KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Nurse Practitioners Fight For Autonomy In Texas; Ohio Physician Assistant Prescriptions

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Alabama, Connecticut and Kansas.

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Caregivers Struggle To Untie A Confining Knot
Nurse practitioners have long fought against Texas regulations that link them financially and professionally to supervising physicians, a construct they say limits their ability to treat patients in a state with a looming shortage of primary care doctors. Texas lawmakers loosened some supervision requirements during the last legislative session after a compromise with physician groups, which argue that nurse practitioners do not have the training or experience to be entirely independent. But nurse practitioners are still battling for increased autonomy in the state Medicaid program (Ura, 5/17).

Modern Healthcare: Ohio Bill Revises Rules For Physician Assistants 
A proposal that passed the Ohio House would change laws governing the licensing of physician assistants and give them authority to write prescriptions. Physician assistants would need at least a master's degree or have had prescriptive authority while practicing in the military, in order to write prescriptions. They also would need to be issued a prescriber number by the state Medical Board. And their first 500 hours of prescribing would have to be under a physician's supervision. (5/18).

The Wall Street Journal: States Open To Drug Options
A push to widen access to experimental drugs for people with terminal illness is gaining traction among lawmakers in several states, highlighting a growing clamor from patients for promising therapies that haven't been approved for sale. The so-called right-to-try bills, the first of which was signed into law in Colorado on Saturday by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, may not make a big difference in practice because they generally don't require companies to provide access to the unapproved drugs outside of clinical trials (Loftus and Frosch, 5/18). 

The New York Times: North Carolina Governor Tested By Own G.O.P. As Legislators Return
Just as significant as what Mr. McCrory put in his budget proposal, delivered at a news conference, was what he left out. There was scant mention of his top policy initiative of the last two years, a Medicaid overhaul, which he had to set aside after members of the Republican leadership said they would not take it up (Gabriel, 5/17).

The Washington Post: Boston Hospital Pilot Gives Patients Access To Their Therapists’ Notes
For years, the woman went to a Boston hospital to talk to a therapist about being depressed and overweight. The therapist, listening closely, asked questions and jotted down notes on a memo pad. Until recently, the 54-year-old woman didn’t know what her therapist was writing. Then, last month, her therapist offered to share his notes with her regularly (Sun, 5/18).

USA Today: Texas Abortion Law Creates Obstacles For Valley Women
The women who visit Lucy Felix at her advocacy center are lately faced with a slate of difficult choices: risk deportation to drive to a clinic, cross the nearby border into Mexico for a risky abortion or keep an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy to term. Since Texas lawmakers passed new restrictions on abortion clinics last year, the number of clinics in the Rio Grande Valley that perform the service has dropped from two to zero, forcing women to drive more than 300 miles roundtrip to other cities for services or attempt riskier procedures across the border (Jervis, 5/17).

The Associated Press:  Federal Court Trial Takes Up Alabama Abortion Law
A federal court trial begins Monday over an Alabama abortion law that proponents say will make abortions safer and opponents say will close three of Alabama’s five licensed abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood Southeast and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the 2013 law, which requires doctors at abortion clinics to have approval to admit patients to nearby hospitals (Rawls, 5/18).

The Boston Globe: State, Nursing Homes Face Off Over Medicaid Funds
First, it was Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation-Goddard in Stoughton. Then Glenwood Center in Lowell, Holyoke Geriatric and Convalescent Center, and Falmouth Center on Cape Cod. In the last five months, each of these four nursing homes has gone out of business, unable to make ends meet with the money they get from Medicaid because reimbursement rates have not increased in nearly a decade, according to the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, the industry trade group. Scores more are on the edge of shutting down (Ailworth, 5/19).

The CT Mirror: Survey Says: CT Kids Are Healthy, Adults Say They’re Healthy, But Gaps Persist
The vast majority of Connecticut adults say their health is good, very good or excellent -- even though nearly half have diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease or cancer, according to a recent survey. And while Connecticut's overall population ranks similar to or better than the nation as a whole on many health indicators, blacks and Hispanics in the state fare far worse than their white counterparts. The findings are part of the Connecticut Health Care Survey, a sampling of state residents funded by six foundations. The data is intended to serve as a baseline to measure changes in the population’s health and to inform health policies (Becker, 5/16).

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Plans Advance For Mental Health Crisis Center
Representatives from a broad spectrum of agencies and organizations, including hospitals and courts, are crystallizing plans they hope will help solve a health problem in Kansas City, Mo. The issue is that people who are high, drunk or in psychiatric crisis clog emergency rooms and tie up first-responders although their needs are more suited to mental health intervention, according to organizers (Sherry, 5/16).

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