State Highlights: BlueCross BlueShield Plan Faces Ore. Lawsuit

A selection of health policy stories from Ohio, Oregon, New York, Colorado, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, California and Minnesota.

Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Seeks Better Managed-Care, Lower Costs
About 115,000 residents who receive health coverage through Medicare and Medicaid will be moved into managed-care plans under a three-year demonstration known as MyCare Ohio. They represent nearly two-thirds of so-called dual eligibles. That group, which has received two mailings from the state, has until Thursday to sign up for a Medicaid managed-care plan, or one will be assigned to them after MyCare enrollment starts on July 1. They will then have 90 days to change plans. By coordinating services, state officials hope to improve care and save money. But many being forced to make the changes worry they’ll be worse off (Candisky and Pyle, 6/22).

The Oregonian: Lawsuit Claims Regence BlueCross BlueShield No Longer Acting Like Nonprofit
Lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Oregon nonprofit health insurer Regence BlueCross BlueShield, saying it is acting like a for-profit company by stockpiling excess funds that support large salaries rather than health care for policyholders. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, asks a judge to rule that Regence is not fulfilling the public-purpose clause of its own bylaws, and is failing to use its excess earnings for the benefit of its members (Budnick, 6/20).

The New York Times: Judge Upholds Policy Barring Unvaccinated Students During Illnesses
In a case weighing the government’s ability to require vaccination against the individual right to refuse it, a federal judge has upheld a New York City policy that bars unimmunized children from public school when another student has a vaccine-preventable disease (Mueller, 6/22).

PBS NewsHour: ‘Right To Try’ Law Gives Terminal Patients Access To Drugs Not Approved By FDA
In May, Colorado became the first state to pass a so-called 'right to try' law, allowing terminal patients access to experimental drugs without FDA approval -- and Missouri is about to follow suit. NewsHour Weekend examines the issue by speaking with the Missouri bill's sponsor and his daughter, who is suffering from cancer (6/21).

Des Moines Register: Wellmark Seeks Insurance Rate Increases
About a quarter of a million Iowans would see their insurance rates rise next year should the state approve a request from Iowa's dominant health insurer. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced Friday that it is seeking to raise premium rates for 253,000 policyholders in Iowa. Those rate increases would affect individual policyholders and small businesses (Patane, 6/20).

Politico: Chris Christie Pushes ‘Pro-Life’ Reforms
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued Friday for reforms in education and the treatment of non-violent drug offenders as part of a “pro-life” philosophy that extends beyond abortion. ... “I believe if you’re pro-life, as I am, you need to be pro-life for the whole life,” Christie said. “You can’t just afford to be pro-life when a human being is in the womb. You have to be pro-life after … Sometimes being pro-life is messy, sometimes it’s difficult. Because human beings make bad choices, we are flawed. And I doubt that there’s one person in this audience who hasn’t made a bad choice, or a bad decision in your life” (Glueck, 6/20).

McClatchy: Parents, Nurses Fear School Nurse Cutbacks Can Be Dangerous To Children’s Health
Parents in Charlotte, N.C., celebrated last week when their county commissioners approved a budget that includes $1.8 million to make sure every public school has a full-time nurse. The agreement capped two years of work by a parents advocacy group started by Teri Saurer, the mother of daughters who just finished first and third grades. Saurer got involved with the nurse issue in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools because her younger daughter, Hannah, has a history of seizures and serious food allergies. But she said nurses made schools safer for all students. Other parent advocates joined the effort because their children suffered concussions at school. One had a child who experienced a first-time food allergy (Schoof, 6/20).

Cincinnati Enquirer: Heroin Addicts Left Trapped Between Abstinence and Methadone Choices
Kenny and Lori Sandlin understand the urgency for better treatment options for heroin addiction, but it came too late for their daughter. Desi Sandlin grew up 15 miles south of Cincinnati in Kentucky. She started experimenting with drugs at 14, progressing to pain pills. By 19, she was addicted to heroin. ... Medical treatments for heroin and other opiates have been around for years and promising new methods are emerging, despite stagnant research funding. Many people kicked heroin because of methadone, but some health care leaders are now backing away from it (Cochran, 6/21).

Georgia Health News: Building Georgia’s Primary Care Workforce
The state’s pipeline for new physicians is getting wider. Gwinnett Medical Center has joined a phalanx of hospitals developing residency programs in primary care -- an effort that could help ease Georgia’s physician shortage. The Lawrenceville-based health system launched its new family medicine residency program last week, the first physician training offered there in the organization’s history (Miller, 6/22). 

The San Francisco Chronicle: Hiker Wants Break On Health Insurance
A hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail has a proposal for the health care industry that would save a fortune for Bay Area hikers, bikers and other outdoor athletes on their health insurance costs. Just as the banking industry gives you a credit score to assess your financial risk, the health industry should give you a medical score to assess your health risk, she said. "You would then pay for insurance according to your number," she said. "People who hike or bike, like so many in the Bay Area, who don't smoke, are in good shape and have good genetics would get a very high score" (Stienstra, 6/22).

The Star Tribune: Sick, Frail And Abandoned By Home Care Firms
Jerry Parson lay motionless on the bedroom floor, pain shooting through his back. The screams of his companion, Joyce, pierced the morning silence of their Bloomington apartment. They were helpless. A personal care attendant they had hired to move Parson from his bed to his wheelchair each day had failed to show up for work. Frantic calls to her employer, a company called Crystal Care Home Health Services, had gone unanswered (Serres, 6/20).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major 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.