KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

DOJ Investigates Miss. Mental Health Care; N.H. Pharmacists Win Permission To Vaccinate

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger: Mental Health System Probed
The Justice Department is now investigating Mississippi's mental health system, seeking to determine whether those suffering from mental illness are receiving appropriate treatment. Justice Department officials are expected to return to the Magnolia State later this month, and it's a safe bet they will make similar recommendations against Mississippi as they have against Virginia and other states, said Region 8 Executive Director Dave Van (Mitchell, 9/3).

The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: DOJ Looking Into Miss. Mental Health Programs
A Mississippi mental health official says the Department of Justice Department is looking into whether the state is providing appropriate care to (the) mentally ill. … In February, federal officials concluded Virginia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by needlessly institutionalizing those with developmental disabilities. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed $30 million more in spending for community-based treatment. In 2010, the Justice Department reached a settlement requiring the state of Georgia to come up with $77 million more for treatment for fiscal 2012 alone. During two visits, Justice Department officials have toured Department of Mental Health programs, community mental health centers and a private provider (9/4).

The Associated Press/CBS News: NH Allows Pharmacists To Give More Vaccinations
New Hampshire is joining a growing national trend in allowing pharmacists to give more vaccinations than annual flu shots — but doctors oppose the changes in what some call a turf war over a profitable aspect of medical care. A new state law authorizes pharmacists to give vaccinations for a bacterial form of pneumonia that can be deadly and for shingles (9/4).

(Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press: When Medical Bills Top $1 Million: One Union’s Situation Highlights Reality Of Big Insurance Claims
Somewhere among the thousands of nurses and their dependents at the Allina health system, one person's serious health problem is generating an unusually large set of bills for the group. In July, the Minnesota Nurses Association issued a notice to union members about a "high-cost claimant" who had generated an estimated $4 million in medical bills through the first week of April. By year's end, the dollar value of the insurance claim could get even bigger -- as much as $8 million, according to a copy of the notice obtained by the Pioneer Press. As a result of the financial hit, union leaders warned that health insurance premiums for 2012 would need to grow by 20 percent to 40 percent unless members voted to institute a cap on annual per-person expenses for next year (Snowbeck, 9/3).

Detroit News: Partnerships Change Health Care Landscape
In less than two years, Dearborn-based Oakwood Healthcare Inc. has added more than 50 doctors to its Oakwood Physician Network, an initiative to recruit and hire private practice doctors into the system. It's just one technique hospitals and health systems in the region are using as they prepare for changes in the way the federal government reimburses for Medicare services as part of health care reform. Some of the changes will reward hospitals for being better aligned with doctors (Burden, 9/3). 

The Los Angeles Times: UCLA Doctor May Not Have Followed Proper Credentialing Procedures
The chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center may not have followed proper procedures for credentialing doctors at the hospital and is being investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, according to sources familiar with the inquiry. . . . In addition to possible irregularities in the credentialing of other doctors, authorities are probing aspects of (Gail V. Anderson Jr.'s) own credential to treat patients, according to the sources, who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation (Gorman, 9/3).

Fayetteville, N.C., Observer: Study Faults Care At Fayetteville Dialysis Clinics
The patient death rates at three of Fayetteville's four private, for-profit dialysis clinics are significantly higher than the national average. ... Those are among the findings by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which studied death and infection rates at the nation's private dialysis clinics. ... All four clinics are owned by the same corporation, Fresenius Medical Care North America, one of the largest dialysis companies in the country (Calhoun, 9/4).

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Health Official's Dual Roles Are Questioned
Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director for Los Angeles County's beleaguered child welfare agency, carries two cellphones in his pocket. One BlackBerry tethers him to his county job, where he is responsible for the mental health needs of nearly 20,000 foster children. The second — kept in a plastic case adorned with images of dollar bills — is reserved for his Beverly Hills-based private psychiatric practice, where his patients have included Paris Hilton, and for scheduling appearances on television interview and reality shows (Kaufman and Therolf, 9/2).

Modern Healthcare: La. Health Department Recommends Magellan To Oversee Behavioral Health Program
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced it had recommended that Magellan Health Services, Avon, Conn., be chosen for a contract to oversee the program that will provide behavioral health to 100,000 adults and 50,000 children. The contract overseeing a $100 million program calls for Magellan to manage a “statewide management organization,” which will enroll children and adults through a number of state groups that are coordinated by the new Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership. The partnership was created by the state to improve coordination of behavioral health services for eligible children and adults with serious mental illness and addictive disorders, according to a news release (Barr, 9/3).

Des Moines Register: Home Health Care Group In Burlington Closing
A nonprofit agency providing in-home health care services to low-income residents of Burlington for more than 100 years is shutting down. The Visiting Nurses Association of Burlington, which began operating in 1909, announced its closure this week with a message on its website, and has stopped accepting patients. "Today’s climate regarding health care services in rural America has made it impossible to continue our mission of providing home health care to all in need," the agency wrote in the message (Noble, 9/6).

Denver Post: Colo. Foundation Loses Hospital Control After 10 Years, Under HCA Deal
The Colorado Health Foundation will have no control over the state's largest hospital system 10 years after its deal with HCA/HealthONE closes, documents show, though the for-profit buyer has agreed to accept Medicare and Medicaid during that decade. The final $1.45 billion sale agreement between the health foundation and its current partner guarantees HCA/HealthONE will continue hundreds of millions of dollars in charity care and community-benefit programs for 10 years. At the end of the contract, negotiated since the sale was proposed in July, HCA/HealthONE will take full control and can dissolve a community oversight board meant to watchdog the deal for the first 10 years (Booth, 9/6).

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