KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. Seeks To Improve Medical Malpractice System

News outlets also report on health policy developments from a number of states including Nebraska, Florida, Minnesota, Kansas and California.

Boston Globe: Mass. Hospitals Promise Openness, Apologies
Seven Massachusetts hospitals plan to offer patients harmed by medical errors a prompt apology and financial settlements before they resort to lawsuits, part of a major new initiative to improve the state's cumbersome medical malpractice system. A coalition of physician, hospital, and patient groups planned to release details Wednesday of the initiative, called "Road Map to Reform,"’ which they predict will increase reporting of medical mistakes and cut down on lengthy litigation that drives up health care costs and fuels distrust between caregivers and patients (Kowalczyk, 4/18).

WBUR: Mass. Docs Eye New Approach To Malpractice Claims
Three major hospitals in Massachusetts are launching an experiment aimed at reducing costly malpractice lawsuits and encouraging doctors to acknowledge medical errors. The Massachusetts Medical Society on Wednesday plans to announce the initiative called Disclosure, Apology and Offer. The program calls for hospitals to disclose to patients and promptly investigate possible mistakes (4/18). 

NPR: Unusual Alliances Form In Nebraska's Prenatal Care Debate
In Republican-dominated Nebraska, government leaders often line up together, but lately a political tornado has ripped through this orderly scene. A political showdown over taxpayer funding of prenatal care for illegal immigrants has produced some unusual political splits and alliances in the statehouse of the Cornhusker State (Knapp, 4/18).

Politico Pro: Alabama Official Wins GOP Support On Exchange
An exchange bill is poised to pass the Health Committee of the Alabama House with the support of all its Republican members, according to its sponsor, state Rep. Greg Wren (R-Montgomery). The committee will vote on the bill Wednesday. Last year, Wren's fellow Republicans balked because they wanted to wait for the Supreme Court to act first. This time Wren said he convinced them that enacting an exchange bill is "a safety net" to protect Alabama from a federal exchange if the law is upheld. And he included an automatic sunset provision, which would void the exchange if the Supreme Court strikes the exchange provisions or Congress repeals or defunds them (Feder and Millman, 4/17).

Modern Healthcare: Fla. Governor's Veto List Includes Health Care Funding
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has released his final veto list for the 2012-13 General Appropriations Act, including cuts to health care funding. ... The total 2012-13 budget for health and human services passed by the Legislature was $29.9 billion, of which Scott vetoed items totaling more than $27.5 million. The vetoed items included $3.4 million that would have provided exemptions from inpatient and outpatient reimbursement ceilings for facilities classified as sole community hospitals (Kutscher, 4/17).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: At The Capitol: State Senator Seeks Hearing On Commissioner's Handling Of Payment
A state senator is seeking an oversight hearing in the Senate to determine whether the state's human-services commissioner broke laws when responding to inquiries about a $30 million payment last year from a Minneapolis-based HMO.  In a letter distributed Tuesday, April 17, Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said commissioner Lucinda Jesson withheld an important July letter from two parties investigating the payment -- the state's legislative auditor and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley obtained the letter from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and released it last week. It shows that a federal official at the time believed some of the $30 million paid by the UCare health plan should be shared with the federal government (Snowbeck, 4/17).

Kansas Health Institute News: KanCare Waiver Request To Be Ready Soon, Officials Say
The waiver application needed for Gov. Sam Brownback's proposed Medicaid makeover is nearly complete and could be filed with federal officials before the month is up, Brownback administration officials said today. ... Earlier this year, administration officials told legislators they believed they would not need to file a full application with CMS but instead could negotiate with the agency based on the brief concept paper they submitted in late January outlining the changes they would like to make to the Kansas Medicaid program (Shields, 4/17).

HealthyCal: County Aims to Stop Mental Health Stigma
The first time Stacy Gannon called the cops on herself, she was in the middle of a psychotic delusion. ... In Sacramento County -- where Gannon spent several years cycling in and out of treatment facilities -- the Department of Health and Human Services recently launched Stop Stigma Sacramento, a million-dollar, yearlong anti-stigma program and ad campaign. The program aims to change negative attitudes and false beliefs about mental illness with the help of billboards, radio spots, a speakers’ bureau and a dedicated, multilingual website (Bass, 4/17).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: 10 Ways That Mass. Payment Reform Could Go Wrong
[Dr. Robert Galvin, the CEO of Equity Healthcare and a nationally known thinker on how to improve health care's] ... nuanced presentation struck me as by no means a blanket endorsement of global payments for everyone, everywhere. In fact, there was a decidedly Cassandra-like tone to it. He warned about the dangers of a "one size fits all" mentality, and of letting health care institutions get "too big to fail" (Goldberg, 4/17). 

St. Louis Beacon: New Program Lowers Health Care Costs For Needy
Like many other independent contractors, Doug Mitchell and Susan Gottschall say they earn enough to pay their bills but not enough to afford health insurance. But their access to affordable medical care may be about to change. Over the weekend they heard about a new program through which some local health centers will allow certain uninsured St. Louis and St. Louis County residents to get access to health services at unbelievably inexpensive rates — ranging from 50 cents to $3 for doctor visits, dental visits and generic prescription drugs (Joiner, 4/17). 

The Wall Street Journal: Mississippi Law Tightens Requirements For Abortion Providers
Mississippi enacted a law Monday that calls for strict new requirements for abortion providers, the latest of several recent state laws pushed by abortion opponents. The law, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology or be eligible to be certified, meaning the physician has completed training in the specialty. It is set to go into effect July 1 (McWhirter and Mathews, 4/17).

Arizona Republic: Cardiologists Fined $100,000 For Internet Privacy Violations
The federal government has fined a Phoenix and Prescott cardiac surgeon medical practice $100,000 for posting patients' clinical and surgical appointment information on an Internet calendar that was available to the public. Phoenix Cardiac Surgery has agreed to pay the penalty to settle the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations and take steps to safeguard the health information of its patients, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (Alltucker, 4/17).

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