State Highlights: Health Care Takes Center Stage In Debates In Maine, Arizona, Missouri A selection of health policy stories from Maine, Arizona, Missouri, Oregon, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut.The Associated Press: Sparks Fly Throughout Last Maine Governor DebateThe three candidates for governor clashed Tuesday in their final debate, highlighting their differences on a wide range of issues, including health care and welfare. Partisan sparks flew early and often between Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who are running in a dead heat in the race, far ahead of independent Eliot Cutler, two weeks before Maine residents go to the polls (10/21). Arizona Central-Republic: Ducey, DuVal On Health CareThe two major candidates for governor, Democrat Fred DuVal and Republican Doug Ducey, are answering questions about issues explored in The Arizona Republic’s “New Arizona” project. The project identified key issues in building a better Arizona. Today, the fourth in the occasional series, we focus on biotech and health care (10/21).Kansas City Star: Missouri Senate: Two Doctors, Two Different Views On Medicaid ExpansionThe two men running for the Missouri Senate in the 34th District are both doctors. Both cited experiences they had as physicians as motivation to run. But they come down on very different sides of a medically focused debate in Missouri: whether the state should expand Medicaid as envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act. Rob Schaaf, the incumbent in the 34th District, which includes Platte County, said that expanding Medicaid in Missouri would be too expensive for the state. Robert Stuber said that expanding Medicaid is one of his top priorities. Doing so, he said, would create more jobs and salaries, which would increase state tax revenue. Refusing to expand Medicaid, he said, puts rural health care systems at risk for a hefty financial burden as federal subsidies to rural hospitals decrease (Pointer, 10/21). Oregonian: State Announced $150,000 Contract To Wife Of Key Kitzhaber Adviser Before Competitive BiddingOregon Health Authority officials announced the selection of the wife of a former top aide to Gov. John Kitzhaber for a $150,000 contract before any formal bidding took place, The Oregonian has learned. A state manager internally announced the hiring of Kate Raphael to produce videos about the governor’s health reforms on July 31, documents show. That was eight days before a formal competitive-bidding solicitation was issued, and nearly a month before a contract was signed (Budnick, 10/21).Los Angeles Times: Lawyers Versus Doctors In Costly Prop. 46 Campaign WarsA ballot initiative that pits lawyers against doctors has set off one of this year’s fiercest campaign wars, a costly clash over increasing state limits on malpractice damages and imposing drug testing on physicians. Proposition 46 would raise the cap on pain-and-suffering awards in malpractice lawsuits and require that hospitals randomly test their doctors for drug and alcohol use. Backers say the measure would rein in negligent doctors; opponents charge that it’s a money grab by the lawyers who helped put it on the ballot (Mason, 10/21).Miami Herald: Miami Physician Assistant Gets 15 Years For Nation’s Biggest Medicare Therapy ScamA Miami physician’s assistant who was described by his lawyer as a “bit player” in a nearly $200 million mental health scheme to swindle Medicare was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday. But it could have been worse for Roger Bergman, 65, of Miami, who was facing up to 25 years under federal sentencing guidelines for his supporting role in the biggest mental-health clinic scam ever orchestrated against the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. Bergman, convicted in July of a fraud conspiracy, conducted bogus evaluations of hundreds of patients and falsified their records to dupe Medicare into believing they needed the costly therapy services, according to trial evidence (Weaver, 10/21).Philadelphia Inquirer: Overdose Deaths Rise In Pa., N.J.Because of that surge, New Jersey’s ranking in drug-death rates soared from 41st in 2010 to 18th. The new statistics predate New Jersey’s most recent moves to attack the problem. Several months ago, it changed state law to encourage people who witness an overdose to call 911 without fear of arrest. It also permitted first responders, family, and friends to carry medication that can quickly reverse an overdose due to heroin or opioid prescription painkillers. Families and police around the state have since reported more than 230 “saves,” according to the Drug Policy Alliance, including 47 in Camden (Sapatkin, 10/21). Modern Healthcare: Ky. Cardiologists Settle False Claims AllegationsTwo Kentucky cardiologists have agreed to pay $380,000 to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by entering into bogus management agreements with an area hospital in exchange for referring their patients to that hospital, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday. The government alleged that Drs. Satyabrata Chatterjee and Ashwini Anand, who owned cardiology physician group Cumberland Clinic, London, Ky., entered into sham management agreements with Saint Joseph Hospital. The two were paid to provide management services but never actually provided them, according to the government. Instead, they allegedly agreed to refer their clinic’s patients to the hospital for cardiology and other services in violation of the Stark Law and the anti-kickback statute, according to a Department of Justice news release (Schencker, 10/21). Connecticut Mirror: Public Gets First Look At Health Industry Payments To DoctorsPharmaceutical companies and medical-device manufacturers paid more than $6 million to about 5,400 Connecticut doctors for various services during the last five months of 2013, a Connecticut Mirror examination of a newly released federal database shows. The information was collected under a provision of the Affordable Care Act that is designed to help consumers understand the financial relationships between the health care industry and the nation’s physicians. Though only a five-month snapshot, the new data provides the public with the ability to search actual payments to their own doctors for the first time (Radelat, 10/22). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.