State Roundup: Minn. Defends Medicaid Billing; Cigna, N.H. Group Form Joint Venture; Health Coupons In Mass.

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A selection of health policy headlines from Minnesota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California and Kansas.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota Tries To Fend Off Criticism On Medicaid Top Minnesota health officials pushed back Tuesday against a congressional committee probing allegations that the state overbilled federal taxpayers for Medicaid services to cover losses from in other state-run public health programs. In a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson defended reforms implemented under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, saying “our focus has been on changing course rather than investigating the past.” Jesson’s letter was addressed to U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House oversight committee, which has been focusing on a $30 million payment to the state last year from UCare, one of four state Medicaid contractors (Diaz, 5/29).

Modern Healthcare: Cigna, N.H. Group Form ACO Cigna and the Granite Healthcare Network, a network of hospital organizations in New Hampshire, announced that they have formed an accountable care organization. … Cigna said it has established 26 of what it calls “collaborative accountable care initiatives.” In March, the Bloomfield, Conn.-based insurer said it would form an ACO with Fairfax Family Practice Centers in Virginia (Lee, 5/29).

Boston Globe: Bill Would Legalize Medical Coupons State lawmakers have prided themselves on being first in the nation, especially when it comes to health care, but a proposal making its way through the Legislature would make Massachusetts the final state to allow pharmaceutical drug coupons. Such coupons appear in magazine ads and online, but they are worthless in Massachusetts ­because of a 1988 state law that forbids any rebate for health care purchasing, with penalties of up to a $10,000 fine or even prison time (Metzger, 5/30).

WBUR’s CommonHealth blog: But Will The Cost-Cutting Bills Really Save Money? It may not rank at the tippy-top of the titillation scale, but this thoughtful discussion about reining in health care costs featuring Brian Rosman of Health Care For All, and Joshua Archambault of The Pioneer Institute, covers some key issues in the [Massachusetts] House and Senate cost-cutting proposals now pending in the Legislature. The plans are estimated to save about $150 billion over 15 years, but Archambault calls the proposals “faith-based initiatives,” when it comes to savings projections. That’s because he says it remains unclear if the new focus on prevention and wellness and the new payment models will actually save money (Zimmerman, 5/29).

HealthyCal: Dentist Shortage Leading To More Emergencies The lack of dentists and specialists in rural Californian counties is leading to high rates of tooth decay and preventable dental emergencies, especially among low-income residents. … A 2006 survey conducted in four northern Californian rural counties found that this combination of low access and low incomes hurts oral health. More than 28 percent of respondents living at or below the federal poverty level hadn’t been to a dentist in five or more years. Many of them had never seen a dentist. Only 40 percent of respondents had been to a dentist in the previous year — the recommended length of time between visits (Shanafelt, 5/30).

Stateline: States, Feds Poised To Write New Chapter In Public Safety Communications More than a decade after [the 9/11 attacks], Congress has approved $7 billion and the reallocation of 20 megahertz of spectrum airwave capacity to try to deal with the inter-communication problem. Those resources will help in the effort to create a national public safety network capable of transmitting both voice and data, including videos and photos. But many implementation challenges lie ahead, even with generous funding and broad bipartisan agreement that the network is a national priority (Maynard, 5/30).

California Healthline: CMS Weighs In On Enrollment Question Federal health officials have informed the state that CMS would favor passive enrollment with an opt-out provision but it does not support lock-in enrollment for the dual-eligible demonstration project in California. That’s according to Kevin Prindiville, deputy director of the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Oakland, who spoke to CMS officials on Friday (Gorn, 5/30).

Kansas Health Institute News: Governor Signs Jobs Bill For Disabled Gov. Sam Brownback today signed into law a bill that he said would create jobs for people with disabilities, reducing their reliance on public assistance. … House Bill 2453 would give certain advantages in gaining state contracts to companies that employ people with disabilities. The companies could win bids up to 10 percent higher than the lowest competing bid, if 20 percent of their employees had a physical, developmental or mental disability. To qualify for the preference, the companies also would have to cover 75 percent of their employees’ health insurance premiums (Ranney, 5/29).

Kansas Health Institute News: Lobbying Prohibition Added To SRS Contracts The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is adding new language to its contracts with service providers that is intended to tighten an existing restriction against the contractors using state or federal funding to influence legislation. … Interhab has been outspoken in its opposition to state policies that allow years-long waiting lists for services and the governor’s plan to include long-term services for the developmentally disabled in KanCare, the governor’s plan for letting managed care companies run the state’s Medicaid program. The administration last month agreed to postpone including the services in KanCare for a year. … There’s nothing wrong or illegal, [a past president of Interhab] said, with Johnson County Developmental Supports belonging to Interhab or with Interhab testifying for or against proposed legislation (Ranney, 5/29).

Also seen in Kaiser Health News.