KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Roundup: Calif. Mental Health System Grapples With Controversy

A selection of health policy news from Ohio, California, Texas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Oregon.

Los Angeles Times: California State Mental Hospitals Plagued By Peril
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the state, alleging that it was violating patients' rights by heavily drugging and improperly restraining them and failing to provide appropriate treatment. The state settled, agreeing to an extensive court-supervised improvement plan at four hospitals with more than 4,000 patients. But a Times investigation found that the plan has failed to achieve the Justice Department's main objective: to raise the level of care so patients could control their violent tendencies and would not be institutionalized any longer than necessary (Romney and Hoeffel, 4/15).

California Healthline: Bill Would Expand Clinics' Hiring Options For Mental Health Care Providers
Palm Springs has a problem that is shared in rural communities across California, according to J.M. Evosevich, a marriage and family therapist from Palm Springs. ... "There's a waiting list for people that need mental health care, and they can't provide it because they don't have the [mental health] providers," Evosevich said (Gorn, 4/16). 

The Texas Tribune: Medical Board Adopts Controversial Stem Cell Rules
The Texas Medical Board today approved controversial new rules on the use of adult stem cells that have raised concerns over the possibility that Texans could receive therapies that have not yet been proven to work and that could be unsafe. Researchers say the evidence of success of stem cell injections is anecdotal, and they advocate waiting for clinical trial results before allowing physicians to charge patients -- typically tens of thousands of dollars -- for the procedures (Park, 4/13).

The Associated Press: Texas OKs Experimental Stem Cell Therapy Rules
The Texas Medical Board on Friday approved new rules on experimental stem cell therapies such as the one Gov. Rick Perry underwent during back surgery last year, despite objections they don't do enough to protect patients and could led to an explosion of doctors promoting unproven, expensive treatments. The rules require patients to give their consent, and a review board must approve the procedure before doctors use stem cell treatments (Vertuno, 4/13).

San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. Hospital Deal Could Raise Health Care Costs
There is growing concern among some city leaders that a controversial deal Mayor Ed Lee has struck with California Pacific Medical Center to build a 555-bed hospital on Cathedral Hill will undermine San Francisco's efforts to control health care costs. While the mayor has lauded the complex, 229-page agreement as a jobs generator that will bring the city's hospital network into the 21st century, the deal has raised concerns about how much of the $2.5 billion construction project will be passed on to consumers. The project would overhaul the Sutter Health affiliate's medical facilities across the city and build two hospitals that meet state seismic safety mandates (Coté, 4/16).

The Connecticut Mirror: Connecticut Children's Will Let Anthem Contract Expire Monday
Children covered by Anthem will still be allowed to receive medical services at the hospital, but their families could be stuck with higher costs because the hospital would not be in the insurer's network. Contract disputes between hospitals and insurers have become nearly routine in the state in recent years, but this one pits the state's only freestanding children's hospital against Connecticut's largest insurer (Levin Becker, 4/13).

The Hill: Interest Groups Laud Kasich For Work With New Federal Health Care Office
Ohio's Republican governor is drawing praise from several health care groups for working with a new federal office created by President Obama's health care law. The law created the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to test new ways of cutting costs and improving quality. Although it wasn't initially seen as one of the law's most controversial provisions, some Republicans have recently begun criticizing the CMMI (Baker, 4/13).

Minnesota Public Radio: After Complaints, MN Security Hospital Inspected
A concern about worker safety has prompted the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect the Minnesota Security Hospital, a state-run facility that provides psychiatric treatment for nearly 400 adults deemed mentally ill and dangerous. ... The St. Peter facility has been in turmoil for months, culminating in the forced resignation of top administrator David Proffitt in late March after employees complained that Proffitt created a hostile work environment and failed to protect the safety of the facility's roughly 800 employees (Baran, 4/13).

Modern Healthcare: R.I. Senate Votes To Remove Limit On Acquisitions
The Rhode Island Senate voted 36-0 to amend the state's Hospital Conversion Act to remove a prohibition that prevents for-profit companies from acquiring more than one hospital during a three-year period. The legislation is tied to an effort by Boston-based Steward Health Care System to acquire Landmark Medical Center, a 133-bed hospital in Woonsocket, R.I. According to the terms of the deal between the two organizations, the for-profit health care system can walk away from the transaction if lawmakers fail to change the law (Lee, 4/13). 

Boston Globe: Problems With Primary Care
[Dr. Russell S.] Phillips, a doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was recently named the inaugural director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, which develops solutions to the problems of primary care. Q. What is wrong with primary care today? A. Primary care in this country is in crisis. We know that countries with strong systems of primary care provide higher quality of care at lower cost. We need to think about the way that primary care is practiced, so as to make it more attractive to our [medical] students, provide more resources for the work that primary care doctors do, and advocate for payment reform (Weintraub, 4/16).

The Statesman-Journal (Oregon): State Worker Notebook: Health Plan May Increase Options
Oregon state workers are struggling to deal with a multitude of changes to their health coverage this year — higher copays, a new deductible, and of course the Health Engagement Model. So it’s understandable that the looming introduction of yet another new component would raise both eyebrows and hackles. Even though Coordinated Care Organizations don’t officially exist yet, and are years away from possibly becoming part of the health benefits offered through the Public Employees' Benefit Board, state workers already are asking questions and raising concerns about them (Thompson, 4/15).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Grassley Says Minnesota Has Not Provided Requested Documents On HMO Payment
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says the Dayton administration has failed to provide all requested information about a controversial $30 million payment to the state last year from a Minneapolis-based HMO.  In particular, Grassley said the state did not give him a July letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, in which a federal official argued that the state should share some of the money. The $30 million payment came from UCare, a health plan hired by the state to manage care for people in the Medicaid and MinnesotaCare public health insurance programs (Snowbeck, 4/13).

KCUR: City's Health Care Tax Under Review
Residents of Kansas City have long financed public health, ambulance and indigent health services through a property tax which last year, brought in nearly $50 million. Part of the tax is temporary, and a new mayor-appointed commission is taking a hard look at whether it should continue ... more uninsured and underinsured patients who are unable to pay for care are coming to the hospital, neighborhood clinics and the health department.  In 2011, those facilities experienced nearly 150,000 patient encounters, a 27 percent increase from 2009 (Gordon, 4/15).

HealthyCal: Preschoolers' Poor Oral health Leads To Severe Tooth Decay
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC that found in 2007 that as every other aspect of oral health improved, the rate of cavities in preschoolers aged 2-5 had increased since the previous study a decade before. Experts attribute the increase to lack of knowledge among parents and lack of access to pediatric dentists. ... Seventy-two percent of children on free and reduced lunch have cavities and a third have untreated tooth decay (Shanafelt, 4/15).

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