KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Ga. Senate OKs Insurance Mandates Bill; Va. Assembly Says Abortion Clinics Should Be Regulated As Hospitals

Chicago Tribune: Dangerous Doctors Slipping Through The Cracks
State agencies, county prosecutors, insurance companies, and health care employers and associations are mandatory reporters - they're required to report potentially dangerous and unprofessional doctors to medical regulators, who can bar the doctors from practicing and keep patients out of harm's way. But the mandatory reporters sound few alarms, and when they do, regulators rarely take action, the Tribune found. There were 348 mandatory reports filed with the state in 2009. That's out of nearly 46,000 physicians statewide. In only one case did the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation respond by suspending the physician's license, records show (Twohey, 2/24).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: As Mental Health Cuts Mount, Psychiatric Cases Fill Jails
Some inmates say it is the best mental health care available to them in Houston, and it costs the county about $27 million a year. Harris County officials have seen the number of mentally ill inmates explode since 2003, the last time Texas had a budget crisis and made major cuts. Then, there were fewer than three full-time psychiatrists at the jail. Now, there are more than 15. Often they see the same mentally ill inmates repeatedly (Grissom, 2/24). Watch the related video.

The Washington Post: Virginia Assembly Says Abortion Clinics Should Be Regulated As Hospitals
Antiabortion activists scored a major victory in Virginia as the state's General Assembly agreed Thursday that clinics where most of the state's early-term abortions are performed should be regulated as hospitals instead of as doctors' offices (Helderman, 2/25).

The Baltimore Sun: Md. Hospitals Penalized For Preventable Complications
Nine Maryland hospitals, including the University of Maryland Medical Center, have been handed financial penalties this year from the state's rate-setting commission because they had costly or higher-than-average rates of preventable patient complications. The effort by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets the rates that hospitals can charge, is designed to improve patient safety and lower health care costs by linking hospital performance with their payments (Brewington, 2/24).

KHN earlier, related coverage: Regulators Penalize Some maryland Hospitals For Complication Rates (Appleby, 2/24).

The Boston Globe: MGH To Pay $1M To Settle Privacy Case
Massachusetts General Hospital has agreed to pay the federal government $1 million to settle potential violations of patient privacy laws, which occurred when an employee commuting to work lost patient records on the T's Red Line two years ago. The US Department of Health and Human Services announced the settlement yesterday, after an investigation by its Office for Civil Rights. Mass. General also agreed to train all employees and to develop a comprehensive policy and procedures to protect patient information when it is taken outside the hospital (Kowalcyzk, 2/25).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Six Bold Predictions About The Looming Health Reform
Dr. Marc Bard, chief innovation office in Navigant's health care practice makes six bold predictions about what will happen as the state attempts its next major phase of health care reform: 1. New partnerships will sweep across the landscape. ... 2. More tension in the system. ... 3. The Massachusetts reform will go a major step farther than federal health reform on ACOs. ... 4. Greater division of labor: Tertiary means tertiary ... 5. A downward glide for costs. ... 6. Massachusetts medical culture will change to be more team-oriented (Goldberg, 2/24).

The Arizona Republic: Arizona Health Care Providers Concerned Over Bills
Health care providers say they're under siege from the Legislature, battling against a raft of proposals to shrink the public system and bring illegal-immigration enforcement into hospital corridors and doctors' offices. Bills making their way through the legislative process would add fees for people on the state's Medicaid program, withhold federal emergency-care funding from hospitals that treat illegal immigrants and make it a crime if health care workers fail to report people without proper documentation (Reinhart and Alltucker, 2/25).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Senate Approves Insurance Mandates Bill
The list of coverage requirements for Georgia health insurers would face scrutiny under a bill passed Thursday by the state Senate. The legislation, Senate Bill 17, calls for the creation of a commission of experts to review the state's insurance mandates, which include coverage for mammograms, well-baby visits and 48-hour hospital stays for new mothers and babies (Teegardin, 2/24).

The Dallas Morning News: Experts Urge Texas Legislators To Spare Mental Health Care For Children From Budget Cuts
Mental health experts on Thursday warned Texas legislators against slashing the budget for mental care for children, saying the consequences could be dire. "We're not just cutting fat from the system; now we are cutting bone," Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, said at a news conference at the Communities Foundation of Texas in North Dallas. Officials said mental health care for children is facing cuts of nearly 20 percent. Sanborn said that since Texas already ranks 49th in the United States for mental health expenditures per capita, cutting even more would put the state "way behind" in addressing the mental care needs of children (Huseman, 2/23).

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