A selection of health policy stories from Hawaii, California, Virginia, Kansas and Maryland.
The Associated Press: Health Officials Crack Down On Medicaid Marketing
[Florida] health officials are taking a cue from past problems and are banning health insurance companies from marketing their plans directly to Medicaid consumers as the state is rolling out a massive overhaul by transitioning millions into managed care. Insurance companies are allowed to market to consumers under the contracts, but only if the state gives prior approval (Kennedy, 7/22).
Stateline: King County’s Wellness Plan Beats The Odds
When King County, Washington, launched its employee wellness program seven years ago, its motive was clear. “We were being eaten alive by runaway medical costs,” says the county’s top executive Dow Constantine. By all accounts, the previous administration was desperate to bring down double-digit health care cost growth that threatened to destroy the entire budget. That partially explains why King County, which spends nearly $200 million per year to insure 14,000 workers and their families, who mostly live and work here in the county seat, was willing to risk millions more on a wellness program that would prove to break the traditional mold. It may also explain why labor unions took the unusual step of joining management in a plan that would ultimately shift more health care costs to workers (Vestal, 7/22).
The Associated Press: 75K in Hawaii Have No Health Care
The rate of people without health insurance in Hawaii has dropped below 6 percent since the implementation of the federal health care law, state officials said Monday. Officials said at a joint House committee briefing that roughly 75,000 people in Hawaii don't have health insurance, down from well over 100,000 last year. The rate is down from about 8 percent before the push to enroll people last year, Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said (Garcia, 7/21).
Los Angeles Times: Amid Whooping Cough Epidemic, LAUSD Offers Free Vaccines
Starting middle school comes with a whole host of worries -- going to a new school, picking electives, making friends -- but coming down with whooping cough doesn’t need to be one of them. For incoming 7th grade students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, proof of a TDaP booster shot is mandatory before school starts Aug. 12. L.A. Unified will host a number clinics, listed below, to help make sure students receive a booster shot free of charge (Hayden, 7/21).
The Associated Press: Va. Panel Promises Changes in Mental Health System
Lawmakers on a newly formed panel on Monday promised a top-to-bottom review of Virginia's mental health system with the goal of making it a model for the rest of the country. … The panel has four years to review the state's mental health programs and suggest possible changes (Suderman, 7/21).
The Associated Press: Widow: Jury Sent Tobacco Company A $23B Message
A Florida widow awarded $23.6 billion in the death of her chain-smoking husband on Monday called the massive verdict a message to Big Tobacco, even though she likely won't see much if any of the money. The punitive damages — $23,623,718,906.62, to be precise — almost certainly will be significantly reduced on appeal, if not thrown out entirely, legal experts and industry analysts said. In another major tobacco trial, a $28 billion verdict in a 2002 case in Los Angeles turned into $28 million after appeals (7/21).
Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Chiropractor Pleads Guilty To Health Care Fraud
A Wichita chiropractor pleaded guilty today to defrauding health care insurers of more than $1.3 million. U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom announced the plea by Jeffrey D. Fenn, 33, of Wichita. Fenn also pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft and a count of tax evasion, admitting that between March 2011 and October 2013 he executed the fraud scheme through his businesses, including Wichita Health and Wellness, Fenn Chiropractic, P.A., and Wichita Pain Associates, P.A. Fenn submitted false billing claims to Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas, Coventry Health Care of Kansas, Inc., and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (7/21).
The New York Times: Hospital Agrees To Pay $190 Million Over Recording Of Pelvic Exams
The doctor wore an unusual pen around his neck. It was really a concealed camera, and for years he secretly recorded women at some of their most private moments, during pelvic exams. On Monday, Johns Hopkins Hospital agreed to pay $190 million to more than 7,000 women for the gross violation of doctor-patient trust in what experts said was one of the largest medical malpractice cases of its kind. Dr. Nikita A. Levy, a gynecologist and obstetrician for Johns Hopkins Community Medicine in Baltimore, was fired in February 2013 after a female colleague reported her suspicions of his penlike device. Ten days later, he committed suicide (Gabriel, 7/21).
The Wall Street Journal: Johns Hopkins Agrees To $190 Million Exam-Photos Settlement
The investigation found no evidence that Dr. Levy had shared the images. No criminal charges were filed against the 54-year-old doctor, who committed suicide during the investigation by wrapping a plastic bag around his head and pumping it with helium, the Associated Press said (Levitz, 7/21).