KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Stem Cell Research; Mass. Prisons Change HIV Medicine Procedure; Native Americans’ High Suicide Rates

The Los Angeles Times: "When millionaire Silicon Valley real estate developer Bob Klein launched his ballot drive to create a $3-billion state fund for stem-cell research in 2004, he pitched it as a way of taking politics out of science and focusing on cures. ... Next month, Klein's six-year term as chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine expires. Under his stewardship, the agency has funded research leading to hundreds of scientific papers, but scientists say marketable therapies for maladies such as cancer, Alzheimer's and spinal cord damage promised during the campaign remain years, if not decades, away. In a recent interview with The Times, Klein said he plans to ask voters to approve another $3 billion in a bond measure on the 2014 ballot to keep the stem cell program going" (Dolan, 11/22).

Green Bay Press Gazette reports on a Native American man's suicide, noting that "[d]espite 40 years of insight and ongoing prevention efforts, many native communities still struggle to keep members from taking their own lives. Between 1999 and 2008, at least 86 Native Americans in Wisconsin have died by suicide - a figure that is likely lower than the actual toll, given that experts believe suicides are sometimes mislabeled as accidental overdoses, shootings and car crashes. … Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide death rates among non-Hispanic Native Americans, such as those living in Wisconsin, have remained consistently higher than the general population over the past two decades. The disparity has drawn high-level attention to the quality of mental health care for Native Americans" (Tempus, 11/22).

The Des Moines Register: "Declaring that special interests have taken over state government, one of Iowa's top regulators is criticizing the Iowa Hospital Licensing Board for blocking public disclosure of hospital errors that threaten patient safety. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has been trying for several months to persuade the Hospital Licensing Board to approve a measure requiring hospitals to make public so-called 'never events' - medical errors that should never occur because they are preventable and threaten the health of patients. ... Board Chairman Bob Miller, a former hospital CEO, said he and the board are in favor of improved patient care and public accountability, but there are too many unanswered questions about how the state would collect the information on errors, how it would be shared with the public and how the effort would be funded" (Kauffman, 11/21).

The Boston Globe: "Massachusetts prisons have changed how they dispense medication to inmates infected with HIV in a calculated effort to discourage them from taking life-saving drugs that cost the state millions of dollars a year, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit. The suit, which is expected to be filed today in US District Court in Boston, says the prison system and its medical provider removed HIV medication in February 2009 from the list of prescribed drugs that inmates have long been allowed to keep in their cells under the so-called Keep On Person program. ... As a result of the change, HIV-positive inmates who took their medicine in the privacy of their cells now must go to an infirmary 'ed line' daily, often several times a day, with scores of other inmates who receive single dosages of other medications, says the suit. ... lawyers for UMass Correctional Health, in response to a similar suit filed last year in state court and later withdrawn, wrote that the contractor made the change to improve adherence to HIV medication regimens" (Saltzman, 11/22).

KHN tracked earlier developments in state health policy: Mass. And Minn. Officials Struggle With Controlling Health Costs, Guaranteeing Quality: "News outlets report that Massachusetts' health reform hasn't adequately addressed the soaring cost of health care, according to the state's Attorney General" (11/20).


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