KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Public Hospitals Care For Large Share Of New York City’s Mental Health Patients; Calif. Bills Seek To Curb Kids’ Lead Exposure

Media outlets report on news from New York, California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Illinois, Texas, Iowa and Maryland.

The New York Times: Public Hospitals Treat Greater Share Of Mental Health Patients
It has grown into a grim ritual of late in New York City: a burst of violence in which a person with mental illness is the victim or aggressor, followed by the city mapping out breakdowns in care and pledging to stitch the safety net tighter. But the late stages of a sick person’s struggle — medications missed, doctors’ declining last-minute appointments, hospitals that discharge patients with little follow-up care — are often only a coda to years of moving between home and a hospital bed. (Mueller, 8/22)

San Francisco Chronicle: State Bills Seek To Cut Children’s Exposure To Lead
Tests have turned up harmful levels of lead in water fountains and taps at other schools in San Diego and Los Angeles, where the district long ago decided to identify, flush and fix or seal hundreds of contaminated fountains. And in the wake of the much-publicized toxic lead contamination of water in Flint, Mich., a Reuters report revealed dozens of California neighborhoods in which tested children showed elevated levels of lead — a neurotoxin that causes developmental disorders and brain damage. (Aguilera, 8/21)

The Washington Post: Despite Measles Outbreak, Anti-Vaccine Activists In Minnesota Refuse To Back Down
Minnesota’s worst measles outbreak in decades has un­expectedly energized anti-vaccine forces, who have stepped up their work in recent months to challenge efforts by public health officials and clinicians to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease. In Facebook group discussions, local activists have asked about holding “measles parties” to expose unvaccinated children to others infected with the virus so they can contract the disease and acquire immunity. Health officials say they are aware of the message posts but haven’t seen evidence that such parties are taking place. (Sun, 8/21)

Los Angeles Times: There's An Unforeseen Benefit To California's Physician-Assisted Death Law
Some doctors in California felt uncomfortable last year when a new law began allowing terminally ill patients to request lethal medicines, saying their careers had been dedicated to saving lives, not ending them. Many healthcare systems designed protocols for screening people who say they’re interested in physician-assisted death, including some that were meant to dissuade patients from taking up the option. (Karlamangla, 8/21)

New Hampshire Union Leader: Patients Injure 5 State Health Care Workers
Five state health care workers were injured by patients in late June and early July — one at the Sununu Youth Services Center and four at New Hampshire Hospital — in the worst spate of violence at state-run health care facilities since late 2016, the last time such work-related injuries were reported. A youth counselor who tried to break up a July 8 fight at the Sununu Center, and a nurse who was attacked at New Hampshire Hospital on June 26, have still not been able to return to work. (Solomon, 8/22)

Los Angeles Times: USC's Dean Drug Scandal Could Take A Costly Toll On The School's Legal Battle With The UC System
Six months after Dr. Carmen Puliafito stepped down as dean of USC’s medical school, he was called by the university to give sworn testimony as a witness in a lawsuit the institution was facing. It was a sensitive matter with hundreds of millions of dollars potentially at stake, and two attorneys for the university sat with him as he answered questions. Almost immediately, the opposing lawyer hit on a topic that was a closely guarded secret at USC: The circumstances of Puliafito’s abrupt resignation in March 2016. (Ryan, 8/21)

Chicago Tribune: Study Says Aurora Tops In Country For Pediatric Health Care 
Aurora has been named tops in the country for pediatric health care.The ranking comes from Vitals, a national health care incentive and engagement program. It researched the 200 largest American cities to find out which have access to the best and worst pediatric care, according to a press release from the city of Aurora. ... When creating the list of America's Top Cities for Access to Pediatric Care, Vitals analyzed the number of pediatricians available in each city on a per-capita basis for their under-18 population, according to the press release. Patient-reported information such as ease of getting an appointment, pediatrician ratings and wait times were also factored into the final rankings. (8/22)

New Hampshire Union Leader: Telemedicine Technology Enables Former NH Surgeon To Treat Patients From Alaska 
The Last Frontier may be 4,000 miles away from New Hampshire, but a former Bedford surgeon who recently relocated to Alaska is utilizing telemedicine technology to continue treating patients here. “The technology has existed and the infrastructure seems to be applicable to this kind of utilization for medical purposes,” said Dr. Thomas Kleeman, an orthopedic spine surgeon and founder of the New Hampshire NeuroSpine Institute in Bedford. Thanks to telemedicine, Kleeman, 69, is still treating patients in New Hampshire, despite his recent move to Alaska with his wife, Anne. (Houghton, 8/22)

Des Moines Register: Wellmark Accused Of Breaching Hemophiliac Teen's Privacy
A leading Iowa health insurance executive violated a teenager’s privacy rights when she told a Des Moines business group the young man’s hemophilia was costing more than $1 million per month to treat, patient rights groups allege. The patient advocacy groups also say the teen was no longer even covered by the insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, when the executive talked publicly about his case in March. (Leys, 8/21)

Baltimore Sun: Paralyzed Patients Benefit From Scuba-Diving Lessons
Tylena [Fisher] is one of about 20 patients being treated at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury who took part in an introductory scuba class sponsored by the Cody Unser First Step Foundation. ... Part of Unser’s project involves training physical and occupational therapists as certified scuba divers so they can develop these skills in their patients. (McCauley, 8/21)

The Star Tribune: Mpls. Eye Surgery Company Will Pay $12M To Settle Kickbacks Case
A Minneapolis mobile ophthalmic company and its former CEO have agreed to pay $12 million to resolve allegations that it lured physicians with illegal kickbacks in exchange for their business for nearly a decade, the U.S. attorney’s office announced Monday. The settlement comes after a whistleblower sued Sightpath Medical, Inc., and a Bloomington surgical equipment provider over allegations that Sightpath took prospective clients on luxury skiing vacations and high-end fishing, golfing and hunting trips to persuade them to use its services. (Montemayor, 8/21)

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