KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Health Centers Moving Into Contaminated Tracts

News outlets report on state health news in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

The New York Times: Health Centers Find Opportunity In Brownfields
The community health center rising on a derelict corner here in West Philadelphia never would have broken ground if not for the asbestos inside the building that was demolished to make way for it. Because of the contamination, Spectrum Health Services received a $2 million federal cleanup grant, the first piece of a $14 million construction financing puzzle. ... It will also be the latest in a nationwide trend to replace contaminated tracts in distressed neighborhoods with health centers, in essence taking a potential source of health problems for a community and turning it into a place for health care (Kaysen, 12/11).

WBUR: CommonHealth (Interview): Is Mass. Public Health In Danger?
When Gov. Deval Patrick recently announced a $540 million ... gap in the state budget, every state organization immediately worried about how deeply the ensuing cuts would bite into their funding — none more so than the Department of Public Health. In fact, public health advocates are so concerned about the potential consequences of further cuts that they sent a letter to Gov. Patrick saying that the state's public health infrastructure is already "not meeting basic needs" (12/11).

Houston Chronicle: Judge Worries New Harris Mental Health Court Is In Peril
A Houston judge says one of her colleagues and the newly elected district attorney are working to close Harris County's mental health court less than three months after its official dedication. State District Judge Jan Krocker released a statement saying Belinda Hill, the head administrative judge, has torpedoed $500,000 in funding offered by Pat Lykos, the lame duck district attorney, out of the office's discretionary account. Without the money, Krocker said, the court that took her more than three years to create and oversees will close Jan. 31 (Rogers, 12/11).

The Oregonian: 3,000 Seniors, Disabled Adults Were Victims Of Abuse Last Year, State Report Finds
Nearly 3,000 seniors and adults with disabilities were victims of abuse last year, according to a state report released this week. Adult protective services officials at the state Department of Human Services received more than 28,000 reports of potential abuse last year, of which 4,052 were substantiated. The division received about 1,000 more reports last year than in 2010. Financial exploitation and self-neglect were the two areas of abuse with the most victims, according to the report. Self-neglect refers to the inability of an adult to understand the consequences of his or her actions, perhaps resulting in harm ... to oneself or others (Zheng, 12/11).

Bay Citizen/California Watch: Some Counties Requiring Health Workers To Get Flu Vaccine

In an effort to prevent health care workers from spreading the flu to patients this winter, county health officials are mandating that medical staff around the Bay Area receive vaccinations or wear a surgical mask on the job. Health officials say flu vaccination rates among health care workers are dangerously low – 60 percent of those working in California hospitals received the vaccine in the 2010-11 flu season, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Public Health (Mieszkowski, 12/12).

The Lund Report: Regence BlueShield Made Serious Multimillion Dollar Accounting Mistakes
Regence BlueShield and its parent company Cambia Health Solutions made sloppy mistakes in their reporting practices, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars, according to a Lund Report review of the insurer's most recent Washington state financial exam. The examination (by the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner) was completed earlier this year and covers the insurer's work through the end of 2010. Regence BlueShield is the Washington subsidiary of Portland-based Cambia, which also owns Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon and Blues plans in Utah and Idaho. ... Officials at both Regence BlueShield and at the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner emphasized that the insurer remains solvent and capable of meeting its financial obligations (Sherwood, 12/11).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: County Supervisor Calls For State Takeover Of Mental Health Complex
County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo called for a state takeover of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, saying Tuesday that the county has failed to make good on plans to downsize the psychiatric hospital and treat more of its patients in the community. "After years of studies, warnings and repeated requests to modernize and to reform this vital program, for the County Board to sit back and do absolutely nothing is deplorable," Sanfelippo said. He released a statement calling for state Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith "to step in and take decisive action that will protect and improve the lives of these individuals with mental illness” (Schultze, 12/11).

Health News Florida: State Senate Wants Your 2 Cents
Last week's organizational meeting of the Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a bit rowdy, with anti-"ObamaCare" activists loudly insisting that the legislature "nullify" the federal law. This week, the Senate unveiled a website in which constituents can register their opinions about the law in a quieter way. It also saves Floridians the burden of making the trip (Gentry, 12/11).

California Healthline: Healthy Families Set For January Transition
State health officials have made it clear that the first phase of the Healthy Families transition to Medi-Cal managed care will go on as scheduled, beginning Jan. 1. Children's health advocates say they will do everything to support that effort while still keeping a careful eye on its progress. The first phase of the transition will move about 415,000 children into Medi-Cal -- almost half the 860,000 children enrolled in Healthy Families. The transition is dependent on federal approval by CMS within three weeks (Gorn, 12/12).

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