KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: N.H. Governor Wants Taxpayers To Foot Part Of Charity Care Bill

A selection of health policy stories from New Hampshire, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota, California, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

The Associated Press: Hassan Wants Taxpayers To Share Charity Care Cost
Gov. Maggie Hassan told a joint legislative panel Tuesday that taxpayers should help offset New Hampshire hospitals' charity care costs to ensure the state's poor citizens have access to the medical care they need. The current budget, written by Republicans, cut state hospital aid for the care for all but a handful of critical access hospitals (Love, 2/19).

Reuters: Alabama House Passes Passes Bill Tightening Restrictions On Abortion Clinics
The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would tighten regulations for abortion clinics in a move critics say could force many in the state to close. The Republican-controlled House approved the bill in a 73-23 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate, which also has a Republican majority, for consideration (Wilkinson, 2/19).

The Associated Press: Health Care Compact Fails In House Committee
A measure that would have allowed Tennessee to approach Congress about forming the state's own health care system has failed a second consecutive year after opponents said Tuesday it's unnecessary and could hurt the state's other health initiatives. The proposal was developed last year as a challenge to the federal health overhaul championed by President Barack Obama and would have sought waivers for each participating state to create its own health care system (Johnson, 2/19).

The Washington Post: O'Malley Agrees To Tougher Gun Prohibition Aimed At The Dangerously Mentally Ill
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) administration will bow to mounting opposition from members of his own party and back significantly tougher rules to get guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill, administration officials said Tuesday (Davis, 2/19).

MPR News: Half Of Minn. 3rd Graders Have Had Cavities
Minnesota health officials on Tuesday said they plan to put new emphasis on oral health, saying it's an often-overlooked aspect of human health. In releasing its first-ever Minnesota Oral Health Plan, the Minnesota Department of Health released new data showing that 55 percent of Minnesota third graders have or have had tooth decay. The data come from a 2010 survey of about 1,000 Minnesota children. The national average for tooth decay among third graders was 53 percent. "We certainly can do better," state Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. Health officials will meet with dentists, doctors and others on Friday to discuss how to better include oral health in efforts aimed at improving overall health (Dunbar, 2/19).

HealthyCal: Bridging The Health Gap May Start With Building Trust
Health care professionals, policymakers and African American women recently gathered in Merced to share their views on the social and racial barriers that keep women of color from being active participants in their own health care and to develop strategies that will improve the health outcomes of all African American women in the county (Perez, 2/20).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Penn Health System To Stop Hiring Smokers
The University of Pennsylvania Health System will no longer hire smokers and other tobacco users, starting in July. The system, which includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the policy would improve the health of its workforce and reduce the cost of health-care benefits. A job applicant must be tobacco-free for six months. New employees, including doctors, who are caught lying about their tobacco use may be fired. Current employees are not subject to the prohibition, but they already pay a higher premium on their health-care benefits if they are tobacco users and are not participating in free antitobacco programs offered by the system (Moran, 2/20).

The Washington Post: $12.7 Million Contract Approved To Overhaul D.C.-Owned Hospital
The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to approve a $12.7 million, two-year contract to overhaul management of United Medical Center, the city-owned hospital that has bedeviled officials for a decade. The 8 to 3 vote followed a lengthy debate that touched on various aspects of the hospital deal, including concerns about the contracting process, the necessity of the costly turnaround and what form the hospital might take afterward (Craig and DeBonis, 2/19).

Baltimore Sun: Legislation Would Require Participation In Psychiatric Bed Registry
A Baltimore lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would require all Maryland hospitals to participate in an online psychiatric bed registry meant to expedite care for the mentally ill. ... The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday that some hospitals have been reluctant to take part in a new registry launched by state health officials. The registry, which currently is voluntary, allows hospitals with psychiatric units to routinely post notice of available beds. This lets emergency rooms more easily determine where patients can be transferred. Launched in November, the registry is being used by about a dozen hospitals with psychiatric units, or a third of the total number statewide (Rector, 2/19).

California Healthline: New Navy Hospital In San Diego May Be Sign Of The Changing Times
A major construction project is under way to replace the existing Naval Hospital on the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, the largest military training facility on the West Coast. … Like the Navy, providers nationwide are building new hospitals with an eye toward the primacy of ambulatory care. ... Steven Escoboza, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said the planning process for new and remodeled hospitals is made more complex by the need for flexibility to meet the unknown future demands of a fast-changing health care market (Zamosky, 2/19).

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