KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Rural Hospital Crisis Continues; Utahns Want More Open Talk About Health Care Plan

News outlets report on health care developments in Georgia, South Carolina, Utah, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Massachusetts and Kansas.

Georgia Health News: Rural Hospital Crisis Crosses Borders
Southern Palmetto Hospital in Barnwell announced in a statement Tuesday that it will at least temporarily end “patient operations.” In other words, it will not be treating patients. It’s the third rural hospital in South Carolina to close since 2011, according to a report by South Carolina Radio Network. (Miller, 1/24)

Salt Lake Tribune: Poll: Utahns Want Legislative Debate Out In The Open
Want to know how your legislator voted on Utah Access Plus, the proposal to expand health care to about 125,000 of Utah's poorest residents? Don't bother searching. There was never an official recorded vote on the plan. In fact, the votes that doomed the health care bill were all taken in secret — with Republican House members voting in a closed-door meeting and GOP senators casting private votes after confidential discussions. It's not the kind of lawmaking that Utah voters approve of, according to a new poll for The Salt Lake Tribune and The Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. The survey found that 91 percent of Utahns want legislative meetings to be held out in the open. Republicans control the Senate by a 24-5 margin and the House, 63-12. Despite the public's preference and protests from Utah media outlets, don't expect much to change in the legislative session beginning Monday. (Gehrke, 1/25)

Modern Healthcare: Maryland's Bold Payment Reforms Blaze A Path, But Will Others Follow?
The Democratic presidential candidates sparred vigorously over healthcare in their most recent debate. Front-runners Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton dominated the exchange, so talk of Maryland's singular hospital payment reform ended almost as quickly as it started. ... So what is happening in Maryland? And is it a good idea for it to be a national model? It could be done in any state in the union,” said Dr. Robert Berenson, an Urban Institute senior fellow and former CMS official. ... But that would take significant political will by states to more actively regulate hospitals, he said, which all states but Maryland abandoned. Maryland is also still an experiment, with encouraging early numbers, but no guarantee of success. (Evans, 1/23)

Reuters: Long-Term Care Provider Pays $47M To Settle Fraud Claims
CenterLight Health System Inc, a New York long-term managed care provider, agreed on Thursday to pay $47 million to settle allegations that it enrolled ineligible Medicaid beneficiaries. The enrollees at issue were referred by CenterLight to adult day care centers, which provided services that did not qualify for reimbursement, state and federal authorities said. (Freifeld, 1/22)

The Washington Post: McAuliffe Administration Seeks Extra $110 Million To Boost Services For Disabled
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration is seeking an extra $110 million over the next three years to provide more services to residents with severe disabilities to comply with a federal court settlement. The money would intensify the state’s efforts to move people off a waiting list for services that currently has about 10,100 names. It would fund 855 Medicaid waivers for residents who do not have them and pay for an overhaul of how the state awards those waivers to better prioritize services for people in immediate need of aid. (Olivo, 1/23)

The New York Times: Massachusetts Chief’s Tack In Drug War: Steer Addicts To Rehab, Not Jail
Convinced that addiction is a disease, not a crime or moral failing, [Leonard Campanello, the police chief of Gloucester, Mass.] became the unusual law enforcement officer offering heroin users an alternative to prison. “Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc.) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged,” he wrote. “Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery” and send them for treatment “on the spot.” ... Critics said that he did not have the authority to take the law into his own hands and forgo arrests. But other police departments, fed up with arresting addicts and getting nowhere, saw the Gloucester approach as a promising way to address the epidemic of heroin and prescription pain pills. (Seelye, 1/24)

The Associated Press: Kansas Court Refuses State’s Ban On Common Second-Trimester Abortion Method
The Kansas Court of Appeals refused Friday to allow the state’s first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester abortion method to take effect, saying in a split decision that the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independent of the U.S. Constitution. The 7-7 ruling was released on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Tie votes from the appeals court uphold the lower-court ruling being appealed. (1/22)

WBUR: SharingClinic, To Help Patients Tell Their Stories, Opens At Mass. General Hospital
Four years ago, Dr. Annie Brewster had a vision. Brewster, a Boston internist, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, had become frustrated that a crucial element of medicine — the human connection between patients and doctors — seemed to be lost in the modern era of 15-minute appointments and overly burdensome record-keeping. As a patient and a doctor, Brewster yearned for a therapeutic arena in which patients could tell their full health stories and feel they were actually heard, not rushed out the door; and where doctors, as well, could share a little more with patients. (Zimmerman, 1/22)

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