State Highlights: Va. Mental Health Budget; Nurses' Practice In Minn.

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, California, Minnesota, Illinois and Colorado.

The Washington Post: Budget Battle Over Mental Health Reform
Lawmakers in Richmond are deep in budget negotiations and will soon decide which parts of the mental health-care system will receive a funding boost. The House and Senate proposals have a number of differences, and what emerges will likely be a mash-up of the two (Shin, 3/5).

The Wall Street Journal: California Nursing Home Operator Files For Bankruptcy
California nursing home operator Country Villa Health Services, the target of a number of pending class-action lawsuits, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company, which operates 19 nursing homes and assisted living centers in Southern California, sought Chapter 11 protection on Tuesday along with more than a dozen of its health care affiliates in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Orange County, Calif. (Fitzgerald, 3/5).

Minnesota Public Radio: Nurses Lobby For Authority To Practice Independently
As the health care industry increasingly relies on nurses to perform some work that once was exclusively assigned to doctors, some highly skilled Minnesota nurses say it's time they had the authority to practice independently. They're trying to change state law, which requires advanced practice nurses to have some supervision from physicians. Nurses say the requirement limits the treatment they can provide, and is a significant barrier to practicing in health care shortage areas. But proposed legislation that would remove physician supervision is not popular with doctors' groups (Benson, 3/5).

The Chicago Sun-Times: Aldermen Propose Paid Sick Days For All Workers In Chicago
Chicago employers large and small would be required to provide at least five paid sick days a year for their employees under an ordinance proposed Wednesday to provide a much-needed benefit for 460,000 workers without it. The plan to let employees accumulate sick days at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked -- up to nine a year for companies with 10 or more employees -- was introduced by nearly a dozen progressive aldermen at the behest of Women Employed, unions and other advocates for low-wage workers and health care practitioners. They argue that 42 percent of Chicago’s private sector employees do not get a single sick day and that the figure is nearly twice that for low-income workers in the food service and health care industries, which are dominated by women (Spielman, 3/5).

Health News Colorado: Aguilar To Introduce Bill To Reverse High Health Costs
As anger about high health costs escalates in Colorado, Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, plans to introduce legislation this month to create a commission charged with cutting costs. The problem of high health costs is hardly new. Aguilar, who is also a physician, has a binder full of reports going back 20 years from groups that have tried to tackle the problem both in Colorado and the U.S. What may be changing now is that under the Affordable Care Act and through Colorado’s All Payer Claims Database, consumers can see variations in health costs and those who are paying significantly higher rates are furious (McCrimmon, 3/5).

Health News Colorado: Kids On Public Health Programs To Get Continuous Care
In what advocates are calling a “home run for children’s health,” kids enrolled in public health insurance programs now will get coverage for 12 months at a time. In the past, children who qualified for Medicaid or the Child Health Plan Plus often got bounced off the programs every few months if the family’s income changed and thus lost access to reliable care. Colorado managers of those programs expect the new policy to affect about 535,000 children (McCrimmon, 3/5).

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