KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Ohio, Florida Take Advantage Of Federal Health Funds; Mass. Psychiatrists Win Court Case

The Columbus Dispatch: "Gov. Ted Strickland's administration announced today that nearly $200 million in recently freed up state funds will go to Ohio hospitals, community mental health services, and a program which provides medication to low-income residents with HIV/AIDS. … The state money became available after Congress agreed to continue paying a higher share of the cost of state Medicaid programs that provide insurance coverage to the poor. The higher federal contribution which had been set to expire Dec. 31 will continue through June 30" (Candisky, 9/2).

Florida Tribune: "Gov. Charlie Crist may be wrestling with his position on federal health care reform but Florida's state agencies are not. The Agency for Health Care Administration worked on a $1 million planning grant for a health insurance exchange, a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act that has been labeled 'Obamacare' by critics. It is one of roughly $11 million in grants under the new federal health care law that Florida agencies have requested to date, according to information collected from AHCA, the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Florida Legislature" (Sexton, 9/2).

The Boston Globe: "In a unanimous ruling, the [Massachusetts] Supreme Judicial Court held that a psychiatrist identified only as John Doe had the right to defy a subpoena by the state Board of Registration in Medicine for the records of two dozen of his patients. The board had argued that the records were not protected by confidentiality law because the psychiatrist devotes most of his practice to pain management. ... The justices said that the Legislature has carved out limited exceptions to the psychotherapist-patient privilege for matters such as suspected child abuse or neglect and that the court did not have the power to extend exceptions" (Saltzman, 9/3).

The New York Times: "New York City's public hospital system is embarking on a long-term attempt to gain more control over running its 11 hospitals by renegotiating longstanding affiliation contracts with some of the city's most powerful medical schools. ... officials from the Health and Hospitals Corporation believe that to a large degree the public hospital system has outgrown the need to cede control over its physicians to universities" (Hartocollis, 9/2).

Los Angeles Times: "A Los Angeles physician was arrested Thursday for allegedly prescribing pain medication to homeless people who didn't need the drugs, according to records and authorities. Dr. Zhiwei Lin is set to be arraigned Friday on five counts of illegally prescribing drugs, misdemeanors each punishable by up to a year in County Jail and a $20,000 fine, according to the arrest warrant filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Lin, 52, a board-certified neurologist, declined to comment. ... Authorities believe the homeless 'patients' were brought to the doctor by recruiters, [who] would pay the homeless people for their prescriptions and turn them over to dealers who sold them by the pill at a huge mark-up" (Girion and Glover, 9/3).

Los Angeles Times, in a separate story: "Flu season may be a bad time to check into a California hospital ... only slightly more than half of healthcare workers in California hospitals received a flu shot last year, despite the dangers that presents for patients. The vaccination rate was less than 25% in 3.3% of the hospitals, according to data compiled by the state health department and obtained by Consumers Union through a Public Records Act request (Maugh, 9/2).

Five Detroit-area communities will get a total of $16.2 million in federal grants to improve diabetic care, the Detroit Free Press reports. "Hospital systems in Detroit, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Hamtramck and Highland Park -- as well as doctor networks and federally funded clinics in the region will use the three-year grant to create an electronic network that gives them access to medical information about diabetic patients and to better coordinate their care." The top federal health IT official, David Blumenthal, said, "information is the lifeblood of medicine." The hospitals will use the network to follow up on diabetic patients after ER visits, among other things. Currently, when diabetics receive care at ERs, providers at other hospitals are unable to access that information (Anstett, 9/3).

The Detroit News adds, "Metro Detroit is one of 17 communities across the country to receive $265 million in federal funding for the health care initiative. The region's award was one of two announced Thursday; the other, $13.8 million, went to greater Cincinnati, Ohio." Also, "[s]ome 93,000 people in those areas have diabetes -- a disease that leads to many hospitalizations a year, the collaborative said. Diabetes occurred in 23 percent of Detroit hospital discharges in 2009, according to hospital data" (Burden, 9/3).

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