KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Some State Safety Nets For Disabled Are Fraying; Ohio Referendum Looms

Health care news from Georgia, Ohio, California, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts and Texas.

Fox News (Video): Ohio Battleground For Health Care Law
In Columbus, Ohio this week, several college-aged volunteers were manning a bank of phones, striving to reach a goal of a million calls in support of Ballot Issue 3 -- an amendment to the state's Constitution that amounts to a repudiation of President Obama's health care overhaul. ... In the months since the health care bill became law, opponents in Ohio have been gathering enough signatures on a petition to reach the required threshold of 384,000 certified signatures to place Issue 3 on the November 8 ballot. ... Should it pass, some political analysts believe it will carry little weight beyond the symbolic (McKelway, 10/21).

Reuters: Most In Massachusetts Want State Push On Health Costs
Most Massachusetts residents want their state government to take action to reduce high healthcare costs that they blame on drug and insurance companies charging too much, a survey showed on Friday... Eighty-eight percent of the 1,000 Massachusetts residents questioned in the poll in September said the state government should take "major action" to address rising costs (Krasny, 10/21).

Kaiser Health News and WBUR: In Mass., Conflicting Emotion is About Controlling Health Care Costs
Pollster Robert Blendon, with Harvard's Kennedy School and the Harvard School of Public Health, spoke to WBUR's Martha Bebinger about the survey. ... Q: Why does the public say health care costs are too high? A: The main reasons were excessive charges by pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and insurers. There was less concern about the things experts always talk about: using too much high cost technology, going to expensive teaching hospitals or not shopping for care (Bebinger, 10/21).

The Texas Tribune: Despite Reforms, Abuse Continues at Texas Institutions For Disabled
[T]wo-and-a-half years after Texas officials signed an agreement with the U.S. Attorney General’s office aimed at improving conditions in the state’s 13 institutions — following a U.S. Justice Department investigation that found avoidable deaths, civil rights violations and systemic abuse — a Texas Tribune review of facility monitoring reports and employee disciplinary records shows mistreatment is still relatively commonplace (Ramshaw and Aaronson, 10/23). Part two of this story ran today (Ramshaw, 10/24). 

The Miami Herald: Florida Curtails Effort To Police ALFs
Under fire from some lawmakers and healthcare industry leaders, Florida’s struggling elder ombudsman program now has turned on itself. ... Just six months ago, key lawmakers wanted to do away with the group's ability to perform yearly inspections of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities — the program's key mission — even as its corps of trained volunteers was turning up a record number of abuse and neglect cases in ALFs across the state (Miller and Sallah, 10/23). 

Des Moines Register: Group Pushes For Effective Mental Health Care Reform
Iowa's revamped mental health care system must include more state workers so that care is easier to access and is funded properly, an advocate said Sunday at a community organizing group's annual Action Summit. ... Lawmakers earlier this year repealed Iowa's current $1.3 billion mental health programs, long targets of criticism, so they would be forced to come up with a new system to be installed by 2013 (Rodgers, 10/24).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bill Could Save Nursing Homes Millions In Fines 
A bill moving through the Legislature would give nursing homes more time to pay for violations, put time limits on when the state can impose forfeitures on nursing homes and prevent the state from finding multiple violations for the same practices. ... The bill, which has bipartisan backing, also would give the state more power to suspend and revoke nursing home licenses and would allow the state to sue nursing homes for violating federal rules (Marley, 10/21).

HealthyCal: Promotoras Are Vital Link To Ethnic Communities
They’re called by different names: community health workers… promotoras… health advocates… pomoshniks… peer counselors. ... California’s stew pot of ethnicities – Latino, Hmong, Russian and beyond – has made these workers an effective force for improving care in hard-to-reach areas (Perry, 10/23). 

HealthyCal: Indian Tribes To Form Consortium For Healthcare Reform
The California Rural Indian Health Board hopes to form a consortium of tribes to administer healthcare reform for Indians and native Alaskans in 37 rural California counties. ... The consortium would act much like California’s counties in administering the program, which will provide Medi-Cal like services to low-income adults ahead of the 2014 federal health care reforms (Moran, 10/24). 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Insurance Exchange Could Ease Health Care Cost For Small Businesses
A committee of local health care experts, lawmakers and community leaders is exploring ways to develop an exchange -- required starting in 2014 under the federal health care law -- and will deliver final legislative recommendations to the governor by Dec. 15. While opposing the health care overhaul, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed the committee earlier this year -- saying it made sense to study Georgia-based solutions while the courts decide whether the law is unconstitutional (Williams, 10/22).

Georgia Health News: Nurses See Regulatory Snags In State
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp told the Georgia Nurses Association conference in Atlanta on Thursday that nurses and other professionals renewing their state licenses next year will be required to send in documentation of their citizenship. That rule will increase wait times for licensure, Kemp said, adding that his office will have to hire many more employees to review this documentation (Miller, 10/21).

California Watch: Maryland Hospital, Like California Chain, Claims 'Kwashiorkor' Outbreak
[T]he government said Kernan Hospital in Baltimore fraudulently billed Medicare about $1.6 million for treating elderly patients for kwashiorkor, a nutritional malady that, according to experts, is widely associated with impoverished children in the Third World. The Maryland lawsuit, filed last week, describes alleged billing practices similar to ones that authorities have investigated at the Prime Healthcare Services hospital chain in California (Williams and Jewett, 10/24).

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