KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Cigarette Sales Plummet As Calif. Tax Goes Into Effect; Minn. Health Department Requests Special Funds To Fight Measles Outbreak

Media outlets report on news from California, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas and Ohio.

San Jose Mercury News: Early Returns Suggest Smoking Drop In Response To State Tax
Cigarette pack “distributions”—tax lingo for a pack of cigarettes typically sold from a distributor to a retailer, and a good proxy for consumption—dropped 56 percent year-over-year in the two months following the tax increase, according to data obtained from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and analyzed by CALmatters. That’s a decline of nearly 82 million packs. (Levin, 7/10)

USA Today: Chicago Becomes Latest Battleground Over Soft Drink Taxes
Chicagoans are getting a break when it comes to paying a soft drink tax -- but it may not last. A penny-an-ounce soda pop tax was slated to take effect on July 1, but its imposition was put off by a local judge after the state retail merchants association and a group of local grocers challenged its legality. On Tuesday, the judge is expected to set a date for a hearing. (Meyer, 7/11)

California Healthline: Blue Shield Improperly Denied Mental Health, Drug Treatment Claims, Suit Alleges
Blue Shield of California and its claims administrator wrongly restricted patients’ access to outpatient and residential mental health treatment, a class-action lawsuit says. Initially filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the complaint comes from two parents who allege their teenage children were repeatedly denied coverage under their employer-based plans despite serious mental and substance abuse problems. In June, a federal district judge granted a request for class-action status, meaning that patients whose claims were rejected under similar circumstances may join as plaintiffs. (Korry, 7/11)

Houston Chronicle: Health-Care Turmoil Brings Leadership Turnover In Houston, Across US 
After Michael Covert submitted his resignation as CEO of the St. Luke's Health System last month, the initial announcement came not from his Houston bosses, but from the Colorado headquarters of its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives. The internal email, sent to Catholic Health CEOs around the nation and absent customary expressions of thanks, widely was interpreted as evidence the move was driven by the national office, unhappy about St. Luke's multimillion-dollar losses. (Ackerman, 7/10)

Nashville Tennessean: Nashville's Metro Council Kills Latest Attempt To Cut Lifetime Health Benefits
For the fourth time in five years, a committee in Nashville's Metro Council voted last week to keep intact the city's controversial policy that gives lifetime health benefits to former council members, killing a plan to cut the generous perk. At-large Councilman Bob Mendes introduced an ordinance to reduce Metro's subsidy for lifetime health insurance that is reserved for former two-term council members after they leave office. But against his will, the council's Budget and Finance Committee last Wednesday voted to indefinitely defer the legislation, effectively killing the bill before it went to the full council. (Garrison, 7/10)

Kansas City Star: Children's Mercy To Bring Social Workers To Blue Valley Schools
Starting this school year, 19 masters-level social workers and one supervisor hired by Children’s Mercy will begin work at Blue Valley schools. The partnership marks a new venture for a hospital system interested in expanding its school-based services in the community, as well as a beneficial hiring solution for a school district that hosts 22,000 students but has only employed around a half dozen school social workers in the past decade. (Bergen, 7/10)

Sacramento Bee: Homeless Population Rises Sharply In Sacramento And Suburbs
The number of unsheltered homeless in the county skyrocketed by 85 percent in recent years, making up nearly half of the increase in overall numbers. About 800 of those are chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for more than a year or have had multiple bouts of homelessness in the past three years, and have a mental, physical or developmental disability that keeps them from working. (Chabria, Hubert, Lillis and Garrison, 7/10)

Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Marijuana Sellers Face High State Fees To Run Business
Potential medical marijuana dispensary owners in Ohio will have to shell out some green to sell some green if the latest round of suggested dispensary fees become law. Prospective business owners may have to pay more than $75,000 in state fees, and that’s before factoring in costs of a storefront, product or employee salaries. (Keiper, 7/11)

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