KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Calif. Legislature Steps Into Tense Fight Over Tobacco Tax; Mass. Agency Finds Avoidable ER Visits Are Driving Up Costs

Media outlets report on news from California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Arizona and Florida.

Los Angeles Times: California Senate, Assembly Advance Their Own Plans On How To Spend Tobacco Tax Revenue
Perhaps the biggest budget skirmish that remains unsolved this year is how California should spend revenue from the tobacco tax voters approved last fall. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to put that money to expand overall spending on Medi-Cal, which provides subsidized healthcare for the poor. But the some of initiative's backers, namely doctor and dental groups, have cried foul, arguing that money is meant to go to increasing payments for providers. (Mason, 5/25)

WBUR: Tip No. 1 For Taking Charge Of Mass. Health Care Costs: Avoid The ER 
Forty-two percent of emergency room visits in Massachusetts in 2015 were for problems that could have been treated by a primary care doctor, according to the state's Health Policy Commission. This state agency, which is charged with driving down costs, says a 5 percent cut in avoidable emergency room trips would save $12 million a year; 10 percent fewer such visits would save $24 million. (Bebinger, 5/25)

The CT Mirror: Advocates: Disabled Children Stranded In CT Hospital ERs 
Insufficient services, a complex funding system and deep state budget cuts have increasingly stranded developmentally disabled children in hospital emergency departments over the past year, often for weeks at a time, two state advocates told legislators Thursday. Sarah Eagan, Connecticut’s child advocate, and Ted Doolittle, the state’s healthcare advocate, said the problem is centered almost exclusively on children with “complex diagnoses,” meaning they face a combination of developmental and intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions. (Phaneuf, 5/25)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Lawmakers Hear Opposition To Lead Amendment From Doctors, Parents, Elected Officials And Healthy Home Advocates
Doctors, parents, city leaders and healthy home advocates took turns Wednesday telling the Ohio Senate Finance subcommittee on Health and Medicaid why they oppose an amendment to the state budget that would strip municipalities of authority to create local efforts to address childhood lead poisoning... Rep. Derek Merrin, a Republican who represents parts of Lucas and Fulton counties, proposed the amendment last month and has argued that a fractured system of rules that change from city-to-city is not only unfair to landlords but doesn't give all children in Ohio equal protection from lead exposure. (Dissell and Zeltner, 5/25)

Los Angeles Times: No One Knows How Many Untested Rape Kits There Are In California. This Bill Aims To Fix That
ens of thousands of rape kits are sitting on shelves in police and sheriff’s department evidence rooms nationwide. And no one has tested them to see what crimes they could help solve. A bill by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would help determine how many of those unanalyzed exam kits exist in California, part of a national backlog that federal officials have grappled with for nearly two decades. (Ulloa, 5/26)

KCUR: Kansas Crisis Centers Say New Law Creates Mental Health Funding Need 
A new law will allow Kansas crisis centers to treat involuntary mental health patients for up to 72 hours, but it isn’t clear if lawmakers will fund it. Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed House Bill 2053, which allows crisis centers to treat people deemed a danger to themselves or others because of a mental health or substance use disorder. The bill had passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 27-12 after some amendments. Lawmakers didn’t allocate funding for additional crisis center beds before they left for the Memorial Day weekend, although they have yet to finalize a budget. (Wingerter, 5/25)

California Healthline: For California Hospitals That Don’t Pass Quake Test, Money’s Mostly At Fault
With a state deadline looming, some California hospitals still need to retrofit or rebuild so that their structures can withstand an earthquake — and money remains a challenge. Some hospital officials are turning to voters to raise money, while others are pursuing more innovative financing schemes.About 7 percent of the state’s hospital buildings — 220 — are still designated as having the highest risk of collapse following an earthquake, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. That’s a slight drop from 251 buildings a year ago. (Ibarra, 5/26)

The Star Tribune: HCMC Seeks To Ease Patient Bottlenecks With New Mental Health Crisis Center
To ease chronic bottlenecks in countywide mental health services, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) is nearing completion of a new 16-bed home that will help people with mental illnesses transition back into the community after acute hospital stays. The Victorian-style home, located at 3633 Chicago Av. in south Minneapolis, will provide short-term housing and treatment for adults who are stable enough to be discharged from a hospital psychiatric unit but who may need more therapy and social support before returning to their regular homes and jobs. (Serres, 5/25)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: She Saved $3,786 By Shopping Her MRI; Here's How You Can Save, Too 
It was only after her doctor recommended she get an abdominal MRI that a New Orleans woman learned just how costly it can be to have a medical procedure without first shopping around. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss her health, said her doctor suggested the MRI to help her understand a hereditary condition that might affect her years from now. A month later, the day before the test, she got a call from Tulane Medical Center asking how she planned to pay for it, she said. (Lipinski and Zurik, 5/25)

Texas Tribune: Behind Closed Doors, Texas Lawmakers Strip Funding For Sex Trafficking Victims
In recent private negotiations between the Texas House and Senate about which public programs to fund and how to fund them, state lawmakers opted to kill a $3 million initiative to rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking. That ended hopes from child welfare advocates that 2017 would be the first year in recent memory in which state lawmakers might set aside funds specifically intended to help victims who were sold for sex. (Waltersn, 5/25)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: AxessPointe Offers Healthcare Clinic For North Hill Refugees, Immigrants 
To serve the refugee community in Akron's North Hill, AxessPointe Community Health Centers will provide a weekly healthcare clinic at the Exchange House. The Exchange House, created by the Better Block Foundation, serves as a community center for the large refugee population, predominantly Bhutanese, which travels mostly on foot and has a large number of children and senior citizens. (Conn, 5/25)

Georgia Health News: Not Just A School Clinic, But A Clinic That’s At A School
Five days a week, a team of nurses and a rotating cadre of pediatricians, nutritionists and dentists at the Gilbert Community Clinic see not just schoolchildren but Walker County residents of all ages... Although the idea of a general medical clinic on the grounds of a public school sounds novel, it’s not a new idea in Georgia. (Park, 5/25)

Georgia Health News: Meals On Wheels: Volunteers Deliver Food As They Fret About Funding
Last year, Meals on Wheels programs brought nearly 4 million meals to 28,000 seniors living in Georgia. But federal support for this program could shrink under President Trump’s proposed budget. If the federal portion of funding for the program is cut, the effects will reverberate in tiny towns like Chickamauga, where Betty Richardson delivers lunches every week. (Male, 5/25)

The Baltimore Sun: Emerging Hopkins Center Harmonizing Music And Medicine 
[Alex] Pantelyat, 34, a Johns Hopkins University neurologist (and, not so incidentally, an accomplished violinist) is a co-founder and co-director of the Center for Music & Medicine, an emerging collaboration between the Johns Hopkins medical community and the Peabody Institute. The mission, he said, is to combine the expertise of faculty members in both camps toward a pair of ends: integrating music and rhythm into medical care and improving the health of musicians worldwide. More than 80 Johns Hopkins faculty members across dozens of disciplines have affiliated themselves with the center, the first of its kind in the eastern United States. (Pitts, 5/26)

Arizona Republic: What To Know As Arizona's Mandatory Paid Sick-Leave Law Takes Effect
Arizona's new law mandating paid sick leave starts July 1, and employers had better be prepared for it. Businesses and non-profit groups could face penalties for failing to keep adequate records or post sufficient notice, and they could incur damages for failing to provide paid sick time. Employers who retaliate against workers exercising their rights could face fines of at least $150 per day, say attorneys at Gallagher & Kennedy, a Phoenix law firm that held a workshop to alert employers of the requirements. (Wiles, 5/25)

Miami Herald: Valley Children's Hospital Has Volunteer Baby Cuddling Program 
Lynne Meccariello, unit support supervisor of the neonatal intensive care unit and a liaison for the hospital’s volunteer services department, describes the cuddling program as providing “developmental care and comfort to babies when their parents can’t be there.” Meccariello says holding a sick baby reduces pain and provides warmth, and the cuddler encourages “self-soothing” – children’s ability to comfort themselves when they aren’t being held. (George, 5/25)

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