KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Calif. Report Faults Screening Of In-Home Care Providers

The Boston Globe: 2 Big Doctor Groups May Merge
Two of the state's largest private medical practices are in talks to merge into a giant doctor-run group that would care for nearly a million Massachusetts patients and significantly escalate the pace of health care consolidation throughout the state. Atrius Health, which runs the Harvard Vanguard system and four other doctors practices, is in advanced talks with Fallon Clinic, the Worcester-based medical group (Syre, 4/22). 

The Sacramento Bee: Report Slams Screening Of California Private In-Home Care Workers
Lax state oversight of in-home health care agencies is allowing private caregivers with criminal backgrounds to work with the elderly and disabled, according to a Senate report issued Thursday. A Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes review of advertisements for in-home caregivers uncovered five confirmed cases in which the individuals offering services had extensive criminal records, including arrests for burglary, narcotics trafficking and prostitution (Van Oot, 4/22). 

Chicago Sun-Times: State Makes It Harder To Qualify For AIDS Drug Program
Beginning this summer, the state will tighten its eligibility requirements for the financially-strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Program. The program's current income limit for eligibility is 500 percent of the federal poverty level, or $54,450 for a single individual. After July 1, only HIV-positive people whose income is at or below 300 percent of the poverty level ($32,670) will be eligible to apply, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (Thomas, 4/22). 

The Miami Herald: Government Aid Soared 12 Percent In South Florida During Recession
South Florida enjoyed one roaring growth industry as the economy collapsed: government handouts. New federal statistics show that in 2009, … government payouts for Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment benefits and other entitlements soared 11.7 percent from the prior year. … In fact, the process of collecting government benefits, including "in-kind"' medical services provided by Medicare and Medicaid, is South Florida's most productive enterprise (Hanks, 4/21). 

The Texas Tribune: CDC: Southern States Lag In Smoking Bans
Though secondhand smoke leads to nearly 50,000 U.S. deaths among nonsmoking adults every year, no southern state, including Texas, has adopted a smoke-free law for worksites, restaurants and bars, according to a new Centers for Disease Control report. This regional disparity, unveiled in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, comes as Texas lawmakers are debating implementatin of a statewide smoking ban, one that would outlaw smoking in workplaces and other public places like bars and restaurants (Ramshaw, 4/21).

WUNC: North Carolina Voices: Mental Health Disorder
The state has been slow to create community-based housing as an alternative to keeping (people with mental health problems) in state psychiatric hospitals. For decades, North Carolina has relied on smaller facilities called 'adult care homes' and 'family care homes' to house thousands of people with psychiatric disabilities who don't need to be in a hospital. However, that practice could be illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U S Department of Justice is now investigating North Carolina (Hoban, 4/21).

Kansas Health Institute News: Blue Cross Of Kansas Part Of Federal Anti-Trust Investigation
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas is one of several health insurers nationwide being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible anti-competitive practices. ... The Kansas Attorney General's Office is not involved in the probe, according to an agency spokesperson. The practices being investigated involve "most-favored nation," clauses in contracts between the insurers and hospitals, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice told KHI News Service, declining to comment further (4/21). 

Detroit Free Press: Switch To Cheaper Meds Could Jeopardize Mental Health Of Inmates, Critics Say
Michigan's prison system is jeopardizing the mental health of some 1,500 inmates by switching their psychotropic medication from name brands to generic forms to save money, a coalition of mental health advocates charged today. The Michigan Partners in Crisis said switching inmates from medications that work to equivalent generic drugs can often cause relapses for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and other mental health illnesses (Christoff, 4/21). 

The Lund Report (Oregon health news): Tort Reform Or Else
Republicans on a joint committee charged with transforming the Oregon Health Plan made their first bold move Wednesday night saying without medical malpractice reform they can't support one of Governor John Kitzhaber's signature proposals this legislative session. A first draft of a bill emerged this week in the Joint Committee on Health Care Transformation that's attempting to incorporate eight weeks of recommendations from a broad group of bi-partisan legislators and industry stakeholders. The aim is to deliver better, more efficient care with less money for the Oregon Health Plan and other essential human services. ... Republicans say without some protection healthcare providers, strained under diminished resources, would be exposed to increased liability (Rosenfeld, 4/21). 

MinnPost: St. Paul City Council Supports Single-Payer Health Care In State
The St. Paul City Council passed a resolution Wednesday supporting the Minnesota Health Plan, a proposal that's floating around the Legislature (but not yet close to passing) for single-payer, universal health care in the state. The Minneapolis and Duluth city councils previously have voted to support the plan, too. ... [The plan] purports to make "health care guaranteed and affordable for every Minnesotan" (Kimball, 4/21). 

Times-Picayune: Slidell Memorial Hospital's Plans For Expanded Emergency Department Depend On April 30 Bond Vote
[Voters] approved a $22.45 million bond issue and accompanying tax in 2003 to help the public, not-for-profit hospital reduce its debt, invest in technology, and expand and improve services. In 2007, more people paid that 7-mill tax as the population increased, so hospital officials used the excess money to secure an additional $17.5 million in bonds to build the regional cancer center that opened in January. This year, the hospital wants to use a similar process to secure additional bonds to construct a larger ER (Vargas, 4/21). 

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