Highlights: Calif. Insurance Commissioner Battle; Food Stamps and Medicaid In Calif.; Mo. And Experimental Drug Therapies

A selection of health policy stories from California, Missouri, Washington state, Florida and Connecticut.

Los Angeles Times: Insurance Commissioner Replay Set For November
Incumbent Democrat Dave Jones held a strong lead in Tuesday's primary election voting for state insurance commissioner, but he still faces a rematch in November against Republican challenger Ted Gaines (Lifsher, 6/3).

Los Angeles Times: Can Food Stamps Help Improve Diets, Fight Obesity And Save Money
In so doing, the $79.8-billion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) might also reap taxpayers untold future savings for the federally funded care of diabetes and other obesity-related ills among Medicaid recipients. The benefits of making such changes to the program -- more commonly known as food stamps -- would be small and might take a decade to see. But while food stamp recipients often respond to rule changes by paying for disallowed items from their own pockets, such directives can, on balance, nudge their purchasing and consumption habits in positive directions, says a group of medical and health economics researchers from Stanford University and UC San Francisco (Healy, 6/3).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Missouri Could Join Push For Experimental Drugs For Terminally Ill
Should a dying person have the right to try a potentially life-saving drug even if its effectiveness is unproven? For Missouri legislators, the answer to that question was easy. In unanimous votes last month, the House and Senate passed a bill that would let drug companies provide terminally ill patients with medications that are still being tested and remain unapproved for general use. If Gov. Jay Nixon signs the bill, Missouri would become the third state to enact such a law. Governors in Colorado and Louisiana signed so-called “Right to Try” measures last month. A similar proposal is slated for a statewide referendum in Arizona this fall (Young, 6/4).

Seattle Times: State Tells Dental Provider To Pay $72M Over Improper Medicaid Claims 
The state attorney general has told a Puget Sound-area health-care provider to pay $72 million for allegedly making improper Medicaid claims for dental care to children and young adults. Officials of the provider, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, reject the allegations, and on Monday its attorneys filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle asking the court to decide if the billing was proper. The amount that Sea Mar charged Medicaid for the services in question is $7 million since 2006. Because of new rules associated with the Affordable Care Act meant to reduce Medicaid fraud, the attorney general was able to add $51 million in civil penalties, plus a $21 million penalty allowed by previous rules (Stiffler, 6/3).

Miami Herald: New Hospital Price Data Released For South Florida, Nation
The average price for a major hip or knee replacement increased by more than $9,000, or about 8 percent, at South Florida hospitals over one year, with Aventura Hospital and Medical Center charging the highest fee of any facility offering that procedure in 2012: $205,442. A few miles north of Aventura, at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, the same procedure costs $78,685. That’s about $6,000 less than the national average price of $84,798 for a hip or knee replacement with major complications, according to new data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Chang, 6/3).

The CT Mirror: Malloy Signs For-Profit Hospital Bill, E-Cigarette Ban For Minors
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed a bill that clears the way for nonprofit hospitals to convert to for-profits, a measure that grew out of intense, last-minute negotiations involving hospitals, unions and lawmakers from both parties. In addition to removing a barrier that could have kept for-profit hospitals from operating in Connecticut, the bill expands state oversight over the sale of nonprofit hospitals and gives the state more oversight on transactions involving physician practices. The change was prompted by the effort by the national for-profit hospital chain Tenet Healthcare to acquire Waterbury, Bristol, Rockville General and Manchester Memorial hospitals, in partnership with the Yale New Haven Health System (Becker, 6/3).

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