In the first five years of King County’s employee wellness program, from 2007 to 2011, the county spent $15 million on the program and saved $46 million. King County, Washington, launched its employee wellness program, “Healthy Incentives Program,” in 2006, in response to rising health care costs at 9.8 percent from 2001 to 2005.

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A year after it joined the growing list of states that allow for the medical use of marijuana, Illinois has modified its law to provide relief for children who suffer from seizures. SB 2636 will take effect at the start of next year. It permits children under 18, with a parent’s consent, to be treated with non-smokable forms of medical marijuana. The state’s original law did not include seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, among the list of debilitating medical conditions that could legally be treated with medical marijuana.

Alaska presents some unique challenges when it comes to delivering health care to rural residents. Telemedicine is helping to solve some of those challenges.

Laurel Wood, former immunizations director for the Alaska Department of Public Health, told attendees Monday at the CSG/CSG West Health Committee meeting that Alaska is one-fifth the size of lower 48 states. It is twice as large as Texas, but it has a population density of just 1.2 people per square mile.

Tom Massey, office director of policy, communications and operations for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, said the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act came down to math.

“We figured it would create about 20,000 more jobs over the next 20 years, bring in about $4.4 billion more into our economy and the average household earnings would rise by about $600,” said Massey, who spoke Monday during the CSG/CSG West Health Committee meeting.

Several medical professions have been working with CSG’s National Center on Interstate Compacts to explore the use of compacts to promote license portability to ensure access to high quality health care. These efforts have the potential to help facilitate telemedicine and widen access to a variety of medical services. Licensing compacts also provide a mechanism to ensure state regulatory agencies maintain their licensing and disciplinary authority. This session will feature a discussion about the proposed compacts and their potential to enhance access to medical care across the states.

There are some inherent problems with trying to implement state marijuana laws that, technically, are a federal crime.

Thomas A. Burns, director of pharmacy programs for the Oregon Health Authority, asked attendees at Sunday’s Future of Western Legislatures session if any of them were officers.

“You can’t be in this room,” he laughed. “Everybody else in this room, we’re going to tell you how to aid and abet a federal felony.”

While debate about improving the nation’s health care system continues, policymakers, health care experts and consumers essentially agree on three goals—improving patient care, creating healthier communities and reducing health care costs. States face huge challenges in developing successful strategies for broad population impact, and even bigger challenges for having a positive impact in rural areas and among certain disadvantaged population groups. This session will address strategies for health care system improvement that have proved successful in various settings and among diverse population groups.

For every two packs of cigarettes sold in New York, at least one has been illegally smuggled into the state. That’s according to research by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also reports that cigarette smuggling cost states an estimated $5.5 billion in lost revenue in 2012. “The significance of the problem cannot be overstated in high-tax states,” said Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center.

Colorado’s commitment to be the healthiest state will be achieved through spending smarter, not necessarily more, according to Tom Massey, deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. “As health care itself changes, so must the way we finance health care,” Massey said. “We must reform our payment models so we get better quality and value.”

Friday, a U.S. appeals court upheld a 2011 Florida law that prohibits doctors from discussing gun safety with their patients. The 2-1 ruling...

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