A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Illinois, Connecticut, California, Texas, South Dakota and Pennsylvania.
WBUR: Massachusetts Becomes First State To Require Price Tags For Health Care
Massachusetts has launched a new era of shopping. It began last week. Did you notice? Right this minute, if you have private health insurance, you can go to your health insurer’s website and find the price of everything from an office visit to an MRI to a Cesarean Section. For the first time, health care prices are public. … Then two years ago Massachusetts passed a law that pushed health insurers and hospitals to start making this once vigorously guarded information more public. Now as of October 1st, Massachusetts is the first state to require that insurers offer real time prices (Bebinger, 10/8).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin’s High Health Care Rank Hides Unequal Minority Care
Wisconsin remains one of the top states in the country for the quality of its health care system and its access to health care. But the state’s strong overall performance masks a long-standing flaw: African-Americans and Latinos are much less likely to receive the same quality of care or have the same access as whites. The disparities can be seen in the annual State Snapshots compiled by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The report is based on more than 100 measures of quality and access to care (Boulton, 10/7).
Modern Healthcare: Illinois Tackling Medicaid With Aggressive ACO Model
The development of Medicare and private accountable care organizations has led many states to adopt similar approaches to managing care and costs for their Medicaid populations. In Illinois, provider groups are starting one of the most aggressive state-sponsored projects in which they will eventually bear all financial risk (Herman, 10/7).
CT Mirror: Children’s Mental Health Changes Aimed At Addressing ER Crisis
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to announce a plan Wednesday to expand the services available for children and teens with significant mental health needs, a response to concerns about the growing number of young people going to — and often stuck in — emergency rooms in psychiatric crisis. The plan includes making more crisis stabilization and respite beds available for young people with mental health needs, additional funding to encourage providers to open more psychiatric residential treatment beds, and funds for additional therapeutic support for children with acute needs who live at home or in congregate care (Levin Becker, 10/7).
Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Is Asked Again To Block Texas Law On Abortion Clinics
Because of the law, critics say more than 900,000 Texas women of reproductive age now live more than 150 miles from a licensed abortion facility. The impact is most severe among low-income women who find it hardest to travel, they said. … More than 20 years ago, the Supreme Court said states may regulate abortion to protect the health of women, but they may not put an “undue burden” on those who seek to end an early pregnancy. Justices have not yet defined what amounts to an “undue burden” on these women (Savage, 10/7).
The Associated Press: Clinic Stops Abortions After Confusion Over Ruling
The only remaining abortion clinic in Texas west of San Antonio has halted abortions following days of confusion over the interpretation of a federal court ruling, an official with the clinic said Tuesday. Gloria Martinez, administrative nurse at Hilltop Women’s Reproductive Center, said her center thought it was exempted from a rule that requires clinics to upgrade to surgical centers. State officials “called us Friday, saying that we could open, so we opened Saturday. Then they called us Saturday, around 3 in the afternoon, telling us we needed to close immediately,” Martinez said. The ruling last week by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Texas to enforce tough restrictions that effectively close all but seven abortion facilities in the state. The ruling provided exemptions for a clinic in El Paso (Llorca, 10/7).
The Associated Press: South Dakota Measure On Doctor Choice Stirs Debate
South Dakota patients could have more choice of doctors within their health insurance networks if voters approve a ballot measure that is drawing strong opposition from the health insurance industry. The proposal on the ballot, Initiated Measure 17, seems simple enough: doctors who agree to the conditions set forth by insurers, including payments for services provided to patients, could join the insurer’s preferred providers list. Preferred providers, also known as in-network doctors, usually charge less for services than those outside the network (Cano, 10/7).
Stateline: Medicaid ADHD Treatment Under Scrutiny
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects one in every seven school-aged children in the U.S., and between 2003 and 2011 the number of children diagnosed with the condition rose by more than 40 percent. Doctors have considerable leeway in deciding the best course of treatment for a child with the condition, no matter who is paying the bill. But children covered by Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor, are at least 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. Georgia alone spends $28 million to $33 million annually on these treatments out of $2.5 billion Medicaid budget, according to the Barton Child Law and Policy Center here at Emory University. That is partly because of the toll poverty takes on kids and a lack of resources in poorer schools (Vestal, 10/8).
Sacramento Bee: Steinberg To Launch Mental Health Foundation
Outgoing [California] Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday that after he leaves the Legislature at the end of next month he will form a foundation to work on mental-health policy issues, an area that has long been a priority for the Sacramento Democrat (Rosenhall, 10/7).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pennsylvania Regulators: Highmark Medicare Plan Violates Consent Decree
The state and UPMC say one of Highmark’s brand new Medicare Advantage products runs afoul of the recent consent decree signed by the two health giants, and both are contemplating legal action in order to have the plan nixed by state courts. The plan in question is a narrow-network “Community Blue” plan, with monthly premiums starting at $0. UPMC’s hospitals are not part of the plan’s doctor network, nor are Excela Health in Westmoreland County, Butler Health System or Washington Health System (Toland, 10/6).
San Jose Mercury News/Monterey Herald: Seaside VA Clinic Forced To Cut Back On Mental Health Services
On the campus of CSU Monterey Bay, the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic at 3401 Engineer Lane sees about 2,800 veterans a year for mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder. But following the departure of two psychiatrists in July, the clinic will now require many mental health patients to use videoconferencing with out-of-county doctors and will no longer allow walk-ins, unless it is an emergency. VA spokesman Michael Hill-Jackson said it is seeking to replace the psychiatrists, who made up half the staff (Molnar, 10/7).
California Healthline: New Leaders In Legislature Plan To Include Health Care Issues On Agenda
Assembly member Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) assumed the Assembly Speaker role in May, and Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is expected to be named Senate pro Tem later this month. The two legislators covered a range of issues at yesterday’s Public Policy Institute of California event, moderated by PPIC president and CEO Mark Baldassare. Health care topics included Medi-Cal provider reimbursement rates and extending health care coverage to the undocumented population (Gorn, 10/7).
Boston Globe: Gubernatorial Rivals Spar Over Child Agency, Health Care
Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker were more combative in their second debate, quarreling pointedly Tuesday night over the state’s troubled child protection system and spiraling health care costs (Levenson, 10/8).