KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. To Allow Coupons For Some Branded Drugs

A selection of health policy stories from Maryland, Massachusetts, Kansas, Washington state, California, Minnesota, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Baltimore Sun: Johns Hopkins Falls To No. 2 For First Time In More Than 20 Years On U.S. News & World Report Hospital Rankings
Johns Hopkins Hospital lost its coveted spot as the nation's top-ranked hospital for the first time in 22 years, edged out by Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital in the latest analysis by U.S. News & World Report to be released Tuesday. Hopkins still ranked No. 2, and marketing experts said falling one spot will hurt the hospital's ego more than its reputation. "They'll survive this, I'm sure," said Roger Gray, founder and partner of GKV, an advertising and marketing firm in Baltimore. "Johns Hopkins is iconic." Executives at Hopkins are awaiting more detailed data so they can better understand why the institution fell in the annual rankings (Walker, 7/17).

CommonHealth/WBUR: Mass., 50th State, Now Allows Drug Coupons
For years, the small print at the bottom of prescription drug coupons offered by magazines and Websites has included the words "not valid in Massachusetts." But the next batch that's printed won't need that language, because when Gov. Deval Patrick signed his 2013 budget into law last week, it included a provision legalizing the use of drug coupons here -- at least on medications for which no generics are available. Massachusetts is the last state in the nation to make coupons legit (Weintraub, 7/16).

Kansas Health Institute News: Watching The Court … And Watching And Watching And Watching
The Kansas Supreme Court has had a case of major importance for more than three years now with no clear indication yet when the justices might rule on it. "There may be other cases that have taken this long" to be decided, said Bill Rich, a professor of constitutional law at Washburn University School of Law. "But if there are, I'm not aware of them." At stake in the justices' pending decision is a long-standing cap or limit on the amount juries can award people injured as the result of medical malpractice or accidents. Since 1986, with strong backing from Kansas doctors, state law has limited awards for pain and suffering resulting from physician error or personal injury to $250,000 (Ranney, 7/16).

The Seattle Times: Insurance To Cover Autism Therapy For Kids Of Public Workers
Children with autism whose parents have health insurance through the state's Uniform Medical Plan may be covered for an intensive type of therapy, under a settlement announced Monday. A class-action lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court in 2010 against the state's Health Care Authority (HCA) on behalf of several children with autism and autism-spectrum disorders. There are more than 860 members of the class, according to the lawsuit (Ostrom, 7/16).

The Bay Citizen/KQED: Alameda County Takes On Drug Companies Over Medication Disposal
Alameda County is poised to make drug companies pay for the safe collection and disposal of residents' unused medications. The measure would apply to prescription drugs like penicillin as well as tightly controlled substances like OxyContin. Supporters say the ordinance would help prevent overdoses and accidental poisonings and reduce water pollution -- claims the pharmaceutical industry insists are not true (Mieszkowski, 7/16).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune: Mentally Ill -- And Now Worried, Too
Theresa Dolata first thought about suicide at age 5. … Today, at 37, she's living on her own and even counseling other patients, thanks to a caseworker who comes to her home to provide therapy, skills training and help with medications. But mental health advocates worry that the program serving Dolata -- and nearly 15,000 other mentally ill Minnesotans -- is in danger of unraveling because of low state reimbursement (Hernandez, 7/16).

California Watch: Study: African Americans Concerned About Mental Health Services
African Americans across the state have concerns that their mental health assessment and diagnoses are inadequate, according to a state-commissioned report issued today. These inaccurate psychiatric assessments are a "part of the problem that leads to disparate outcomes," the report said (Yeung, 7/17).

Modern Healthcare: Aetna, N.J. Group To Launch ACO
Hunterdon HealthCare Partners, Flemington, N.J., will launch an accountable care organization this summer with the insurer Aetna. … The ACO will cover 2,200 Hunterdon HealthCare employees and 5,700 Aetna enrollees, said Jeffrey Weinstein, executive director and CEO of Hunterdon HealthCare (Evans, 7/16).

California Healthline: Important Bills On Horizon For CMA
The California Medical Association, which keeps an eye on all health-related legislation in California, last week released its "Hot List" of proposed health care bills in the next legislative session. … One of the bills that might be overlooked, [a CMA media relations spokeswoman] said, is AB 589 (Henry Perea, D-Fresno), which is similar to previous loan-repayment legislation, but instead targets potential medical school students from underserved areas, rather than medical school graduates (Gorn, 7/16).

California Healthline: Appeals Decisions Due From DHCS
The Department of Health Care Services will issue a decision this week on the first "test case" appeal hearings to decide eligibility for the new Community-Based Adult Services program, according to DHCS officials. The first appeal hearings were held May 30. After judges submit rulings to the state, the DHCS director has 30 days to decide whether or not the department accepts those rulings. … The state has said that the first 10 to 12 cases heard May 30 and 31 are being seen as test cases for the estimated 1,800 appeal hearings scheduled so far. The number of appeal hearings is expected to rise as DHCS continues its eligibility determination process (Gorn, 7/17).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Diabetes Management Using Electronic Medical Records
If you've received a reminder call about a missed appointment or a missed flu shot, then it came as a result of an electronic health record system. The systems widely implemented in Wisconsin are improving coordination and making health care more efficient, lowering costs and identifying and treating at-risk patients to improve their health. More hospitals and clinics are using in-house data to reach out to patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetics (Qidwae, 7/16).

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