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Phoenix—The state board that licenses nurses is not doing enough to investigate complaints quickly, according to a new audit.
One complaint reviewed by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General involved the death of a 17-year-old patient with a history of suicide attempts.
The audit found that the Arizona Board of Nursing took four years to hear the case against a psychiatric nurse who allegedly sent the patient back to his cell without calling a psychiatrist or taking proper precautions, resulting in the patient’s death.
"Based on our audit, they are doing some things very well, but other things they need to do a better job with," said Dale Chapman, manager of the audit.
"The board is working very hard at this time to shorten those investigation times," Mr. Chapman said. "We believe 180 days should be an appropriate amount of time. They have a challenge ahead of them, and they know that."
—Arizona Republic, Sept. 18
OLYMPIA—The number of people without health insurance in Washington is on the rise while the number of uninsured nationally is declining, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.
When two-year averages were compared, the uninsured rate in Washington rose from 12.3% in 1998 and 1999 to 13.8% in 1999 and 2000. Washington was one of only eight states with growing gaps, the survey said.
Nationally, the two-year average fell from 14.7% to 14.%. Overall, the Census Bureau said, 39.3 million Americans were uninsured in 2000, down 600,000 from 1999.
The census survey of 623 Washington households contradicts the brighter findings of a much larger state survey of 6,700 households, which found that the rate of uninsured in Washington actually is declining. The survey by the state Office of Financial Management found that 8.4% of Washington residents were uninsured in 2000, compared with 9.5% in 1998.
But regardless of the apparent discrepancy, health advocates and analysts said uninsured rates could rise with the economy worsening and The Boeing Co. planning to lay off up to 30,000 workers.
—Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sept. 28
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch released his voluminous audit of Allina and Medica by saying that while he found footprints of wrongdoing, his office wouldn’t be prosecuting any of it.
"We’re not taking any more regulatory action on this," Hatch said after releasing his review of nearly every dime the $2.5 billion former Allina Health System — Minnesota’s largest health care provider — spent over the past few years.
In releasing the report, Hatch also announced that Allina had agreed to pay the federal government $16 million. The offer, if accepted by the U.S. Justice Department, closes an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The money covers nearly $13 million in "billing errors" that Allina made, as well as fees and penalties.
—Pioneer Press, Sept. 25
COLUMBUS—The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will buy fewer flu vaccines this year and tighten restrictions on who can get flu shots at local health departments because of a sharp increase in price, officials said.
The cost of one dose of vaccine has jumped from $1.85 in 1999 to $4.49 this year, said department spokesman Jay Carey. Only one vaccine manufacturer bid for the Ohio contract this year, compared with two in 2000.
"What we have is a dramatic increase in price," Mr. Carey said. "Because of this increase in cost, ODH is not able to purchase as many doses as it has in the past and as many as it would like to."
The department will restrict flu shots given by local health departments to people 65 years and older or those who have chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.
"There’s not enough to hit younger people or people who are not ill," Mr. Carey said.
However, he said flu shots may be available to those people at doctor’s offices, hospitals, and pharmacies that have their own supplies of the vaccine.
—The Associated Press, Sept. 28
WASHINGTON, DC—Fewer Americans lacked health insurance last year, as a then-robust economy and government programs helped more children and poor people get coverage.
About 14% of Americans, or 38.7 million people, were without coverage during the entire year of 2000, down from 14.3 percent, or 39.3 million, in 1999, the Census Bureau reported.
With unemployment low during that period, more people were able to get insurance through their employers. And analysts said more lower-income families and kids picked up coverage through programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
But the overall downward trend is likely to reverse this year as the economy struggles, said Ron Pollock, executive director of the consumer group Families USA.
"As the worsening economy and the repercussions of Sept. 11 result in many people losing jobs, health coverage relief becomes increasingly urgent," Mr. Pollock said.
Since the terrorist attacks, more than 100,000 layoffs have been announced in the airlines and related industries.
—The Associated Press, Sept. 28