Roundup: Texas Medicaid Fraud Settlement; Texas Abortion Law Upheld; Va. Mental Health Tragedy Details

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, Virginia, California, Michigan and Massachusetts.

The Texas Tribune: Medicaid Fraud Settlement Worries Health Providers 
With a high-profile legal settlement with Carousel Pediatrics, a children’s health provider, under its belt, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General says its ramped-up efforts to rein in Medicaid fraud have started to pay off. But for health providers who treat the state’s poorest patients, the Carousel case has raised questions about how the inspector general’s office distinguishes fraudulent intent from human error (Aaronson, 3/28).

The Associated Press: Court Hands Setback To Texas Abortion Law Critics
Dr. Lester Minto knows he won’t be able to reopen his clinic after a federal appeals court upheld tough new abortion restrictions in Texas. But he insists he won’t be silenced. Minto has been providing abortions for three decades, but he closed his clinic near the Mexico border earlier this month because of a law that imposes some of the nation’s strictest limitations on the procedure. The law, which was overwhelmingly approved last summer by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, has helped force numerous clinics to close (3/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Appeals Court Upholds Texas Abortion Rules
A federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld a Texas law restricting abortion clinics on Thursday, a ruling that could lead to a Supreme Court review of how far states can go in regulating the procedure (Bravin, 3/27). 

The Washington Post: Study: Mental Health Reform That Could Have Aided Deeds’s Son Not In Place For 2 Years 
The inaction on the reforms suggested in 2012, the report says, contributed to the failure to get help for the 24-year-old. But most of those changes -- as well as several others aimed at providing a better safety net -- were implemented by the General Assembly in the wake of the young man’s death (Weiner, 3/27).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Many Missteps Preceded Deeds Tragedy
An incorrect hospital fax machine number was just one of many missteps on the tragic path to the release of Austin C. “Gus” Deeds from an emergency custody order 13 hours before he wounded his father, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, and killed himself on Nov. 19. A long-awaited report issued by the Office of the State Inspector General on Thursday documents a breakdown in almost every facet of Virginia’s fragmented mental health system, from the moment Gus Deeds, 24, was taken into involuntary custody Nov. 18 to the expiration of the emergency order six hours later. The report, released after the conclusion of a Virginia State Police investigation that resulted in no criminal charges, documents unnecessary delays in Gus Deeds’ emergency evaluation, unmade and unanswered phone calls to hospitals to locate an available bed, and a hospital fax number that was listed incorrectly on a list of psychiatric facilities for emergency workers to call (Martz, 3/27).

Los Angeles Times: Top L.A. County Public Health Official Announces He’s Retiring
The head of Los Angeles County's public health department has announced his intention to retire. In a letter sent to department employees Thursday, department director Jonathan Fielding wrote, "After considerable thought, I have decided to leave County service when a successor, whom I understand will be identified through a nationwide executive search, is ready to assume the post" (Sewell, 3/27).

Detroit Free Press: 62,000 Michigan Seniors Might Be Eligible For $4,000 In Drug Savings
Tens of thousands of Michigan seniors could get up to $4,000 to help cover prescription drug costs -- if they knew to ask. According to the latest data, an estimated 62,000 Michigan seniors were eligible in 2010 for Medicare’s Low Income Subsidy, or Extra Help program, but are not applying, leaving behind about $250 million in benefits each year, said Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the Washington-based National Council on Aging, a nonprofit service and advocacy organization (Erb, 3/28).

The Boston Globe: Governor Declares An Emergency On Opiate Abuse
Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency Thursday to combat the growing abuse of opiates, directing that all the state’s police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel be equipped with a drug that can quickly reverse heroin overdoses. “Heroin today is cheap and highly potent,” Patrick said. “We have right now an opiate epidemic.” Using his emergency powers, Patrick told the Department of Public Health to make Narcan available immediately to all first responders, as well as more accessible to families and friends of drug abusers. Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, halts overdoses almost instantly (MacQuarrie, 3/27).

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