KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Minn. Nurses Union Helps Pay Patients’ Medical Debts; Head Of Colo.’s State Mental Hospital Resigns

Media outlets report on health-related news from Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.

The Star Tribune: Minnesota Nurses Raise Money To Pay Off Medical Debts Of 1,800 Patients
Roughly 1,800 patients will see $2.6 million in medical debts disappear because of charitable payments by the Minnesota Nurses Association, the union that represents hospital nurses throughout the state. The union announced on Thursday that it would pay off the patients’ debts in conjunction with the anniversary of a strike by its nurses against five Allina Health hospitals in the Twin Cities. (Olson, 6/15)

Denver Post: Head Of Colorado State Mental Hospital Resigns As Hospital Is Placed On “Termination Track” 
The head of Colorado’s state mental institution has resigned in the midst of a staffing shortage that resulted in federal regulators determining the Pueblo hospital poses an “immediate and serious threat to the health and safety” of its 449 patients. Officials at the Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees the hospital, would not say whether the resignation of Superintendent Ron Hale is related to the hospital’s numerous deficiencies, described in two recent federal reviews. He will stay until July 9, to “ensure a smooth transition,” state officials said. (Brown, 6/15)

Georgia Health News: State Agency To Monitor Blue Cross Rule On ER Use
Blue Cross recently told policyholders that starting in July, it will stop covering ER visits it considers to have been unnecessary. The health insurer, Georgia’s largest, said it’s pursuing the move, involving its coverage of individual policies, due to the costs of routine primary care being administered in an ER setting. (Miller, 6/15)

Houston Chronicle: Six Pregnant Women In Harris County Test Positive For Zika 
Six pregnant women in Harris County have tested positive for Zika, the first cases of the mosquito-borne disease to be reported locally in 2017. All of the women have since delivered their babies, but it is not yet known if any of the children were born with the birth defects that can be caused by the virus, said a spokesman for Legacy Community Health, a southeast Texas network of clinics where the women were initially tested. (Ackerman, 6/15)

Boston Globe: These Startups Want To Save You A Trip To The Drugstore 
Since the company was founded in 2013, it has raised about $118 million in funding, built a highly automated pharmacy in Manchester, N.H., and grown to more than 500 employees. Along with another Boston startup, ZappRx, it hopes to eliminate the familiar headache of driving to the drugstore and standing in line, only to find that someone forgot to do something, and the crinkly white bag isn’t there waiting for you. (Kirsner, 6/16)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Troubled Mount Laurel Nursing Home Closing Next Month
Mount Laurel Center for Rehabilitation & Healthcare, a South Jersey nursing home that has been on a list of the nation’s most troubled facilities for 19 months without showing improvement, said it has lost its Medicare and Medicaid certifications and will close next month...Patient transfers are expected to be completed by July 16, when Medicare and Medicaid payments will stop for patients admitted before Friday. No federal payments will be made for patients admitted after Friday. (Brubaker, 6/15)

Austin American-Statesman: Austin City Council Places Julie Oliver On Central Health Board
The council voted to approve the appointment of Julie Oliver in a 6-5 vote after a closed session discussion. Council Members Ora Houston, Jimmy Flannigan, Ann Kitchen, Delia Garza, Kathie Tovo and Ellen Troxclair voted for the appointment. Her appointment had raised some eyebrows due to her position as division controller at St. David’s HealthCare, a competitor of Seton Healthcare Family, which partners with Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district. (Goldenstein, 6/15)

San Francisco Chronicle: Most Bay Area Beaches Are Free From Harmful Bacteria, Report Says 
The bathing-suit-and-bikini set can splash around happily knowing they are unlikely to get sick frolicking in the water at Bay Area beaches, all but one of which are free of harmful bacteria and pollution, according to a statewide beach report card released Thursday. But the one that didn’t make the grade — Marina Lagoon, in the Lakeshore Park area of San Mateo County — is pretty icky, getting an F for water quality and a No. 4 spot on the environmental group Heal the Bay’s Top 10 Beach Bummer list for California. (Fimrite, 6/25)

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