KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

LA Community Clinics Facing Budget Squeeze; Milwaukee May Target Benefits Of Public Employees; Seattle Times Documents 236 Deaths In Adult Homes

Los Angeles Times: "Stung by a budget stalemate that is costing Los Angeles County community clinics more than $330,000 a day in reimbursements, many clinic managers have been forced to take out loans and contemplate cuts to staff and services. Without the funds from Medi-Cal, the state insurance program for low-income patients, 41 clinics statewide have applied for loans from a fund created in response to the budget impasse. With $22 million available and $31 million in requests, organizers have approved only 27 loans, said Sean South, spokesman for the groups that created the fund" (Hennessy-Fiske, 9/12).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The rich health benefits enjoyed by workers in the public sector are becoming an increasingly inviting target as cities, counties and school districts struggle with continual budget deficits. The numbers explain why: The Milwaukee Public Schools district spends as much as $26,846 a year to provide family coverage for a teacher. The City of Milwaukee spends a bit less than $21,000, and Milwaukee County spends $17,800 to $19,400. The state's cost is slightly less than $20,000 a year for employees in the Milwaukee area. That's after subtracting the employee's share of the premium, which can range from nothing to $2,160 a year. In contrast, family coverage from private and public employers costs $13,770 on average nationally and workers on average pay nearly $4,000 of that" (Boulton and Stein, 9/12).

Tulsa World: "Dr. Henry T. Wittenberg began his career as a country doctor and that's the way he wants to end it. But not yet. A 1960 graduate of what then was called the Kansas City (Mo.) College of Osteopathy and Surgery, he has been the only physician in Rogers County for Medicaid patients and in Claremore's two nursing homes for the past 50 years. He's done that although the Oklahoma Health Care Authority terminated his contract to treat SoonerCare patients two years ago after he refused to sign a corrective action plan. … Instead, he filed a federal lawsuit in April against the authority for terminating his contract 'without cause and without a due process hearing'" (Archer, 9/13).

Seattle Times: The paper offers the latest two parts of a series on adult homes, which have been growing in the area. "A Seattle Times investigation has uncovered at least 236 deaths that indicate neglect or abuse in these homes but were not reported to the state or investigated. Dozens of suspicious deaths occurred in adult homes with long histories of violations, including some whose owners employed caregivers with little training or forged credentials. ... Adult homes are a less-regulated, less-expensive elder-care option than nursing homes, and are touted as providing personalized care in cozy, neighborhood settings. But The Times also found that adult-home deaths indicating neglect occur at strikingly higher rates than comparable deaths at nursing homes. ... Cindi Laws, executive director of the Washington State Residential Care Council of Adult Family Homes, said only a small fraction are problem homes" (Berens, 9/11). The second story is about alleged efforts to conceal abuse.

In another article, Seattle Times reports that "state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) said that the agency was referring far fewer cases or suspected elder abuse and neglect to law enforcement. ... Kathy Leitch, who heads [DSHS] aging and disability section, said it was 'hard to say' whether the referrals were down, because the agency lacks an accurate system to track such cases. The numbers might actually be higher, she said" (Berens, 9/11). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.