KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Ore. Health System Begins Lay-Off Process; Mass. Lags On Telemedicine Advances

Media outlets report on news from Oregon, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, California, Kansas, Florida, New York, Wisconsin and Ohio.

The Oregonian: Providence Lays Off 210, Plans Continued Cost-Cutting 
Providence Health & Services began a series of layoffs last week as the giant health system attempts to bring its costs in line with revenue. Across the company's seven-state territory, 210 jobs were eliminated or soon will be. The cutbacks included 40 in Oregon, Providence spokesman Gary Walker said. That's a relatively tiny layoff, percentage-wise. Providence is one of the largest health systems in the country with more than 111,000 employees. The company is also choosing not to fill certain administrative positions. (Manning, 8/23)

New Hampshire Union Leader: VA Medical Center Panel Panned 
A task force to recommend changes at the Manchester VA Medical Center has yet to be formed, but members of the state’s congressional delegation want at least one of the medical center whistleblowers to serve on that committee. Doctors and nurses who went public with their concerns about conditions at the medical center were disappointed on Aug. 6 when Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin announced the formation of the task force, with Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith as its chairman. (Solomon, 8/23)

Baltimore Sun: Around The Park: Urgent Care Clinics Provide Health Care Alternative 
With only a sprinkling of primary care medical practices in the community, Severna Park residents have often sought care elsewhere. But, recently, three urgent care clinics have popped up within a mile of each other to offer patients a range of medical services. They are: Priority Care Urgent Medical Care, 550 Ritchie Highway in Park Plaza; Choice One Urgent Care, 500-B Ritchie Highway at the corner of Robinson Road; and WiseCare Urgent Care in the Severna Park Market Center, 485 Ritchie Highway. (Tegler, 8/24)

Los Angeles Times: Under State Mandate, Glendale Unified Adopts Policy On Suicide Prevention
Secondary teachers in the Glendale Unified School District must take part in mandatory training about suicide awareness this school year, specifically addressing youth with mental disabilities, those facing homelessness or those who are part of the LGBTQ community. The training comes after Assembly Bill 2246 put forth a mandate requiring school districts adopt a policy on suicide prevention for students in seventh through 12th grades, local school officials said last week. (Vega, 8/23)

KCUR: New Health Care Center Helping To Fill Void After Closure Of Southeast Kansas Hospital 
Nearly two years after Mercy Hospital closed its doors, the southeast Kansas town of Independence is still without a hospital. But it may have the next best thing: a new state-of-the-art clinic with an emergency room and a small cancer treatment center. The nearly $8 million Independence Healthcare Center operates as an extension of Labette Health, a regional hospital about 30 miles to the east in Parsons. (McLean, 8/23)

The Baltimore Sun: St. Agnes Healthcare Settles Medicare Overbilling Allegation 
St. Agnes Healthcare will pay $122,928 to resolve claims that it overbilled Medicare for services performed by cardiologists of a specialty practice acquired by the health system, according to a settlement announced by the office of the U.S. Attorney for Maryland. According to the allegations, Baltimore-based St. Agnes billed Medicare for the evaluation and management of patients by 12 doctors at the practice formerly known as MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates, which was acquired by St. Agnes in 2011. The doctors became St. Agnes employees and continued to provide services to their patients through Maryland Cardiovascular Specialists, a practice affiliated with the health system. (Cohn, 8/23)

The Wall Street Journal: AbleTo Raises $36.6 Million For Digital Behavioral Health Platform
New York City-based AbleTo Inc., which makes a digital platform to connect individuals with licensed therapists and coaches, has closed $36.6 million in Series D funding led by Bain Capital Ventures. The company, which was founded in 2008, works with employers and health plans to offer support to employees who have medical conditions that may be associated with—or exacerbated by—underlying behavioral health issues. (Mack, 8/23)

San Jose Mercury News: California Drinking Water Could Soon Be Taxed
For the first time Californians would pay a tax on drinking water — 95 cents per month — under legislation aimed at fixing hundreds of public water systems with unsafe tap water. Senate Bill 623, backed by a strange-bedfellows coalition of the agricultural lobby and environmental groups but opposed by water districts, would generate $2 billion over the next 15 years to clean up contaminated groundwater and improve faulty water systems and wells. (Murphy, 8/23)

Boston Globe: Ouster Of Hospital CEO Roils Martha Vineyard
Locals embraced the CEO’s open style in leading the hospital, which has just 25 beds but is considered vital to the island. But in a move that stunned residents, the board of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital fired Woo-din this summer, just over a year into his tenure, without explaining why. (Dayal McCluskey, 8/23)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Falls Mom Wants Heart-Safe Schools After Daughter's Near-Death Experience
Last school year, with the help of the American Heart Association and the Menomonee Falls Fire Department, Dana went into five of the six schools in Menomonee Falls, and all of the teachers who did not already have CPR certification learned hands-only CPR. Making the change to certify at least 10 percent of teachers in CPR/AED training will earn the Menomonee Falls School District a Project ADAM heart safe designation. (Seemuth, 8/23)

San Francisco Chronicle: State Sen. Wiener Urges Supes To Not Pass Pot Permit Moratorium
State Sen. Scott Wiener criticized a San Francisco Board of Supervisors proposal to temporarily halt permits of new cannabis dispensaries, saying it would “send a terrible message statewide.” Wiener, a former supervisor who is among the city’s most prominent moderate politicians, generally avoids taking stances on city issues. (Swan and Fracassa, 8/23)

State House News Service: Gov. Baker Taps State Sen. Flanagan For His Cannabis Control Commission Pick
Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, a Leominster Democrat, will resign her seat at the end of the month to become one of five members of the new Cannabis Control Commission, tapped by Gov. Charlie Baker to help take on the responsibility of regulating the burgeoning recreational marijuana industry and licensing retail pot shops. Flanagan, who voted against the 2016 ballot question legalizing pot for adults and has made mental health and substance abuse issues her main focus in the Legislature, will assume her new duties on Sept. 1. (Murphy, 8/23)

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