KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Calif. To Step Up Scrutiny Of Hospitals With High Rates Of Patient Infections; Fla. Lawmakers Poised Take On Hospital Deregulation, Funding

Outlets report on news from California, Florida, Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Georgia.

Los Angeles Times: State To Step Up Inspections At Hospitals With High Infection Rates
After complaints that the state is doing little to stop deadly hospital outbreaks, the California Department of Public Health said this week that it would prioritize inspections at those facilities with high rates of patient infections. The state disclosed the changes in a Tuesday letter to Consumers Union. The national nonprofit group had filed a petition with the state early this year listing scores of hospitals with abnormally high infection rates that had not been inspected in five years. (Petersen, 3/1)

Tampa Bay Times: For A Better Florida: Florida Lawmakers To Tackle Medical Marijuana, Hospital Funding
The Florida Legislature stands poised to address some hot-button issues in health care this session, including hospital deregulation and funding... In November, more than 70 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing people with "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana as prescribed by a doctor. Before then, only cancer patients and people with intractable seizures could use the drug legally. (McGrory, 3/1)

Health News Florida: Results Mixed In States That Stopped Requiring Approval For New Hospitals 
When officials at Nemours Children’ Hospital in Orlando tried to establish a pediatric heart transplant center they learned how restricting a state law regulating the opening of new health facilities can be. The so-called certificate of need regulations have come under fire from legislators who want to improve competition in the health care industry. The rules forced the hospital to prove that the state needed a fifth heart transplant center. (Ochoa, 3/1)

KCUR: Kansas Nursing Home A Model For Cutting Antipsychotic Use Among Dementia Patients 
Kansas continues to rank among the worst states when it comes to sedating nursing home residents with powerful antipsychotic drugs. Janell Wohler and Kate Rieth of the Linn Community Nursing Home told their colleagues Tuesday that it doesn’t have to be that way. Wohler is the administrator and Rieth is the director of nursing at the facility, which has eliminated off-label use of antipsychotics for residents over the last five years. Rieth said it’s a matter of educating staff to look for the underlying reasons behind residents’ non-compliant behavior and addressing those, rather than reaching for a phone to call a doctor who can prescribe a “chemical restraint.” (Marso, 3/1)

KCUR: Missouri Lawmakers Debate Whether Pregnancy Resource Centers Must Provide Science-Backed Information 
You don’t have to drive far in Missouri to see billboards offering help to pregnant women. They’re part of the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program, which has seen a big increase in public funding in recent years.This year’s legislative debate on the program focuses on a new question: What kind of information should these centers provide to women?...The Alternatives to Abortion program does not require centers to have medically trained staff or provide medically accurate information. And a 2012 survey by the abortion rights group NARAL found that many of the centers in the St. Louis area provided inaccurate or misleading information about the risks of abortions. (Smith, 3/2)

Texas Tribune: Texas House, Senate Unanimously Pass Measures Overhauling Child Welfare System 
Texas legislators from both chambers unanimously passed bills on Wednesday that would change how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services cares for vulnerable children. The simultaneous debates in both chambers came as advocates have pushed for months for lawmakers to take drastic measures to fix the state’s broken child welfare system. Gov. Greg Abbott announced the issue as one of four emergency items during his State of the State address in January. (Evans, 3/1)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Public To Pay: In Biggest Insurer Failure Ever, Pa. Liquidates $4.6B Long-Term-Care Firm
After eight years of legal struggle among state regulators, investors, and policyholders, Commonwealth Court Judge Hannah Leavitt signed off on a plan Wednesday to liquidate Penn Treaty Network America Insurance Co. and its affiliate, American Network Insurance Co. of Allentown. The decision leaves solvent insurers, their owners, and customers to pick up the cost for more than 70 percent of the up to $4.6 billion in projected long-term-care claims expected for 76,000 aging Penn Treaty customers nationwide. (DiStefano, 3/1)

Detroit Free Press: Bonus, Pay Surpasses $10M For Blue Cross CEO; Some Rates Could Dip
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's chief executive saw his bonus jump last year as the health insurance giant saw better financial results and is now planning to lower rates for its small businesses coverage. Total compensation for Daniel Loepp, CEO of Blue Cross since 2006, hit $10.9 million in 2016, up from $9 million in 2015. His specific compensation was $1.5 million in base salary, $8.3 million in bonuses and $1 million in "other" compensation, such as car allowance and life insurance, company officials said. (Reindl, 3/1)

San Francisco Chronicle: California Health Officials Fire Contractor In HIV Drug Program 
The California Department of Public Health fired an out-of-state contractor Wednesday that had taken over part of a program designed to help people pay for HIV drugs, months after advocacy groups complained that management problems were interfering with patients’ access to life-saving medications. The abrupt ouster of the state’s contract with Michigan-based A.J. Boggs surprised patient advocates, many of whom learned about the change on a state conference call Wednesday morning. A termination letter was sent to A.J. Boggs just before the meeting. (Allday, 3/1)

Austin (Texas) American-Statesman: Family Of Toddler Who Died During Dentist Procedure Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The parents of a 14-month-old girl who died during a dental procedure last year have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the procedure was unnecessary and an attempt to “line the pockets” of Austin Children’s Dentistry with Medicaid funds. ... According to the suit filed in Travis County district court Tuesday, Torres was taken to the dentist to have two cavities filled by Michael Melanson. ... “After (Torres) was under, Melanson came out and indicated to her mother that for Daisy’s well-being, he needed to perform multiple pulpotomies, or baby root canals, and then place crowns on four of her eight total teeth — baby teeth,” the suit said. According to the document, Melanson told Squire the procedure was normal and necessary, then went back into the room. ... The suit alleges that Torres’ procedure was only done because it was covered by Medicaid, and that no sign of disease was evident in dental radiographs taken on the day Torres died. (Wilson, 3/1)

KVUE (Austin, Texas): Parents Of Toddler Who Died During Dentist Visit File Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Attorney Sean Breen is representing the family and said that the suit serves two purposes. One, to be a voice for Daisy Lynn and two, to get others to pay attention to what he calls a "problem." "The problem is that around the country, Dentists and dental clinics are committing fraud - Medicaid fraud. They're doing procedures that aren't necessary and they're collecting money from it. Not everyone dies from that, but Daisy Lynne Torres did." ... Austin Children Dentistry's attorney said they are aware of the lawsuit, but will not comment on pending litigation. (3/1)

Texas Tribune: Lawmaker Wants To Give Texas Psychologists Power To Write Prescriptions
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, said his bill aims to address the state's shortage of psychiatrists, currently the only mental health doctors allowed prescription privileges. House Bill 593 would grant psychologists a prescriptive authority certificate, but only after they’ve been supervised for a year by a licensed physician and completed a postdoctoral training program in psychopharmacology, among other requirements. (Samuels, 3/2)

Chicago Tribune: Moeller Overseeing Hearing On Changes To In-Home Care For Seniors 
In her role chairing the House Aging Committee, State Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) will be overseeing a hearing March 9 on a proposal that would change the mechanism through which thousands of Illinois senior citizens receive home care.The plan put forward would create a two-tiered system out of the current Illinois Department on Aging's Community Care Program, which is designed to help seniors stay living in their own homes as long as they can. (Danahey, 3/1)

Texas Tribune: Businesses Line Up Against Dan Patrick's High-Priority Insurance Bill
Major business interests are lining up against one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s top priorities — a bill that would make it harder for Texans to force their insurance companies to pay up when calamity strikes. Patrick and his allies say the bill, Senate Bill 10, is needed to stop greedy trial lawyers from cashing in on hail damage lawsuits. But the word "hail" doesn’t appear anywhere in the legislation, and this week businesses ranging from 7-Eleven to Ryan LLC — founded and led by Republican mega-donor Brint Ryan — conveyed their deep opposition to it in a letter sent to Patrick and other top Republican leaders. (Root, 3/1)

Iowa Public Radio: GOP Bill To Help Entrepreneurial Physicians Stalls 
Governor Branstad’s goal to open up more competition in the health care industry ran into some serious trouble at the statehouse Wednesday. A bill to clear the way for more for-profit health care facilities failed to clear a Republican-dominated panel. The governor wanted to do away with the state’s Certificate of Need program that requires new health care facilities to prove there’s a need for their services. (Russell, 3/1)

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Georgia House Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion
The state House on Wednesday backed a much broader expansion of Georgia’s medical marijuana law, a statement vote after the Senate backed a similar measure that left many advocates unhappy. House Bill 65, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would among other changes double the list of illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. (Torres, 3/1)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.