KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Mass. Fight Against High Drug Costs; Kansas May Drop IG For Private Medicaid Plans

New outlets report on health care developments in Massachusetts, Kansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota, Colorado, North Carolina, California and Florida.

Modern Healthcare: Could Massachusetts Have The Tool To Fix High Drug Costs
Congress Thursday will weigh in once again on the ongoing saga surrounding drug prices and the CEOs who set them. But experts say one state official may have found a way to combat the high costs of drugs by using consumer protection laws. A potential lawsuit in Massachusetts against drugmaker Gilead over its costly hepatitis C drugs could, if successful, forge a new path for states, which in recent months have actively fought high drug costs, even as Congress has ramped up its own efforts. (Schencker, 2/3)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Senate Votes To Eliminate KanCare Inspector General
The state’s $3 billion privatized Medicaid system has been without an inspector general for more than a year. The Kansas Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would eliminate the position. Senate Bill 182 as originally introduced would have changed the inspector general position for the program known as KanCare from classified to unclassified. Officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment requested that change to allow them to offer a higher salary because they said they were struggling to find qualified candidates at the classified salary level. (Marso, 3/3)

The Connecticut Mirror: Advocates Say Social Service, Mental Health Cuts Will Hurt
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget calls for cutting funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, hospitals, community health centers, school-based health clinics, asthma treatment, and respite programs for those who care for people with dementia – and counts on millions more in unspecified cuts to health care and social service systems that advocates say are already stretched thin. (Levin Becker, 2/3)

Minnesota Public Radio: Feds Overpaid U Medical Center By At Least $3.2M
The federal government overpaid University of Minnesota Medical Center by at least $3.2 million between 2012 and 2013, according to a report released Wednesday by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services. The feds analyzed 255 inpatient and outpatient claims from the U's medical center and found about half did not fully comply with Medicare billing requirements. (Cox, 2/3)

The Denver Post: Public Money For Colorado Kids With Disabilities Goes Toward Lobbying
Nearly $600,000 in public funds for people with developmental disabilities instead goes to a trade association whose lobbying at the state Capitol has resulted in a contentious relationship with parents of children with disabilities. Parents whose young or adult children have developmental and intellectual delays have simmered for years knowing that lobbyists receive a portion of government funds dispensed for therapy, respite care, wheelchair ramps and bathroom renovations. (Brown, 1/31)

The Boston Globe: AG Investigates 12 Home Health Agencies As Home Health Costs Rise
State officials, hit with a surge in spending on home health care services, have asked Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate providers that they suspect of submitting fraudulent bills. Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services referred a dozen agencies to the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Division after reviewing internal data and fielding consumer complaints that pointed to possible fraud. Officials did not name the agencies. (Dayal McCluskey, 2/3)

The Denver Post: Swedish Medical Center Patients At Risk Of HIV, Hepatitis
Swedish Medical Center is asking about 2,900 patients to get tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C after discovering that a former employee may have stolen narcotic pain medicines. Sgt. Brian Cousineau of the Englewood Police Department said police are investigating 28-year-old Rocky Allen. The surgical technologist worked in operating rooms at the hospital from Aug. 17 to Jan. 22, officials said Wednesday, and could have put at risk patients who had surgery during that time. (Olinger and Hernandez, 2/3)

North Carolina Health News: Appalachian Community Health Centers To Open After Delays
Initially scheduled to open in Asheville last fall, Western North Carolina’s newest community health center has seen substantial delays, but the facility’s director says he expects it to open Feb. 8. After a two-year process, Appalachian Mountain had been awarded status as a federally qualified health center – independent nonprofit organizations that provide care to “medically underserved populations/areas or special medically underserved populations comprised of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, the homeless or residents of public housing,” according to HRSA guidelines. (Williams, 3/4)

The Sacramento Bee: California Voters Favor Taxes, Labels For Sugary Drinks
Proponents of limiting the consumption of sugary drinks have mostly fallen short in the political arena in recent years, but Californians are largely supportive of their efforts. A new Field Poll, sponsored by The California Endowment, found that overwhelming majorities of voters favor taxing and putting safety warnings on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, proposals that advocates argue would help reduce health conditions such as diabetes. (Koseff, 2/3)

Modern Healthcare: Broward Health Under FBI, State Probes After CEO's Suicide
Broward Health reportedly is under two investigations, one federal, another state, that have come to light after the recent suicide of the system's CEO. The FBI is looking into claims of corruption following evidence gathered by a corporate private investigator allegedly hired by Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, according to a not-for-profit investigative journalism organization. (Sandler, 2/3)

North Carolina Health News: Yadkin County Awarded Damages And Fees For Hospital Closure
A federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina last week ruled that the former operator of the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital must pay $36,080 in costs and $112,012 in attorneys’ fees to Yadkin County for closing the hospital when a temporary restraining order was in effect. Judge Terrence Boyle ruled in June of last year that HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc., the Missouri-based former operator of Yadkin Valley Community Hospital, and its parent company, CAH Acquisition Company 10 LLC, must pay the county for expenses incurred from the date the hospital was shut down, May 22 of last year, till it should reopen, but not to exceed July 31 of last year. That’s the date the contract between the county and CAH was due to expire. (Sisk, 2/31)

The Miami Herald: Making Sense Of Florida House's Free-Market Healthcare Push
Lawmakers this year are looking to free-market economics to shape the future of healthcare in Florida. Republican leaders in the Florida House are pushing for an array of new laws that would cut regulations and negate insurance hurdles — from letting patients negotiate payment plans directly with their doctors to eliminating a statewide licensing program for hospitals. (Auslen, 3/3)

The Associated Press: FTC Shuts Down Diet-Pill Distributor For Alleged Fake Claims
A Glendale, California, company shut down 10 months ago will pay about $10 million to settle claims by the Federal Trade Commission that it wildly exaggerated the results of its diet supplements, used fake endorsements from people like Oprah Winfrey and hired marketers to send millions of spam emails. FTC Midwest Region attorney Matthew H. Wernz said the $43 million settlement allows $33 million to be suspended if the defendants comply with conditions of the settlement. If they fail to comply, the full amount will be reinstated. (2/3)

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