A selection of health policy stories from New York, Texas, California, Georgia, Connecticut and Maryland.
The New York Times: New York City Soda Fight, In Court, Tests Agency’s Power
New York City’s battle over sugary drinks is entering its endgame. But much more than soda is at stake. A plan to limit the sale of large, high-calorie beverages, championed by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a novel way to fight obesity, went before the State Court of Appeals here on Wednesday, the city’s final recourse after a lower court judge struck down the proposal last year (Grynbaum, 6/4).
The Wall Street Journal: New York City Soda-Ban Fate Weighed
The arguments before the Court of Appeals in Albany mark the most significant step Mr. de Blasio has taken to advance a policy that supporters say would fight obesity and opponents call a government over-reach. The city's Board of Health, a panel appointed by Mr. Bloomberg, approved the ban in September 2012, but two lower courts have since blocked it, saying the mayor should have sought City Council approval (Saul, 6/4).
The Associated Press: Schumer: More Physician Training In Upstate NY
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants the federal government to boost the number of physician residency slots in areas facing declines in their number of doctors. Schumer's legislation would boost the number of residency positions funded by Medicare by 15,000 over five years, and direct that hospitals in areas with the greatest doctor shortages get priority for the positions (6/4).
Texas Tribune: With More Inmates On Dialysis, Officials Deal With Rising Costs
Less than 1 percent of the Texas prison population needs dialysis, a treatment that removes waste and water from the bloodstream. But they are an expensive group -- and their ranks are growing. Today, 228 inmates need dialysis three times a week. Their drug treatment costs taxpayers $1.25 million a year, accounting for about 3 percent of the prison system’s pharmaceutical budget. By comparison, the pharmaceutical bill for the 1,800 inmates treated for HIV is about $17.8 million a year. But with an additional 99 inmates expected to be placed on dialysis within the next year, the trend shows no signs of slowing, particularly among young and middle-age African-American men. And because inmates with liver failure are also being treated for other health problems -- hypertension, diabetes, hepatitis C, for example -- it is difficult for prison officials to calculate their total costs (Langford, 6/2).
Los Angeles Times: Dave Jones, Ted Gaines Head To Runoff In Insurance Commissioner Race
With bigger battles to fight in November, first-term Democratic incumbent Dave Jones comfortably placed first in Tuesday's, low-key primary election for state insurance commissioner. Republican Ted Gaines, an insurance broker and state senator, came in second, and the two former lawmakers automatically qualified for a November rematch under California's new "top-two" election system (Lifsher, 6/4).
Georgia Health News: Medical Providers Upset Over Health Plan Collections
Despite recent changes to ease employees’ concerns, the State Health Benefit Plan can’t seem to escape controversy. Medical groups told GHN this week that they’re upset about having to collect money from state employees and teachers -- payments that are linked to a benefits shift earlier this year. These provider organizations say they’re being told by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, the main insurer for the SHBP, that they must recoup money from patients in the wake of a change to a co-pay system that became effective in March (Miller, 6/4).
The CT Mirror: Legislators Say DSS Hearing Rules Must Change For ‘Fundamental Fairness’
They’re called fair hearings -- the chance people get to appeal decisions made by the state Department of Social Services, such as denials of applications for benefits or being turned down for Medicaid coverage of certain treatments. But some legislators say the way the department handles the hearings makes them anything but fair. That’s because if hearing officers have legal questions about the cases, they sometimes consult with the social services department’s attorneys or staff -- people employed by the agency whose decision is under appeal (Becker, 6/5).
The CT Mirror: Experts: Autism Diagnosis And Treatment Less Accessible To Low-Income Families
Families of autistic children living in low-income areas often find it difficult to get a diagnosis or treatment, according to experts. "Autism has no known cure or cause,” said Jamitha Fields, vice president of community affairs for Autism Speaks. “Here's what we do know: we can reliably diagnose autism at 24 months, yet our average age of diagnosis is four and a half years old. For Latinos, it’s six years.” Fields spoke Tuesday at the University of Saint Joseph, along with a panel of other experts on autism spectrum disorder. The panel discussed disparities in autism awareness and diagnosis in underprivileged communities, stressing the difficulties faced by low-income families in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder (Collins, 6/4).
The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Didn’t Background Check Doctor, Rape-Convicted Doc Rapes Patient
To become licensed as a nurse, a social worker or even to drive around dead bodies in Maryland, a criminal background check is required. But not to get a doctor's license. Instead, the state Board of Physicians asks would-be doctors to voluntarily disclose arrests and convictions. That could change as soon as next year. Already considering a background check policy, the board may move more urgently following news that it granted a medical license to a doctor with a previous rape conviction who now has been charged with sexually assaulting a patient in Allegany County. State auditors and the state health department have recommended before that the board use background checks before licensing doctors. But the physicians board has resisted adoption of a background check policy, said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who said she has raised the issue amid other medical regulation reform (Dance, 6/4).
Reuters: California County Votes In Health Services Measure For Illegal Immigrants
Voters in California's Alameda County passed a measure on Tuesday that is expected to raise $100 million a year for health clinics for illegal immigrants, who are excluded from state programs and the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. On May 23 a measure to include illegal immigrants in the state's Medi-Cal program for the poor to residents who are undocumented stalled in the state senate, and immigration reform proposals have also stalled in U.S. Congress for the past year (6/4).