KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Calif. Releases End-Of-Life Prescription Guidelines; Pa. Regulator Takes Aim At Costly ‘Surprise’ Bills

News outlets report on health care developments in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nebraska, Arizona, Alabama, Minnesota, Kansas and Illinois.

Los Angeles Times: Guidelines Issued For California's Assisted Suicide Law
With the state’s assisted death law taking effect in months, the California Medical Assn. on Tuesday issued guidelines to physicians on writing prescriptions of lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill patients. The 15-page guide details the complicated legal and medical path that doctors must take before they can authorize medication to hasten a patient’s death, and helps physicians understand their legal rights to participate or not participate based on their own moral or religious values. (McGreevy, 1/19)

The Associated Press: Insurance Regulator Eyes An End To 'Surprise' Medical Bills
Pennsylvania’s insurance regulator is floating a proposal to protect people against expensive medical bills at out-of-network rates, including emergency care. Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said Tuesday her goal is to take consumers out of billing disputes between insurers and health care providers. Under her proposal, the consumer would be liable for nothing more than they would pay a provider for an in-network service. Providers and insurers would have to work out any additional payment, if there’s anything beyond that. (1/19)

The Orlando Sentinel: Average Florida Smoker Spends $1.45M In Lifetime, Study Says
The dangers of smoking tobacco are well-documented, but it can be just as deadly to your bank account. Personal finance website WalletHub.com has released a study calculating the cost of smoking in a lifetime for smokers in each state. The study took potential monetary losses like the cumulative cost of a cigarette pack per day over several decades, health-care costs, income losses and other costs to come up with the figures. (Mauney, 1/19)

The Associated Press: Arizona Democrat Introduces Death With Dignity Measure
A Democratic lawmaker has introduced a bill granting terminally ill patients the right to take their own lives with prescription life-ending drugs. The measure by Sen. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny, says patients with an incurable disease and six months left to live can request medication to end their lives under the care of a physician. The measure specifies patients must provide oral and written confirmation of their decision. It also makes it a felony to tamper with forge or destroy evidence relating to a patient's decision. (Velzner and Christie, 1/19)

NPR: Small Alabama County Offers Cash Amid Struggle To Stop Tuberculosis Spread
There's only one health department in Alabama where people can go to be tested for tuberculosis. That's in Perry County, where an outbreak claimed three lives in 2015. For every 100,000 people there, 253 would be infected; normally in Alabama it's only 2.5. Now, health officials are trying to get handle on the disease. But it hasn't been easy, so officials there decided to take a new approach ... To identify carriers of the disease, the health department last week started paying people to come into the clinic - $20 for a screening, $20 to come back for results, another $20 for a chest x-ray. (Douban, 1/19)

WABE: Grady Memorial Hospital Settles Over Alleged ADA Violations
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta has reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office over allegations that the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation when it received a complaint alleging Grady failed to provide the appropriate aids and services necessary to ensure effective communication. (Such, 1/19)

The Pioneer Press: Fairview Hospital System Becomes Sole Owner Of Insured PreferredOne
Hospital chain Fairview announced Monday that it has purchased insurance company PreferredOne, the latest example of integration between health care providers and insurers. PreferredOne will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Fairview Health Services, and the insurer's president and CEO David Crosby will remain as PreferredOne's leader, according to a news release Monday. (Montgomery, 1/18)

The Lawrence Journal-World: Douglas County Commission To Consider Ambulance Rate Increase
Douglas County commissioners are scheduled to consider a resolution Wednesday that would increase ambulance rates for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical. Commissioners were informed last month about the plan, which the Lawrence City Commission also will be asked to approve, to increase ambulance fees for 2016, 2017 and 2018. When the last of the increases becomes effective in 2018, rates will be 25 percent higher than present. (Jones, 1/19)

The Chicago Tribune: Land Of Lincoln Drops U. Of C. Medical Center; Customers Claim 'Bait And Switch'
Land of Lincoln Health, a struggling Chicago health insurer, will drop the University of Chicago's medical center and affiliated doctors from its insurance network March 1, an unexpected change that has upset some customers. The move comes after some customers bought coverage at the end of last year from Land of Lincoln because their University of Chicago doctors were in the network at the time. Members who want to keep their U. of C. physicians anyway will face higher out-of-pocket costs with Land of Lincoln. (Sachdev, 1/19)

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