KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Ga. Personal Care Homes In Peril; Texas Vets’ Wait For VA Disability

A selection of health policy stories from around the United States.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perils In Personal Care Homes
Georgia hasn't done enough to rein in an "epidemic" of mistreatment of vulnerable people by personal care home operators, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found. Growing demand, combined with a convoluted, overstretched system of oversight, leaves the door open for abuses of elderly, mentally ill or developmentally disabled residents, many experts say. There are about 100 licensed homes for every state inspector, and for years unlicensed homes have operated with impunity (Simmons and Schneider, 5/9). 

Houston Chronicle: Texas Veterans Face Long Waits For VA To Process Disability Claims
Despite more funding and staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of disability claims in Houston has more than doubled since this time three years ago. More than 37,100 claims are pending at the Houston VA Regional Office, up from 17,537 in 2009. Veterans wait an average of 263 days for the office to process their claims, according to data obtained by the Houston Chronicle (Wise, 5/8).

Boston Globe: Mass. Health Law Did Not Expand Inpatient Care For Addictions, Study Says
The number of people who received inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol abuse at state-contracted facilities in Massachusetts has remained nearly unchanged since 2006, despite the expansion of insurance coverage under the state law passed that year. Authors of a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs said their results show that increasing coverage, while helpful, is not enough to get people with addictions the care they need. Changing how care is paid for and increasing capacity for treating people with addictions is necessary, too, they said (Conaboy, 5/8).

Baltimore Sun: Maryland Health Insurance Plan Makes Cost Benefit Changes
The federal program that offers health insurance to Marylanders with pre-existing conditions has made changes recently that will make some costs go up and others go down. The program was created under the federal health reform law and was intended as a bridge for those who could not buy commercial insurance until 2014 when new exchanges are slated to launch. The program could be terminated if the health care law is overturned by the Supreme Court. But for now, officials say the program operates at market rates and they must adjust premiums and benefits each year as other insurers do with their plans (Cohn, 5/8).

The Kansas City Star: Plan To Provide More Dental Help In Kansas Gets Pulled
Kansas lawmakers have wrestled with the issue this year, but they rejected a plan that social service advocates believe would do the most good but that dentists say would put patients at risk. At the urging of the dental industry, lawmakers killed a bill that would have created a midlevel provider -- a registered dental therapist -- who could perform some of the duties now handled by dentists, including filling cavities and pulling teeth. Other states have considered similar bills, but only Alaska and Minnesota have comparable laws (Cooper, 5/9). 

Des Moines Register: Iowa House Speaker: Legislative Session Could End Today
Iowa’s 2012 legislative session could wrap up as early as today, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said this morning. ... Still unresolved are the session’s three major reform proposals -- affecting K-12 education, the state's mental health care delivery system and property taxes. Paulsen suggested all three could be finished within hours (Noble, 5/8).

Des Moines Register: New Bill To Ban Synthetic Drugs Passes House, Heads To Governor
A bill aimed at cracking down on synthetic drugs passed the Iowa House on Tuesday, and is now headed to Gov. Terry Branstad to be signed into law. ... Proponents say the bill’s changes to the state's banned-substance list will make it much more difficult for synthetic drug manufacturers to continue selling potentially harmful drugs by making subtle tweaks to their chemical makeup (Noble, 5/8).

The Kansas City Star: Kansas House Considers Study Of Selling KU Hospital
As debate on the Kansas budget approached midnight, a Kansas House member proposed the idea of studying the sale of the University of Kansas Hospital. Rep. Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, proposed studying the sale of the facility during a nearly nine-hour debate on the budget. The study would be done by the budget division of the Department of Administration. Suellentrop introduced the amendment just before 11 p.m., but withdrew it about 30 minutes later after it was roundly criticized by several legislators, including House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican (Cooper, 5/9).

Modern Healthcare: Layoffs Planned At Fla. Medical School
The University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine intends to lay off up to 800 employees at the end of the July. The positions are concentrated in unfunded research and administration, including support staff, information technology, human resources and marketing. Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, CEO of the University of Miami Health System, cited declining reimbursement as well as a reduction in funding from the National Institutes of Health as prompting the action (Kutscher, 5/8).

California Healthline: Disability Rights Withdraws Contempt Filing -- For Now 
A contempt-of-court motion filed against the Department of Health Care Services was recently withdrawn by Disability Rights California, though adult day health care advocates said they might re-file later. ... The two sides agreed on the group of ADHC beneficiaries who should be presumed eligible for Community-Based Adult Services, the new program created as part of a settlement of a lawsuit in December. The contempt filing claimed that the DHCS violated terms of that settlement (Gorn, 5/9).

California Watch: In N.Y. And Calif., Different Approaches To Patient Abuse Reform
Wherever the developmentally disabled live, abuse is their neighbor. It comes as deliberate assault by caregivers and sometimes relatives. It comes as acts of frustration, when people exhausted from the relentless difficulties of caring for patients with intellectual disabilities shove and hit the vulnerable. ... New York lawmakers plan to add a new independent overseer focused solely on the disabled. ... California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is working to upgrade an existing in-house police force that has long struggled to investigate crimes at the state's institutions for residents with cerebral palsy and other intellectual disabilities (Gabrielson, 5/9). 

The Texas Tribune: Interactive: Mapping Access to Health Care in Texas 
Doctors, pharmacists and family planning clinics say state budget tightening may force many health care providers out of business or prevent them from providing adequate patient care. ... The Tribune created this data interactive to illustrate just how lacking access is in some regions of the state. The majority of rural Texas lacks primary care physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists and other specialists, while more populated areas have a sufficient number of providers (Aaronson, 5/8).

HealthyCal: Brown's Proposal On Child Health Meets Strong Opposition
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to shift nearly 1 million children from subsidized private insurance into the state Medi-Cal program is running into a wall of opposition from children's advocates, health care providers and faith-based groups. Brown included the proposal to eliminate the state's Healthy Families program in his January budget and is expected to stick with it when he releases his revised budget next week (Weintraub, 5/8).

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