KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Medicaid Waiver Challenges In Texas; Detailing Sandy’s Impact On NYC’s Mental Care

The Texas Tribune: Medicaid Waiver Presents Structural Challenges
By [2012's] end, health care providers across Texas will have submitted proposals to state leaders to transform the way they care for the poor and uninsured. They have been spurred by a Medicaid waiver Texas officials sought and received in 2011 from the federal government, one that ties financing to cooperation, cost efficiency and better patient outcomes (Aaronson, 12/30).

The New York Times: Storm Weakened A Fragile System For Mental Care
Psychiatric hospital admission is always a judgment call. But in [New York City], according to hospital records and interviews with psychiatrists and veteran advocates of community care, the odds of securing mental health treatment in a crisis have worsened significantly since [Hurricane Sandy]. The storm's surge knocked out several of the city's largest psychiatric hospitals, disrupted outpatient services and flooded scores of coastal nursing homes and "adult homes" where many mentally ill people had found housing of last resort (Bernstein, 12/26).

Los Angeles Times: Reckless Doctors Go Unchecked
Kamala Harris has a powerful tool for identifying reckless doctors, but she doesn't use it. As California's attorney general, Harris controls a database that tracks prescriptions for painkillers and other commonly abused drugs from doctors' offices to pharmacy counters and into patients' hands. The system, known as CURES, was created so physicians and pharmacists could check to see whether patients were obtaining drugs from multiple providers. Law enforcement officials and medical regulators could mine the data for a different purpose: To draw a bead on rogue doctors. But they don't (Girion and Glover, 12/30).

Los Angeles Times: Medical Board Appeals To Public To Combat Prescription Overdoses
In an appeal for the public's help in stemming the epidemic of prescription drug deaths, the Medical Board of California is asking people whose relatives died of overdoses to contact the board if they believe excessive prescribing or other physician misconduct contributed to the deaths. Linda K. Whitney, the board's executive director, urged those with information about improper treatment to contact the board without delay. By law, the agency has seven years from the time of the alleged misconduct to take disciplinary action against a physician (Glover and Girion, 12/29).

Los Angeles Times: State Sued Over Medi-Cal Patients' Switch To Managed Care
Legal aid organizations filed a lawsuit Friday against the California Department of Health Care Services, alleging that the state violated patients' rights by forcing them into managed care. The suit is on behalf of five Medi-Cal recipients, all of whom have complex medical problems. Lawyers said the patients lost access to their doctors when they were automatically defaulted into managed care (Gorman, 12/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Florida 'Pill Mill' Crackdown Sets Off A Rush Into Georgia
Previously, Florida to the south was home to much of the "pill mill" trade, attracting drug dealers and addicts from thousands of miles away to stock up on prescriptions of oxycodone or hydrocodone they could either sell or use to get high themselves. But a Florida crackdown is sending the business sprinting across the border to Georgia. The rapid cross-border shift reflects how quickly operators can migrate when the business environment sours -- and why it is difficult to fight the prescription-drug epidemic on a national scale. Today Georgia is home to more than 125 clinics, up from fewer than 10 in 2010, according to Rick Allen, director of the state's Drugs and Narcotics Agency. Per capita prescription sales of oxycodone tripled between 2000 and 2010 (Martin, 12/25).

The Associated Press: Autism Bill, Other Measures Set To Take Effect In Alaska
One of the new laws set to take effect in Alaska will require health insurance policies to cover treatment of autism spectrum disorders. All or portions of a number of bills became law, effective Tuesday, with the start of 2013. … A part of the autism bill took effect earlier, establishing a task force to study issues such as the state providing insurance coverage for the disorder. The debate over autism coverage was one of the most emotional during the last regular session of the Legislature, as families and advocates descended on the Capitol to tell their stories and lobby for change (Bohrer, 12/31).

Las Vegas Review Journal: 24-Hour Mental Health Facility Sought For Las Vegas
Nevada health officials want to open a 24-hour urgent care center in Las Vegas for the mentally ill as part of a $7.5 million plan to relieve emergency rooms and provide troubled people better access to psychiatric services. The state budget proposal also includes a program to divert those with mental health problems from prisons and jails where they often don't get adequate care and are likely to return, crossing the law again if not treated (Myers, 12/31).

Boston Globe: Mass. To End Placing Of Homeless In Motels
The state government plans to eliminate a controversial emergency shelter program that places about 1,700 homeless families in motels and hotels paid by taxpayers, but housing advocates are worried officials will not be able to come up with better alternatives. Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said the state aims to phase out the program — now near peak levels — by June 30, 2014. Homeless families are placed in motels when the 2,000 rooms in the state’s family emergency shelter system reach capacity (McKim, 1/2).

Boston Globe: Network Health To Offer Insurance Through State Program
Medford-based Network Health, which provides health insurance for nearly 215,000 low- and moderate-income residents in Massachusetts, will be entering the commercial health insurance market by offering a half dozen plans through the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state’s online insurance marketplace, and through Network Health’s own website. Sixteen-year-old Network Health was acquired in 2011 by Tufts Health Plan, a large nonprofit seller of commercial health insurance in Massachusetts (Weisman, 1/2).

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