KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Ariz. High Court To Hear Medicaid Funding Challenge

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

Arizona Republic: Arizona Supreme Court To Hear AHCCCS Case
The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a challenge to state Medicaid cuts. The court put the matter on its Feb. 15 agenda and will decide then whether to take the case and hear oral arguments. Three public-interest law groups challenged an enrollment freeze for childless adults in the state's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. A lower-court judge and an Arizona appeals-court panel upheld the cuts (Reinhart, 12/19).

San Francisco Chronicle: Ruling Could Stop Cuts In Elderly, Disabled Care
States can't cut in-home care for elderly and disabled people if there's a serious risk they'll be forced into nursing homes, a federal appeals court has ruled in a decision that could forestall a 20 percent reduction in services to 372,000 Californians. Friday's ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco did not directly involve California and came instead from Washington state, where officials reduced home-care hours for 45,000 residents by 10 percent in February. But the issues are similar to those now before a federal judge in Oakland, who has scheduled a Jan. 19 hearing on whether to let California eliminate one-fifth of the care it provides in the in-home supportive services program (Egelko, 12/20).

The Baltimore Sun: Hopkins Medicine Hires Iowa Dean As New CEO
Rheumatologist and college dean Dr. Paul B. Rothman will serve as the next CEO of the $6.5 billion Johns Hopkins Medicine health system, ushering in a new era for the world-renowned medical institution that after a decade of rapid expansion faces the new challenges of an evolving health care industry. Rothman comes from the smaller and lesser-known University of Iowa, where he is dean of the Carver College of Medicine and leads the university's clinical practice plan. But he brings with him nearly three decades of academic medical experience as a scientist, clinician and administrator, Hopkins executives said Monday in announcing his appointment (Walker, 12/19).

NPR: In Calif. Mental Hospitals, Assaults Rarely A Crime (Part 1 Of An Ongoing Series)
Thousands of violent incidents occur every year in California's psychiatric hospitals, but very few are treated as crimes. Among the exceptions was the murder last year of a hospital staffer by a patient. But for the most part, it's been a challenge for the criminal justice and mental health systems to figure out how to deal with assaults by the mentally ill (Jaffe, 12/20).

The Hill: Court: 'Personhood' Measure Would Limit Health Care, Not Just Abortion
Abortion-rights supporters cheered a Nevada judge's determination Monday that controversial "personhood" proposals would limit women's access to basic health care services. Critics of the personhood approach argue that it goes far beyond abortion, and some social conservatives agree. A judge lent further support to that argument Monday by rewriting a proposed ballot initiative in Nevada. Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have both endorsed the personhood movement (Baker, 12/19).

Boston Globe: Rewards For Patients To Switch Care
Told they need a routine medical test, such as a colonoscopy or a mammogram, most patients go wherever the doctor recommends. But under a program being rolled out next month by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, they could be paid to seek care somewhere else. The health insurer plans to introduce a rewards program through which its Massachusetts members who have been given referrals will be asked to call a "clinical concierge" service that can direct them to hospitals or medical facilities that charge less for the same tests (Weisman, 12/20).

(Minneapolis-St. Paul Minn.) Pioneer Press: Blue Cross Change Concerns Patient Advocates For Autistic Children
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will begin dropping coverage in most cases for a costly therapy for autistic children as early as Jan. 1 - a change that has patient advocates worried about losing coverage through a key state program, too. The Eagan-based health insurer said Monday that the coverage change will be phased in over next year and affect about 200 children who have been receiving a treatment known as early intensive behavioral intervention. The treatment cost averages about $80,000 per year (Snowbeck, 12/19).

KQED's The California Report: Medicare Billed For Rare Disease In Shasta County
The investigative outfit California Watch went digging through more than 50 million Medicare records over the past year, and found a fascinating story involving Prime Healthcare Services, which owns 15 facilities in California and Texas. According to the bills the chain sends Medicare, one rural California hospital is suffering an epidemic of kwashiorkor, usually seen in drought-stricken parts of Africa (Williams, 12/19).

Kansas Health Institute News: Budget Surprise Means Layoffs At KC Mental Health Center
Officials at one of the state's largest community mental health centers have laid off 40 workers, saying it was the only way they could deal with a lid on Medicaid payments for mental health services that failed to account for the center's actual cost of operations (Ranney and Shields, 12/19).

Kansas Health Institute News: Kansas Mental Health Centers Face Growing Pressures
For the past few years, government funding for the state's 27 community mental health centers has failed to keep pace with the number of people needing services and treatment. The local centers became the cornerstones of the state's mental health system following reforms in the early 1990s that decreased reliance on the state mental hospitals (Ranney and Shields, 12/19).

NewsHour (Video): California Hospital Chain Eyes For Possibly Bilking Medicare For Millions
Americans spends more than $500 billion every year on Medicare, and as the cost of health care rises, many are examining how that money is spent. NewsHour's partner The Center for Investigative Reporting conducted a year-long probe into one prominent hospital chain's bills to Medicare. California Watch's Lance Williams reports (12/19).

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