KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Governors Focus On Opioid Abuse; Mass. Court To Hear Nursing Home Case

News outlets report on health issues in Massachusetts, Ohio, Maryland, South Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Indiana, Florida and California.

The New York Times: Pivotal Nursing Home Suit Raises a Simple Question: Who Signed the Contract?
[I]n September 2009, [Elizabeth] Barrow was found dead at a local [Massachusetts] nursing home, strangled and suffocated, with a plastic shopping bag over her head. The killer, the police said, was her 97-year-old roommate. ... More than six years after the killing, Mrs. Barrow’s only son, Scott, is still trying to hold the nursing home accountable. “The woman had a history of problems,” Mr. Barrow said of the roommate in an interview this month. “She should not have been living in that room with my mother.” Mr. Barrow was barred from taking Brandon Woods to court in 2010 because his mother’s contract with the nursing home contained a clause that forced any dispute, even one over wrongful death, into private arbitration. (Corkery and Silver-Greenberg, 2/21)

The Cleveland Dispatch: Suicides In Nursing Homes Hard To Track, Prevent
Suicides among older adults remain disturbingly high despite improved screening and treatment for depression. And although there is growing awareness about suicide, the one area in which it is less documented, not very well understood and much more hidden is in nursing homes, advocates say. (Pyle, 2/22)

The Washington Post: Agonizing Over The Right To Die
Maryland, a state where lawmakers abolished the death penalty and made same-sex marriage legal, would seem fertile ground for an aid-in-dying bill. But the state also has deep Catholic roots and a large African American population, and both of those communities have long opposed assisted suicide for the terminally ill. At a hearing Friday on a bill that would make Maryland the sixth state to legalize aid in dying, dozens of witnesses waited hours to testify. There were terminal patients who said they deserve the option to legally end their lives and caregivers who described loved ones committing suicide to cut short their suffering. There were religious leaders and disability advocates who argued that “every life” is precious, and a young woman who survived brain cancer as a child after doctors said she had little time to live. (Wiggins, 2/20)

Stateline: Coverage For Autism Treatment Varies By State
Since 2001, 44 states have begun requiring some insurance plans to cover ABA for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. But the rules are all different, making for uneven coverage across states. Autism Speaks, a national nonprofit, estimates that 36 percent of Americans have access to autism coverage. The mandates don’t apply to those companies, often large, that insure their own workers. In some states, small businesses are not required to offer coverage. Depending on the state, coverage may be available to state employees, Medicaid recipients and people purchasing insurance in the marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. (Fifield, 2/19)

The Associated Press: Review: SC Medicaid Agency Exposed Data To Cybertheft Risk
A four-decade-old computer system and poor safety measures at South Carolina's Medicaid agency exposed the personal health information of roughly 1 million residents to risk of cybertheft, according to a federal report released Friday. The findings by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General include that the Medicaid agency did not — at the time of its evaluation in 2013 — have a security plan for its computer system, had no encryption for laptops and had not properly trained employees. The report purposefully did not give specifics. (Adcox, 2/19)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: SEPTA Transportation For Seniors And Disabled Not Working For Many
There was something familiar about James Williams' hushed cellphone conversation in my lung doctor's office. "It's just a few blocks," he said. "She can't walk that far," he said. Finally: "I waited 25 minutes on the phone for you to tell me you can't do anything?" While his mother was being seen by the doctor, Williams told me he'd been talking to SEPTA's Customized Community Transport (CCT Connect), which provides transportation to elderly and disabled residents. Except when it doesn't. (Ubinas, 2/19)

St. Louis Public Radio: St. Louis County Police Add Heroin Overdose Antidote To Patrol Cars
Until now, when St. Louis County Police Officer Kevin Magnan responded to an opiate overdose call there wasn’t much he could do except wait for the paramedics to arrive. “You’re seeing a body that’s barely moving. Sometimes their eyes are open sometimes they’re not. And you’re not really sure what to do,” said Magnan, who works as a patrol officer in Jennings. ... Magnan and about thirty other St. Louis County police officers learned how to administer the heroin antidote Narcan Thursday. He and his fellow trainees have been tasked with passing that training — and their precincts' new Narcan kits — on to the rest of the officers in their precincts. (Phillips, 2/19)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Inspira In Home Care Venture With Bayada
Inspira Health Network filed a state layoff notice affecting 105 home-care and hospice employees as it prepares for a joint venture with Bayada Home Health Care covering Cumerland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties. Inspira spokesman Greg Potter said Thursday that the Inspira employees would be interviewed for Bayada jobs, but "there may be some who don't fit into the joint venture." (Brubaker, 2/19)

Health News Florida: Fecal Transplant Programs Coming Online
C. Diff causes severe diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain and a fever, and was associated with 29,000 deaths in 2011. It earned the moniker "deadly diarrhea" from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The use of stool transplants to treat recurrent cases is a growing field in the U.S. Florida Hospital plans to launch a stool transplant program by the end of this month, and it’s currently a hot topic for researchers. (Aboraya, 2/18)

Los Angeles Times: A Milder 'B' Strain Might Be Keeping California's Flu Numbers Low
Though more people in California have been falling sick with the flu in the past few weeks, the season so far is proving milder than in recent years. Experts suggest several reasons: the available vaccine is a good match for the flu strains going around, the virus may not be spreading rapidly because of unusually warm weather, and the outbreak might not have peaked yet. (Karlamangla, 2/19)

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