KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Funding Cut At Texas Mental Health Centers

News outlets report on a variety of state health policies.

The Baltimore Sun: State To Release Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan
Maryland health officials plan to release today their newest plan to control cancer, a set of diseases responsible for one in four deaths in the state. The officials say the plan to be used by health care providers, policy makers, communities and individuals is ambitious, aiming to save some 1,200 more people a year. Now, about 10,000 Marylander die a year from all kinds of cancer (Cohn, 7/25). 

California Watch: Hospital Chain Profits By Admitting High Number Of ER Patients
A Southern California hospital chain has transferred an unusually high number of patients from its emergency rooms to its hospital beds, gaining hundreds of millions of dollars by targeting people with Medicare, a California Watch investigation has found. ... These patients came to Prime hospitals with legitimate medical problems. But they ended up targets of a business strategy meant to maximize the number of insured patients treated in hospitals owned by the company, according to an analysis of state data, interviews and a review of 2,700 pages of court and public testimony (Jewett and Doig, 7/23).

The Texas Tribune: At Texas Mental Health Center, Smaller Cuts Still Sting
The Texas Legislature has cut $15 billion out of its budget for the next two years, affecting virtually every state agency and almost all state services. Bluebonnet Trails, a mental health services provider based in Williamson County, has lost more than a quarter of its funding. At the beginning of the legislative session, Andrea Richardson, Bluebonnet Trails' executive director, was pleasantly surprised when the budget reductions she thought would force Bluebonnet to cut services to 2,000-plus individuals never materialized. But she was soon unpleasantly surprised by the dramatic cuts to programs serving people with developmental disabilities (Philpott, 7/26).

Minnesota Public Radio: Should MN Rely On Mid-Level Health Care Workers To Improve Rural Health Care?
While around 12 percent of state residents live in its most rural areas, the Department of Health estimates that fewer than 5 percent of doctors practice there. The real problem is a shortage of trained health care professionals. So rural areas turn to alternative means for bringing the patient together with the doctors. ... Our debate will pose this question: With a shortage of health care workers in rural areas, should the state support mid-level practitioners -- such as dental therapists and community paramedics -- to fill the gap? (7/25).

The Connecticut Mirror: Melding Technology And Health Reform For 'Patient Empowerment'
Lygeia Ricciardi sits at the intersection of federal health care reform and the digital revolution. Her job, in a nutshell, is to transform lofty and complex public health goals into easy-to-use, Internet-ready "patient empowerment" tools. ... In January, Ricciardi became the first national policy advisor for "consumer e-health," part of the Department of Health and Human Services' health information technology office (Shesgreen, 7/25). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: WEA Trust Defends Its Actions As Insurer
A health insurance company affiliated with the state's largest teachers union is caught in the cross-fire of Wisconsin school reform politics, the company's CEO told the Journal Sentinel editorial board Monday. "We haven't really wanted to be the story," said Mark Moody, president and CEO of WEA Trust. "We've become the lightning rod for debate." Moody said WEA Trust has lost about 17% of its subscribers as a number of school districts have switched insurance providers in the wake of deep state budget cuts. WEA Trust at the start of the year insured two-thirds of Wisconsin's 424 school districts, but only 35% of the state's teachers, since many of the insured districts are small, he said (Herzog and Richards, 7/25). 

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