New York State is participating in a trial in partnership with the federal government that could fundamentally change how health-care providers are compensated when treating Medicaid patients. Under the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, disparate providers will be organized into coordinated networks of doctors, hospitals, and other practitioners, and these teams will receive bonuses if the health of their patients improves. These provider teams may eventually be compensated based on outcomes rather than volume of services. While critics have questioned the use of incentive payments for health-care providers, supporters of the experiment observe that the traditional fee-for-service model must change.
Oregon is the first state to adopt legislation that will automatically register to vote anyone with a new driver’s license. Under the legislation, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will transfer information to Oregon's secretary of state to update voter rolls. Voters can always opt-out. Officials believe the move will add around 300,000 voters. Critics of the new law point to the potential voter fraud, implementation costs, and whether the DMV can ensure personal information remains secure.
Current and aspiring poets in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can have their work inscribed into freshly poured sidewalk locations under a new program designed to grab the attention of pedestrians. Sidewalk Poetry, a collaboration of the Department of Public Works, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Cambridge Public Library, will seek contestants to submit poems, with winners’ verses indelibly placed throughout the city. Officials note that as most people now look down at their smartphones as they walk, the poems should be highly visible. The program was inspired by a similar ongoing program in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The University of California-San Francisco is joining a growing number of hospitals in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington that are formalizing a collaborative process called “shared decision making,” which allows patients and doctors to make health decisions together, taking into account the best scientific evidence available as well as the patient’s values and preferences. UCSF's approach involves distributing literature and media that explain various options for treatment, and pairing patients with college students or recent graduates. These students help the patients draft a list of questions for their provider and take notes during the visit so patients can recall what they learned. While the approach is not new, its increased use is based in part on the new health-care law, and research suggests that it leads to increased patient satisfaction.
In Virginia, the Winchester-Frederick County court system is allowing juvenile offenders to “run” off their criminal charges. Youth offenders sometimes are too young to participate in traditional community service alternatives because many nonprofit organizations have a minimum age for volunteers. Under the voluntary “Running Strong” program, these youth can meet three times a week for eight to 10 weeks with active law enforcement personnel to run laps together and improve their endurance. Officials hope the new program will provide structure, confidence, and inspiration for those participating.
Massachusetts continues to reinvigorate its community colleges by retooling their academic and workforce training programs to meet the needs of employers. Supported in part by federal funding from the Department of Labor, students are graduating to fill the specific needs of the Boston area’s high-tech corridor, with programs designed to assist in the expanding fields of life sciences, health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, and financial services. While the state’s community colleges have traditionally focused their curricula on students transitioning to four-year colleges, the institutions are remaking their programs to fit the immediate hiring needs of the region as well as to assist local companies in training their existing employees.