KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Lawmakers Push For Health Plan For Immigrants In U.S. Illegally

A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Texas, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Los Angeles Times: Boston Bombing Amputees Face Tough, Costly Recovery
For many of the injured, even those who have health insurance, the process may also be costly. Health insurance plans often restrict coverage for therapy and prosthetics. But a decade of wars has helped fuel breakthroughs that could help many Boston victims -- including those with amputated limbs -- live full, active lives (Levey, 4/21).

Sacramento Bee: Some California Leaders Want Low-Cost Health Care For Undocumented Immigrants
About a million of California's poorest undocumented immigrants would have access to basic low-cost health care under a plan being pushed at the Capitol. President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul excludes undocumented immigrants, but some California leaders want to fill that gap by offering a safety net of primary and preventive care that does not consider immigration status. The county-run program would give undocumented immigrants – and legal residents who can't afford health insurance but don't qualify for Medi-Cal – the ongoing opportunity to see a doctor, get tested and receive treatment before minor health problems become severe (Sanders, 4/19).

The Associated Press: Bill Allows Refusal Of Health Care On Moral Basis
For 35 years, Michigan law has protected health care providers who refuse to perform an abortion on moral or religious grounds. … Legislation that could be voted on as early as this week in the Republican-led Legislature would extend the same legal protections for any medical service such as providing contraception or medical marijuana, or taking someone off life support. Employers and health insurers -- not just medical providers -- also could opt out of paying for services as a matter of conscience (Eggert, 4/21).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Optometrists Seek Negotiating Power With Insurers
A group of Texas optometrists is lobbying the State Legislature for more power to negotiate contracts with health insurance companies, and the measure they are supporting could hit consumers' wallets, some business advocates say (Aaronson, 4/20).

The New York Times: California Tries To Regain Fuller Control Of Prisons
In 1995, a federal court appointed a special master to carry out reforms in mental health care [at California's prison system], which it found inadequate at the time and in violation of the Constitution. The court ruled this month that the federal overseer was necessary to remedy continuing constitutional violations behind problems like the high suicide rate. The state is arguing that mental health care meets or exceeds constitutional standards. It is spending $400 million a year on mental health care in its prisons, and a dozen new facilities valued at a total of $1.2 billion have been built in the past three years or are under construction (Onishi, 4/20).

The Washington Post: Chartered Could Owe D.C. Health Providers $85 Million
The city's doctors, clinics and hospitals could be owed a combined $85 million from the soon-to-be-defunct D.C. Chartered Health Plan, and it remains unclear how the once-dominant city health contractor will be able to pay the vast majority of those claims. ... The $85 million figure, which is about double previous estimates of Chartered's potential liabilities to providers, represents about $60 million in Medicaid claims that have been incurred but have yet to be paid. An additional $25 million could be owed to providers due to litigation -- likely related to a pending battle between Chartered and the MedStar hospital chain (DeBonis, 4/19).

The Washington Post: Problems At Pa. Abortion Clinic Point To Lack Of Facilities Oversight
There was no shortage of red flags about what was allegedly going on in the three-story brick building on a bustling stretch of Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia. A routine inspection of Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic had turned up problems as early as 1989, according to official reports. ... The case has captivated and repulsed a nation where back-alley abortion clinics have become a rarity since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion. The catalogue of horrors delineated by prosecutors has raised questions about whether there is adequate inspection and regulation of the 1,800 facilities nationwide that provide abortions (Dennis and Somashekhar, 4/20).

Boston Globe: New Spaulding Hospital Is Rehab Rethought
David Estrada, paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident 18 years ago, remembers well his miserable three months in a rehabilitation hospital room he shared with three other patients. That experience inspired him to help others with disabilities, which is why Estrada stopped short as he rolled his wheelchair through the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown during its construction last winter. He'd heard there was a panoramic water view from the hospital's third-floor gymnasium, but he was not seeing it. The sills blocked the view of anyone in a wheelchair. ... Estrada's observation prompted the lowering of the sills. Price tag for the redo: $300,000 (Lazar, 4/22).

Modern Healthcare: HCA To Grow Presence In Behavioral Health, Official Says
HCA, the Nashville-based hospital giant, is building its presence in the behavioral health space at a time when the field is poised to grow. The publicly traded company has been a "re-start-up" in the sector since late 2009, said Terry Bridges, president of behavioral health care services, who spoke at an Avondale Partners' behavioral health conference this week in Nashville. Bridges joined HCA that year from Psychiatric Solutions, where he was co-chief operating officer. Universal Health Solutions bought Psychiatric Solutions in 2010, and Bridges' arrival at HCA was seen as sign that it planned to boost its own mental health services (Kutscher, 4/19).

California Healthline: Attorney: Decision Overdue In Suit Challenging Medi-Cal Disabled Cuts
A federal judge is "about to decide" a case with large ramifications for the developmentally disabled community. William McLaughlin, an attorney representing The Arc of California, a national disabled-rights group, said a final ruling from U.S. District Court judge Morrison England is coming "any time now." In a Jan. 24 hearing, McLaughlin argued for a preliminary injunction to halt the rate reductions. He contends a decision is overdue (Gorn, 4/19).

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