September 10

New Arizona Law Aims to Protect Seniors for Bad Home Care Workers

Advocates are hoping a new Arizona law will help protect seniors from the exploding, but largely unregulated in-home care industry. Sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), the law requires non-medical in-home caregiver agencies to disclose to consumers information about background checks, training, cost of services, and hiring and firing policies on an annual basis.

“This is a good first step towards transparency towards those who provide in-home care for vulnerable individuals. I think there needs to be even a little bit more, but this is a good start,” said Laura Oldaker, CEO of By Your Side Senior Care in Tucson and an Arizona In-Home Care Association board member. The law, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on April 1, applies to non-medical in-home care agencies in Arizona, and not to private, individual caregivers. The disclosure form is not required from specific home health services, senior living facilities, and clients who receive services through federal or state programs, including Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona Long-Term Care System (ALTCS), or Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). If agencies fail to give the disclosures to consumers, they are breaking the law. Failure to comply with the law will result in a Class 3 misdemeanor and a maximum 30-day sentence.

For the article from Arizona Daily Star, click here.

September 7

Advocates Say Mental Health ‘Parity’ Law Is Not Fulfilling Its Promise

Seven years after Congress passed a landmark law banning discrimination in the treatment of mentally ill people, many families and their advocates complain it stubbornly persists, largely because insurers are subverting the law in subtle ways and the government is not aggressively enforcing it. The so-called parity law, which was intended to equalize coverage of mental and other medical conditions, has gone a long way toward eliminating obvious discrepancies in insurance coverage. Research shows, for instance, that most insurers have dropped annual limits on the therapy visits that they will cover. Higher copayments and separate mental health deductibles have become less of a problem. But many insurers have continued to limit treatment through other strategies that are harder to track, according to researchers, attorneys and other critics. Among the more murky areas is “medical necessity” review — in which insurers decide whether a patient requires a certain treatment and at what frequency.

For the article from Kaiser Health News, click here.

September 3

Wisconsin Has Rejected $550 Million in Federal Dollars for Health Care

With its new two-year budget in place, Wisconsin now has passed up more than $550 million in federal money available under the Affordable Care Act. The state previously rejected roughly $200 million in federal money available starting in January 2014, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The new budget turned away another $360 million — far more than the $250 million in cuts the same budget made to the University of Wisconsin System. Yet accepting the federal money was never seriously considered by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The state has remained committed to Gov. Scott Walker’s approach to the law. Walker is the only governor in the country who has used the law to expand access to health insurance while turning down the additional federal dollars available to pay for it. Most Republican governors have opted not to expand their Medicaid programs through the law. In contrast, Walker did expand Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, and 145,000 people have gained coverage as a result. The governor just did it in a way that costs state taxpayers — though not federal taxpayers — more money.