LA County health plan fined $55 million over delayed treatments

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LA Care, the nation’s largest public health plan, is being criticized for delaying care for many poor and at-risk members. Meanwhile, Microsoft is set to buy artificial intelligence and speech-recognition company Nuance; the nursing home industry is pushing for regulation of personnel agencies; and more.

Los Angeles Times: LA County Health Plan Fined for Treatment Delays

A cancer patient enrolled in a health insurance plan serving the poorest and most vulnerable residents of Los Angeles County went untreated as his health rapidly deteriorated, according to state regulators. Another registrant was left “in extreme pain” for weeks awaiting treatment. The treatment of a third patient, diagnosed with lymphoma and who had less than a year to live, has been delayed for more than two months. This patient left the plan, LA Care, for another insurance in a desperate attempt to save his life. (Dolan and Mejia, 3/4)

AP: LA County health plan fined $55 million over health care failures

LA Care, the nation’s largest public health plan, was fined $55 million for failing to authorize care for thousands of poor and at-risk members, causing health-threatening treatment delays, California regulators announced Friday. The fines — by far the largest in state history — were imposed on the Los Angeles County health plan by the state’s Department of Managed Health Care and Department of Health Services. (3/4)

In other healthcare industry news –

Stat: Microsoft closes $16 billion acquisition of Nuance

The next great AI healthcare experiment can now begin. Microsoft completed a $16 billion acquisition of Nuance Communications on Friday, launching a plan to leverage its voice recognition software and other artificial intelligence capabilities to seize what the tech giant sees as an opportunity $500 billion market. Executives told STAT the plan is to bundle Nuance’s software products with Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure to more seamlessly deliver AI tools to vendors, payers and life sciences companies. An early example is a medical imaging service that Nuance launched using technology from Microsoft last fall, which combines a range of radiology tools into a single portal. (Ross, 3/4)

Modern healthcare: Nursing homes wage state-focused campaign to regulate staffing agencies

The nursing home industry is launching a lobbying offensive in several states to limit what healthcare staffing agencies can charge providers, but efforts are facing fierce headwinds from agencies, lawmakers , nurses and, in some cases, hospitals. The wave of legislation in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania comes amid a pandemic that has seen rates for traveling nurses soar, due to increased demand for their services. It means higher staffing costs for hospitals and nursing homes, which have accused agencies of “price gouging” and profiting from a pandemic. Providers argue that something must be done to rein in recruitment agencies, and with action unlikely at the federal level, nursing homes are turning to state legislatures. (Hellman, 3/4)

AP: University of Louisiana restores master’s degree in psychiatric nursing

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is now offering a graduate nursing concentration in psychiatric mental health, starting in fall 2022. Registered registered nurses can apply for a master’s degree program that will qualify them to take a national certification exam, the university’s College of Nursing & Health. Sciences said in a press release. (3/5)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.

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