KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Calif. Health Plan Tax; Newborn Deaths At Philadelphia Hospital

News outlets report on health issues in California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Tennessee, New York, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Missouri and Virginia.

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Unveil California Health Plan Tax Proposal
The California Legislature on Monday unveiled a bill imposing a new tax on health insurance plans that would prevent a massive $1.1 billion hole in the state budget. The tax is designed to allow California to continue receiving matching funds from the federal government to pay for health insurance for the poor. It would replace a tax that applied only to Medi-Cal managed care organizations, which the federal government said it would not renew. (Cooper, 2/8)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Newborn Deaths At Philadelphia Hospital Raise Questions
Two hospitals in the Philadelphia region perform complex heart surgery on newborn babies. But the institutions' results are vastly different, an Inquirer analysis of insurance claims data shows. At St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, one in four babies less than a month old died after arduous, highly risky heart operations performed between 2009 and 2014, a death rate nearly triple that of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The newspaper began a review of St. Christopher's after it declined last year to publicly reveal how many of its heart-surgery patients died - the only one of six hospitals not included in a first-ever state evaluation of such programs. (Avril and Purcell, 2/7)

The Boston Globe: Hospital, Physician Prices Driving Health Costs, Business Groups Say
Four business and trade groups are calling on the state to do more to rein in the prices charged by hospitals and doctors, saying rising health care costs are hurting consumers and the economy. The groups — representing retailers, insurers, and small and large businesses — did not offer specific ways to attack rising health care costs, but in a report to be released Tuesday identified the main culprit as medical prices. Echoing studies by the attorney general’s office and state Health Policy Commission, the business groups noted providers charging the highest prices don’t necessarily give the highest-quality care. (Dayal McCluskey, 2/9)

The Tennessean: Drug Testing For Benefits In Tennessee Yields Only 65 Positives
A Tennessee law requiring drug screening and testing of public benefit seekers has yielded few positives for illicit drugs — and no one has been denied benefits for failing a drug test, though scores of people have walked away from the application process. Just 65 of 39,121 people applying for a cash assistance program known as Families First in Tennessee tested positive for illegal substances or drugs for which they had no prescription since the law was implemented July 1, 2014, according to data provided by the Department of Human Services to The Tennessean. (Wadhwani, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Citing Huge Patient Load, NY Nurses Seek Rules On Staffing
When the emergency room fills up — whether it's a big accident, flu season or a stroke of misfortune — Brooklyn nurse Rose Green says she can find herself sprinting from room to room, trying to keep ahead of the whims of calamity. She and other nurses from around New York state are urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would set minimum staffing levels for hospitals and nursing homes, a rule that they said would improve patient outcomes by addressing a chronic staffing problem. (Klepper, 2/8)

MetroWeekly: DC Passes Historic Health Care Competency Bill
The D.C. Council approved a first-of-its-kind bill that would require all licenses, certified and registered health care professionals to undergo cultural competency training on health challenges that specifically affect members of the LGBT community. The bill, which passed unanimously, would require health care professionals to receive two credits of instruction on treating and establishing clinical relationships patients who are LGBT, gender nonconforming, or questioning. (Riley, 2/5)

The Chicago Sun-Times: Aldermen Want 'Mental Health Safety Net' In Wake Of Police Shootings
Chicago will face more police shootings that trigger multi-million dollar settlements unless steps are taken to strengthen mental health services devastated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2012 decision to close six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics, aldermen argued Wednesday. One week after Emanuel stepped up crisis intervention training for Chicago Police officers and 911 call takers to dramatically improve the city’s response to emergencies involving people suffering from mental illness, eight aldermen argued that the mayor’s response was nowhere near enough. (Spielman, 2/5)

St. Louis Public Radio: PhD Student Grinds Up Antiacids And Stops Tumor Growth In Mice (Sort Of)
A Ph.D. student at Washington University’s School of Medicine has published the results of a surprising discovery: Calcium carbonate, the common compound found in antacids like Tums, can be used to stop tumor growth in mice. Here’s how it works: Cancer tumors need an acidic environment to survive. Calcium carbonate, on the other hand, is a base. In a swimming pool, bases can counteract acidity to neutralize the pH of the water and make it safe to swim. (Bouscaren, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Hospitals Launch Ad Campaign Ahead Of Vote
The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association has launched a new statewide ad campaign aimed at defeating legislation it says would put smaller, rural hospitals out of business. Association spokesman Julian Walker said the TV and radio campaign was “substantial” and running exclusively in rural communities. Some Republican lawmakers and tea party groups are pushing legislation that would curtail much of the certificate of public need program, which requires government approval for new or expanded health care facilities. (2/9)

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