State News for January 2017

The office of Gov. Charlie Baker announced a $52.5 billion Medicaid waiver deal in December. He's pictured here with HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
The office of Gov. Charlie Baker announced a $52.5 billion Medicaid waiver deal in December. He's pictured here with HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

Northeast

White House signs off on five-year, $52.5 billion Medicaid waiver deal

MASSACHUSETTS — 

The Obama administration approved a $52.5 billion Medicaid waiver deal for Massachusetts in December. The arrangement allows a $1.8 billion effort to move toward accountable care organizations, plus investments in long-term care services, the Worcester Business Journal reported.

The waiver, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker's office and approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, becomes effective July 1. It lets the state keep $1 billion a year in federal funds. It also keeps afloat $6 billion in safety net payments for five years to 16 hospitals that treat the uninsured, and for subsidies for individuals in Health Connector plans.

It may be the first wavier to reflect a shift toward quality-based reimbursements, experts said. Statistically, the state has the highest rate of insured residents in the United States, although 2% remain uninsured.

Family sues over burn death

Pennsylvania — A widow of a nursing home resident filed suit in federal court in November alleging that the facility failed to stop her husband from setting himself on fire. 

Kenneth Rodarmel, who had Parkinson's disease and other ailments, was smoking on his balcony at Fair Acres Geriatric Center in Lima in February, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Staff found him with flames coming off his body and clothes, according to court records. He died March 11.

His wife, Mary Rodarmel, is seeking damages in excess of $150,000. 



Midwest

County home seeks funds

Illinois — A county nursing home board has requested $12 million through a property-tax increase.

Champaign County Nursing Home asked the county board in December for the money, with the nursing home board chairwoman listing a goal of $7 million for capital improvements over the next decade, The News Gazette reported.

The county administrator told the board it had several options, including leasing or selling, raising the property tax, or closing the facility. The status quo is unlikely to be sustainable since the facility is waiting on $1.5 million in state reimbursements and owes vendors $2 million.

Increasing the property tax rate to 10 cents would generate $3.7 million a year, officials said.

Pot OK'd for PTSD

Minnesota— Post-traumatic stress disorder has been added to the list of conditions Minnesota will allow to be treated with medical marijuana, state health officials said in December.

The Department of Health has been evaluating whether arthritis, depression, schizophrenia and insomnia should be approved. It found PTSD had the “strongest case for potential benefits,” Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, M.D., said.

“PTSD also has few effective treatment alternatives available for some patients with the condition,” he said.

Patients with certified PTSD can receive medical cannabis starting August 1 from the state's two cannabis manufacturers. They will need advance certification from a Minnesota healthcare provider. 

Sixteen states currently list PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.


West

Bill would track infections California — A proposed bill would require physicians to record antibiotic-resistant infections on death certificates if it contributed to the fatality.

The bill, proposed on Dec. 5 by state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would allow a better way to track these infections, he said. While there are estimates that between 7,500 and 9,000 California residents die each year from the infections, he said, “We're shooting in the dark,” according to the Los Angeles Times

The bill also would require labs to conduct testing at hospitals and other medical facilities to give the state a summary of how many patients test positive for different antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains. Hospitals currently must report certain types of HAIs, but not whether the patient died from them.

Medicaid expansion dead

Wyoming —A four-year effort to expand Medicaid in Wyoming has been killed following the election of Donald Trump as president, local reports said.

Expansion has been pushed — and rejected — by the Legislature every year since 2013. Champions of the expansion told the Casper Star-Tribune there are too many unknowns under a new administration and GOP pledges to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Other states in the West, such as Utah, are negotiating with the federal government on Medicaid expansion waivers. Nebraska and Virginia are among states where officials said they will not pursue expansion in 2017.

Plains/Mountains

Bed-sale bill debated

South Dakota — Without repealing its nursing home bed moratorium, South Dakota legislators are hoping to let facilities buy or sell beds.

In 2005, the state capped beds at 8,130. Under the new proposal, which could be up for consideration in the 2017 session, more “free enterprise” could be allowed, according to Rep. Wayne Steinhauer (R-Hartford). 

Currently there are an estimated 1,800 beds going unused. This could mean assisted living facilities or hospitals buy nursing beds and allow more care coordination, and could mean skilled nursing facilities could sell off a handful of beds to finance improvements. But it also would potentially decrease availability for seniors who need to be in a nursing home, and could diminish SNFs' leverage as a care provider.

The South Dakota Health Care Association had not made an official decision on its position but was taking it under consideration as of press time, a spokesman said.

Southeast

SNF for parolees opens

Georgia — A new nursing home on the grounds of a former state hospital will house elderly and sick parolees from the Department of Corrections.

The Bostick Nursing Center in Milledgeville, which opened Nov. 29, is being operated by CorrectLife. The company bought the land from the state, tore down a building and built a new facility estimated to be worth more than $20 million. 

It will create at least 330 direct jobs and has 280 beds for skilled nursing and intermediate care, executives said. 

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said the center is positive for the state.

“This new Bostick Nursing Center will bring much-needed jobs to the Milledgeville area, improve quality of life and set the foundation for further growth and revitalization of the Central State Hospital Campus,” he said.

Southwest

CNA sues over firing
TEXAS -— A certified nursing assistant is suing his former employer, a Marble Falls skilled nursing facility, after he says he was terminated for being HIV-positive.

Lamda Legal announced in late November it had joined the lawsuit, which was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October. 

Michael Janssen began work at Granite Mesa Health Center in 2012, according to court records. After finding out he was HIV-positive the next year, he disclosed his status to his director of nursing. A few days later, the administrator told Janssen he was required to provide information about his HIV status, such as CD4 cell count and viral load, in accordance with company policy, according to the lawsuit. When Janssen refused and asked for the policy, he was fired. He was later rehired by his previous employer, an assisted living facility, he said in a statement.

The center did not return a request for comment.