A selection of health policy stories from California, Minnesota, Georgia, Washington state, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois and Maryland.
The Wall Street Journal: Brown's Budget Boosts Spending In California
California is enjoying a $4.4 billion surplus this fiscal year, according to Mr. Brown's revised budget, and income-tax revenue remains above forecasts, even though April's take fell 12.6 percent from a year earlier. But the state also is facing increases in costs from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, drought relief and education spending. With the governor's revised plan -- which calls for nearly $1 billion more in spending than his draft proposal in January -- budget negotiations with the state legislature now begin in earnest. Mr. Brown is facing pressure from members of his own party to create new spending programs and restore money to social programs cut during the recession (Lazo, 5/13).
Los Angeles Times: O.C. Clears Way For Court-Ordered Treatment Of Mentally Ill
Driven to action by the death of a schizophrenic homeless man, Orange County on Tuesday became the first large county in California to implement a law clearing the way for court-ordered treatment for the severely mentally ill (Cowan and Esquivel, 5/13).
The Associated Press: Court-ordered Mental Health Care OK In Orange County
Orange County became the second California county Tuesday to move forward with a law that allows court-ordered treatment of the severely mentally ill even if they don't want it. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to implement the so-called Laura's Law, making it second to only tiny Nevada County to adopt a controversial program that some have said erodes the civil liberties of the mentally ill, the Orange County Register reported. The law was passed in 2002, but the state left it to individual counties to decide whether to adopt it (5/13).
Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton Signs Bill Giving Some Nurses More Authority
Some highly-trained nurses in Minnesota will no longer be required to have a physician supervise their work. Gov. Mark Dayton has signed a bill that gives advanced practice registered nurses the authority to practice independently. The licensing change, which takes effect Jan. 1, applies to nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and registered nurse anesthetists. That makes Minnesota the ninth state to grant full practice and prescribing autonomy to all four categories of advanced practice nurses (Benson, 5/13).
Georgia Health News: Rural Hospital May Be On the Comeback Trail
A reopened rural hospital has reached a milestone in its effort to regain its financial footing. The Georgia Department of Community Health has restored the Medicaid provider number for Lower Oconee Community Hospital, in the South Georgia town of Glenwood, allowing it again to bill the government insurance program. Clyde Reese, the DCH commissioner, told Georgia Health News recently that pending an upcoming state licensure decision, Lower Oconee could probably have its ability to bill Medicare restored as well (Miller, 5/13).
The Seattle Times: For Medicaid Patients, Access To Primary Care May Not Be As Advertised
Using “mystery shoppers” looking for access to health care, Public Health -- Seattle & King County has found troubling indications that access to primary-care providers may not be as advertised. About half the time, primary-care providers listed as accepting new patients on Medicaid managed-care organization websites in fact told the “shoppers” they were not accepting new Medicaid patients (Ostrom, 5/13).
Modern Healthcare: CMS’ Rejection Of La. Hospital Deal Threatens Budget
On paper, the federal rejection of financing plans for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's LSU hospital privatization deals looks like it has all the makings of a fiscal calamity for the state. But the Jindal administration is downplaying the problem, suggesting it can be solved through appeals or continuing negotiations with federal officials. If the Republican governor's interpretation of the problem is wrong, the state's long-term budget could face sizable gaps and healthcare services could be threatened for thousands of poor and uninsured residents around Louisiana (Deslatte, 5/13).
The Associated Press: Senate OKs Pharmacy Rules After Meningitis Deaths
Legislation increasing regulations for compounding pharmacies has unanimously passed the Michigan Senate following a fatal meningitis outbreak. The two bills establish new licensing and record-keeping standards and require pharmacies, manufacturers and distributors to have a pharmacist in charge. They also designate compounding pharmacy violations as felonies and require certain applicants to undergo criminal history checks (5/13).
The Associated Press: Health Mandate Coverage Clouds NC Session Opening
North Carolina lawmakers returning to Raleigh already are entangled in disputed legislation before the first gavel on this year's session falls. A General Assembly study committee examining the effects of the federal health care overhaul on North Carolina failed Tuesday to draw enough House members to perform business (5/14).
The Associated Press: Illinois Announces $14.5 Million For Health Centers
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is directing $14.5 million in funds toward renovating and building community health centers around the state. The funds are part of the state's $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now capital construction program. The Legislature passed the six-year, $31 billion infrastructure plan in 2009. It was the state's first long-term capital program in a decade. Community health centers are not-for-profits created by Congress to meet the needs of underserved communities and high-risk patients (5/14).
The Baltimore Sun: Bill Clinton Praises Brown On Health Care Site
Speaking at an event that was part fundraiser, part pep rally for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's gubernatorial campaign, former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday defended the way the state handled the troubled roll out of its health insurance exchange -- an issue Brown's critics have attempted to use against him for months. Clinton, who experienced something of a political resurgence for defending the national health care law during the 2012 presidential election, told about 700 donors that Brown deserved credit for confronting the problems faced by the exchange once they were discovered and for helping the state to ultimately boost enrollment. He repeatedly described Brown as a problem solver who could bring people together (Fritze, 5/13).