgia Health News: Limited Use Of Medical Marijuana Gains Traction 
In just a matter of weeks, a proposal to legalize the use of medical marijuana to treat seizures has captured the attention of Georgia lawmakers, the public and the state’s medical community. State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) is expected to introduce such legislation Tuesday in the Georgia General Assembly. His position on the issue, he said, arose from a visit with a 4-year-old girl who suffers up to 100 seizures a day. The bill would allow the parents of young epilepsy patients to apply to an academic medical center to get an oil derived from cannabis that may reduce their number of seizures (Miller, 1/28).

The San Jose Mercury News: Grant To Boost Medi-Cal Enrollments Includes 11 Greater Bay Area Counties
The California Endowment is awarding $23 million to three dozen California counties or county groups -- including 11 in the Greater Bay Area -- to help increase enrollment in Medi-Cal, the state's health program for the very poor. As part of the terms of the award, grantees must emphasize outreach to specific populations, including those with limited English proficiency or in families of mixed-immigration status; young men of color; homeless, and those with mental illness or substance-abuse problems. County grantees must make at least half of the funding available to community-based organizations (Seipel, 1/28).

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.