George Lauer

Expensive Drugs in 2016 Crosshairs

Lawmakers, policymakers and California voters are poised this year to move past dismay and discussion about rising prescription drug prices. With a new law on the books in California and a petition approved for the statewide ballot, dismay may give way to action.

CURES Controversy Rekindled

Debate over mandatory use of California’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System continues to simmer, as other states adopt mandatory compliance and the California Medical Association continues to oppose it.

Douglas Resigns as DHCS Director

After three controversy-filled years as director of the state Department of Health Care Services, Toby Douglas announced his resignation today.

Calif. Latino Webinar Series Goes National

A series of Spanish language webinars designed to inform and engage Latino businesses in California is going national this month with a broader, less state-specific message about health insurance opportunities for small businesses through the Affordable Care Act.

Local, National Reforms Both Needed, Policy Leaders Told

BALTIMORE — Although their approaches may appear to be at odds with each other at the onset, a top federal bureaucrat and a national business leader assured health policy leaders Wednesday that government and commercial interests can work together effectively to reform the country’s health care system.

“We’ll figure it out together. We may not figure it out as quickly as people might like, but we will get there,” said Richard Gilfillan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Gilfillan and Andrew Webber, president and CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health, shared the podium to deliver a tandem farewell address at the National Academy for State Health Policy’s 25th annual conference.

Health Policy and Winnie-the-Pooh

BALTIMORE — How health care is like A Bear of Very Little Brain:

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”

            — A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh    

“That is what we are here to do — think of another way of doing things,” said Richard Gottfried, chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Health and moderator of a well-attended panel on payment reform Tuesday at the National Academy for State Health Policy’s annual conference.

Educator Praises Health Policy Officials for ‘Noble Work’

BALTIMORE — “I would argue that what you face in health care is very similar to what we face in education — revenues are down and needs are up,” Freeman Hrabowski III said in his keynote address Monday at the opening of the National Academy for State Health Policy’s 25th annual conference.

Quoting poets William Carlos Williams and Maya Angelou and evoking the legacies of Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr., Hrabowski told state policy wonks “the work you do is noble, but the situations we face are not easy. It comes down to how you respond. Aristotle said ‘excellence is never an accident.’ I think we need to remember that as we move forward,” Hrabowski said.

Hrabowski — president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County and one of Time Magazine’s choices of the 100 most influential people in the world — did his homework before addressing the NASHP crowd.

Temporary High-Risk Pool Welcome, Needed

The federally funded high-risk health insurance pool, one of the first major pieces of national health care reform to come into existence, is apparently more welcome — and needed — in California than it is in other parts of the country.

When the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board — the state agency in charge of California’s pool — announced premium rates and the companies that would be handling the program last week, state officials said they already have received 4,000 requests for applications.

In the 21 states where the federal government is handling the high risk pool, the combined total of applicants so far is 2,400.

New Revenue vs. New Cutbacks

Anthony Wright — executive director of Health Access and a veteran observer of the California Legislature — acknowledges that health care politics in Sacramento have changed a bit because of national health care reform, but he’s quick to add this is not a time for health advocates to sit back on their heels.

“It can always get worse,” Wright said, adding, “And without new revenues, it will get worse.”

Wright said Democrats are on the right track by identifying new sources of money in their budget proposal announced this week.

Health Reform Law Could Protect Health Care Programs

Although they’re keeping a close eye on budget battles in Sacramento, the level of concern among California health care advocates is tempered this year by the arrival of a large, powerful ally — the Affordable Care Act.

“For the most part, national health care reform has helped out greatly in that it has protected the state’s health programs,” said Kristen Golden Testa — health director for The Children’s Partnership, a national advocacy group based in California.

The Affordable Care Act includes “maintenance of effort” provisions that require states to retain services offered before the reform law was passed to be eligible for increased federal funding under the new law.