KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: New Vt. Law Overhauls Mental Health System

A selection of state health policy stories from Virginia, Vermont, Iowa, California, Georgia and Colorado.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Advocacy Agency Backs Proposed Disabilities Settlement Between Virginia, Feds
A state agency that looks out for the rights of people with disabilities is advocating for a proposed settlement that would shift the care of Virginians with intellectual disabilities from state-run institutions (4/4).

The Associated Press: Vt. Governor Signs Mental Health Bill
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed into law an overhaul of the state's mental health system. ... The package Shumlin signed calls for the 54-bed hospital in Waterbury to be replaced by a new 25-bed facility in Berlin, which could shrink to 16 beds depending on federal funding issues. The plan also calls for expanded psychiatric units in Brattleboro and Rutland and smaller and less restrictive community placements for people in need of mental health services around the state (4/4).

Des Moines Register: Mental-Health Compromise Offers Counties Flexibility, Power To Retain Property Taxes
Counties would continue to levy property taxes for mental-health services, and they could ask to be exempted from new regional mental-health authorities under a compromise reform plan agreed to by leading Democrats and Republicans in the [Iowa] Legislature. The Republican-controlled House is expected to pass the plan ... then send it to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where passage also is expected (Leys, 4/4).

Des Moines Register: Need A Doctorate Degree To Understand Your Health Bills? Iowa Senate Says 'Enough'
Complicated health bills that leave thousands of Iowans puzzled as to what they are truly being billed for would be tackled under a fast-moving plan approved by a Senate subcommittee this morning, advocates say. But the Republican on the three-member panel this morning waived a flag of warning: A proposal to address the problem comes with a cost of $500,000 to $2 million with no guarantee that premiums will lower (Clayworth, 4/4).

The Sacramento Bee: Aetna Mistakenly Tells 8,000 Customers Their Doctors Were Dropped From Coverage
Thousands of Aetna customers across the state, including many in the Sacramento region, were mistakenly sent letters this week telling them that their health care provider is no longer covered in the network and that they need to find new doctors. More than 8,000 Aetna customers were sent the form letters from the Hartford, Conn.-based health insurance company and have been receiving them in the mail over the past few days (Garza, 4/5).

KQED's State of Health blog: The Greatest Health Risk to Children? No, It's Not Drugs
Nearly half of people surveyed in a poll released today say an unhealthy diet combined with lack of physical activity are the greatest health risks facing California children today. In addition, almost three in four respondents to the Field Poll -- 73 percent -- said prevention efforts, while starting with the family, must extend to the broader community, including health care providers, schools, community organizations and beyond (Aliferis, 4/4). 

KQED: Glide Health Services
Glide Health Services, a community clinic in the heart of San Francisco's Tenderloin, provides primary care for some 3,000 patients a year. ... Pat Dennehy, the clinic's director, is gaining national attention for her innovative approach to providing low-cost, high quality care at a time when the state of California needs all the options it can get (Davis, 3/30). 

San Francisco Chronicle: California Health Exchange Moving Ahead
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, was signed into law, two years ago almost to the day, California quickly got the ball rolling. … The exchange has already received $40 million in federal seed money and is expecting additional funds this summer. No details, but the amount is "bigger than a breadbox," said the exchange's Executive Director Peter Lee. That assumes the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't throw the law out, in part or whole -- a distinct possibility that doesn't faze Lee. "California passed a law to have an exchange, and it's moving ahead on all cylinders. The commitment will be there no matter what," said Lee (Ross, 4/5).

California Healthline: 'We'll Deal With it Then': The State of Play if ACA is Struck Down
Twenty-eight states challenged the Affordable Care Act. And win or lose, all 50 will have to deal with the consequences. But are the states actually ready to respond? The answer is -- literally -- all over the map. ... Here's a look at how three states -- including California -- stand with respect to the ACA decision (Diamond, 4/4). 

Modern Healthcare: Ga. Cancer Centers To Pay $3.8 Million
A federal investigation sparked by whistle-blowers who used to work for a radiation oncology practice has resulted in a civil settlement in which the practice and its affiliates agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle fraud allegations. Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia (Decatur), along with affiliates RCOG Cancer Centers, Physician Oncology Services Management Co., Dr. Frank Critz and Physician Oncology Services, were accused of overbilling Medicare for X-rays and simulations in preparation for radiation therapy and for consults and consult reports, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release (Robeznieks, 4/4).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colorado news service): Lack Of Access To Dental Care Endangering Health, Costing Colorado Millions
Every Thursday the [Kids In Need of Dentistry] clinic treats a steady stream of pediatric patients, many with a mouthful of problems. ... Untreated dental caries (the disease process that causes cavities) is the leading disease in children, occurring five times more often than asthma (Wolf, 4/4). 

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