KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Texas Raises Organ Donor Registry; D.C. Not Ready For Medical Marijuana Sales; L.A. Health Department Facing Major Service Cuts

The Houston Chronicle: "Though Texas has the nation's lowest percentage of registered organ and tissue donors, several recent initiatives have more than doubled the state's donor rolls this year. The number enrolled in the Glenda Dawson Donate Life Texas Registry has ballooned since Jan. 1, when state law required Department of Public Safety clerks to ask all driver's license and ID card applicants whether they would like to register as organ donors. Since then, nearly 70,000 donors a month have joined the pool" (George, 7/27).

The Washington Post: "District leaders say it will be months before the city begins allowing the sale of medical marijuana, even though the law authorizing up to eight dispensaries took effect Tuesday. ... The delay is driven by a lack of detail about how the city will operate the program, which includes a first-in-the-nation provision requiring dispensaries to price the marijuana on a sliding scale so the city's poorest patients can obtain medicinal pot for free." City officials still have to draft regulations on licensing, the tracking donors and users and where marijuana can be grown. The rules, which could be released in draft form next week, would "then undergo a public comment and review period, which could take months" (Craig, 7/28).

The Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles County's top health officials said Tuesday that they soon may have to begin layoffs and slash the number of patients served by a third to 58%. ... The department is facing a deficit of $389 million to $429 million this fiscal year and is still trying to offset last year's $200-million deficit, [John Schunhoff, interim director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services] said. .. At issue now are funds that were expected to come from a federal Medicaid waiver, the federal share of Medicaid and a hospital provider fee levied by the state on private hospitals and matched by Medicaid. … Losing the funds would mean the county could serve 260,000 to 420,000 fewer patients, he said, cutting both inpatient hospital service and emergency room visits by more than 25% each" (Hennessy-Fiske, 7/28).

The Boston Globe: "The Massachusetts House passed a bill yesterday that would require insurance companies to cover a broad range of services for children with autism, a measure that supporters say will help families of such children but that opponents worry will increase health costs, even as other legislation aimed at reining in health spending has been sidelined. The proposal, which now goes to the Senate, contains mandated coverage for services known as 'applied behavioral analysis,' which include training children with autism and related disorders in social, verbal, and motor skills. A broad coalition of business groups, insurers, and the Group Insurance Commission, which provides insurance to more than 300,000 state and municipal employees and their families, sent a letter to lawmakers yesterday opposing the bill" (Lazar, 7/28).

Health News Florida: "A federal agency that tracks measures of health-care quality lists Florida's as 'average,' but barely. The arrow hovers right on the line above 'weak.' It could be worse; Florida scores are much better than Louisiana and Texas. As usual, the northeastern states hog the glory. … Florida's strongest measures were in keeping home-health patients from needing urgent care; diagnosing breast cancer before the advanced stage; and avoiding obstetrical trauma. The weakest measures were in getting flu vaccinations to high-risk populations, such as those in nursing homes and diabetes patients; deaths from HIV infection and among dialysis patients; and urinary-tract infection among nursing home patients" (7/27).

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