KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Missouri Medicaid Benefits; Telepsychiatry In Rural States; Conn. For-Profit Hospital Bill

A selection of health policy stories from Missouri, North Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan and Alaska.

The Associated Press:  Missouri Budget Would Restore Medicaid Benefits 
Missouri lawmakers are poised to give final approval to a state budget that could restore Medicaid benefits that were cut a decade ago. The proposed 2015 budget would provide funding for adult dental care and physical rehabilitation items, such as specially fitted wheelchairs. Those benefits were halted by the Republican-led Legislature in 2005 as part of a larger package of Medicaid cuts (5/8).

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  Poor Missourians Could Get Dental Coverage Under Changes OK'd By Lawmakers
Some Medicaid-eligible adults would have access to dental insurance for the first time since 2005 under a bill agreed on by Missouri lawmakers Tuesday. The chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees announced the measure among other funding decisions Tuesday during a conference committee to reconcile differences in the two chambers’ fiscal year 2015 budgets. The budget must be completed by Friday, the constitutional deadline for passing the state’s spending plan. Medicaid provides free or low-cost health insurance for more than 800,000 low-income Missourians. About 60 percent are children and the rest are custodial parents, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. In 2005, then-Gov. Matt Blunt and the Legislature eliminated an assortment of services, including dental care for most adults. Since then, Medicaid has provided dental benefits only for children and adults who are pregnant, blind or in nursing homes (Stuckey, 5/8).

NPR: Telepsychiatry Brings Emergency Mental Health Care To Rural Areas
North Carolina is facing a very big mental health care challenge -- 28 counties across the state do not have a single psychiatrist. That's despite the fact that in recent years, emergency rooms in the state have seen more patients with mental health, developmental disability or substance abuse problems. So the state is trying telepsychiatry. When a patient comes into an emergency room, they can be connected via a two-way video connection with a psychiatrist. A recent study by the nonpartisan North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research found that the method is having some success in providing more timely treatment (5/7).

The CT Mirror: The Basics: The Last-Minute For-Profit Hospital Bill
It came down to the final hours, but legislators tackled one of the most complex, controversial issues of the session by passing a measure that makes it easier for nonprofit hospitals to convert to for-profits and adds state oversight to hospital sales and transactions involving physician practices. The bill, the subject of intense lobbying by hospitals and unions representing health care workers, now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, whose administration was among several groups involved in crafting the measure. If signed by the governor, the bill could clear the way for hospitals in Bristol, Manchester, Vernon and Waterbury to be acquired by Tenet Healthcare, a national for-profit company (Becker, 5/8).

The CT Mirror: Health IT Agency Getting Axed
The quasi-public agency set up to promote the use and sharing of electronic medical records is being eliminated as part of budget implementation legislation that’s expected to pass the General Assembly Wednesday. The Health Information Technology Exchange of Connecticut was created in 2010 to promote the use of electronic medical records. Officials had also hoped it would help create a network that health care providers could use to share patients’ medical records electronically (Becker, 5/7).

Georgia Health News: Georgia A Focus Of Maternal Death Project 
Twenty-two Georgia hospitals have joined a project to reduce maternal death rates in the United States, a nursing group announced Wednesday. The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has launched an initiative to improve the treatment of pregnancy-related complications, and is focusing on birthing hospitals in Georgia and New Jersey. Georgia ranks 50th among states in maternal deaths. That’s a prime reason why the state was one of the two selected for the project (Miller, 5/7).

MinnPost: Meeting The Health Needs Of Traumatized Refugees
About 10 years ago, Dr. Jim Letts began to notice an influx of Karen refugees in his primary-care practice at HealthEast Roselawn Clinic in St. Paul. All had been exiled by Myanmar’s long-running and ongoing civil war. ... The staff moved quickly to accommodate the newcomers, partnering with the Karen Organization of Minnesota to locate bilingual and culturally competent staff members (there now are five on staff) who could help identify the most pressing needs, including mental-health care. ... But accurately screening for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, common issues in this population, was another matter entirely (Williams, 5/7).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Rural Nurses:  ‘We’re Like A Mini ER Up Here’
A patient walks into Hannibal Clinic's Monroe City location complaining of chest pains. When initial assessment shows the patient is having a heart attack, staff call 911 and quickly work to stabilize the man until the ambulance arrives. "There's a lot of days I say we're like a mini ER up here," said Mindy Hufford, a licensed practical nurse in the Monroe City, Mo., office. "We do what we were taught in nursing school. It all goes back to our training” (Husar, 5/6).

The Detroit Free Press:  Ascension Health And Trinity Health Create New Statewide Network
Two large Catholic hospital systems in Michigan have joined to form a new health care network across the state, encompassing 27 hospitals, hundreds of clinic sites and more than 5,000 doctors. Ascension Health and Livonia-based CHE Trinity Health announced Wednesday the creation of their Together Health Network, which has set for itself the goal of reducing medical costs while improving patient care. The Affordable Care Act contains various incentives for hospitals to reduce costs in such ways. Hospitals and doctors can sometimes get bonuses representing a portion of the money they save (Reindl, 5/7).

Modern Healthcare: Alaska Telehealth Bill Would Allow Phone, Online Prescribing Visits 
Alaska may soon allow physicians to write prescriptions for many medications without an initial face-to-face encounter between the prescriber and the patient. A bill to allow the remote prescribing process passed on the final day of the state legislative session April 25 and is awaiting the signature of Alaska Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. The measure's aim is to enable patients “to obtain over-the-phone or online consultations where physicians can diagnose and, if necessary, provide a prescription,” according to a release by its sponsor, State Rep. Lynn Gattis, a first-term Republican from Wasilla (Conn, 5/7).

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