KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Kan. Autism Coverage Mandate

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, Kansas, Minnesota and Louisiana.

The Washington Post: Mental-Health Advocates Fear Fundamental Problems In Virginia Have Been Left To Fester
After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, Virginia lawmakers injected tens of millions of dollars into the state’s mental-health system, including local mental-health agencies that are the first stop for people in crisis. But last November, when Austin “Gus” Deeds needed a local agency to find him a psychiatric bed, the staff was smaller, its wait list for psychiatric services had tripled and a long-planned online registry of beds that could have speeded the search was not ready (Shin, 3/9). 

Kansas City Star: Proposal Mandating Insurance Coverage Of Autism Takes Shapes In Kansas 
The bills for treating 6-year-old Brody Christiansen’s heart defect would have left almost any family bust. Four open-heart surgeries. Six heart catheterizations. ... Insurance covered those treatments ... But the Christiansens weren’t so fortunate when Brody was diagnosed last summer with autism (Cooper, 3/9).

The Star Tribune: Device Firms Adjust To Increased Payment Disclosure
Mark DuVal’s law firm has been busy teaching medical device and drug makers how to obey the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. It is no easy task, says DuVal, a Minneapolis attorney who used to work for Medtronic Inc. and 3M Co. New federal reporting requirements that began Feb. 18 are complicated and eventually will include public disclosure of most business expenditures to medical professionals valued at more than $5 per event or more than $100 cumulatively per year. Thousands of companies across the country, including hundreds in Minnesota’s medical technology sector, fall under the act, which arose from concerns that undisclosed financial relationships between drug and device makers and health care providers influenced patient treatment (Spencer, 3/8).

Los Angeles Times: What Makes A Community Healthy?
Patients begin lining up outside Capitol City Family Health Center before the doors open at 7:30 a.m. The clinic, on a ragged stretch of the boulevard that separates the black and white sections of [Baton Rouge], is a refuge for thousands of this old southern capital's poorest and sickest residents. ... Twelve hundred miles up the Mississippi River, in the shadow of a public housing tower in St. Paul, Minn., the waiting room at the Open Cities Health Center also fills daily with the city's poorest. But the patients in Minnesota receive a very different kind of care, which leads to very different outcomes. They are more likely to get recommended checkups and cancer screenings. If very ill, they can usually see specialists. Their doctors rely on sophisticated data to track results (Levey, 3/9).

The Star Tribune: Electronic Health Records: A Hard Pill To Swallow For Some Doctors
Electronic health records are supposed to represent the next great leap in medicine -- reducing medical errors and enhancing the physician’s diagnostic powers. A 2007 state statute requires all Minnesota health care providers to adopt them by 2015, and the 2010 Affordable Care Act includes a host of incentives for their adoption. Yet, health professionals have mixed feelings about the digital records even though they are now in place at scores of Minnesota clinics and most Minnesota hospitals. Some praise them as a teaching and diagnostic tool, while others say they clutter up the patient-doctor relationship (Harrington, 3/10).

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