KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Calif. Downgrades Exposing Others To HIV From Felony To Misdemeanor; ‘Microhospitals’ Are New Kid On Block In Ohio

Media outlets report on news from California, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas and North Carolina.

The Washington Post: Knowingly Infecting Others With HIV Is No Longer A Felony In California. Advocates Say The Law Targeted Sex Workers.
California lawmakers have passed legislation to reduce the penalty for those who knowingly or intentionally expose others to HIV without their knowledge, rolling back a law that mostly affected sex workers. The bill, SB 239, which was approved by the Democrat-controlled state legislature in September and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Friday, will lower the charges for these acts from a felony to a misdemeanor when the law goes into effect in 2018. The act of knowingly donating HIV-infected blood, also a felony now, will be decriminalized. (Rosenberg, 10/9)

Denver Post: Inmate Suicides: Jails And Prisons Work To Stem Upward Trend
In Arapahoe County, there is plexiglass paneling on bunk beds. Jefferson County’s strategy involves flexible pens. And in Denver, it is tear-resistant sheets and blankets. Across the state, jails and prisons are employing an array of strategies to push back against rising inmate deaths and suicide attempts, a problem complicated by the state’s burgeoning mental health and opioid abuse crises. (Aguilar, 10/9)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: 'Arbitrary And Unwise': Medical Professionals Respond To Anthem's Plan To Change Imaging Reimbursement Guidelines
The health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is planning to change its guidelines for reimbursing imaging services like MRIs and CT scans, favoring freestanding outpatient clinics or imaging centers over hospitals. In a statement, the company said a subsidiary, AIM Specialty Health, will help “identify when hospital outpatient services for certain imaging tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, are medically unnecessary,” in which cases members can receive those services — frequently used to help in the diagnosis process — at free-standing centers instead. (O'Connor, 10/9)

The Oregonian: Bend Woman Who Claimed Doctors Ignored Cardiac-Arrest Symptoms Drops Lawsuit 
A 46-year-old Bend woman who filed an $8.75 million lawsuit against her doctors -- claiming that for months they misread telltale signs that she was about to suffer cardiac arrest -- has dropped her 2016 lawsuit. Attorney Gordon Welborn said cardiac arrest victim Shelley Harding decided to withdraw her lawsuit against doctors Dana Rhode and Jeffrey Scott after it became clear she didn't have the evidence to prove her case. Welborn, who represented the doctors, said they both testified in pretrial depositions that they never heard Harding tell them, "I feel like I'm having a heart attack." (Green, 10/9)

Kaiser Health News: In Oregon, End-Of-Life Wishes Are Just A Click Away
Just four hours earlier, Sallie Cutler had been sharing Mother’s Day lunch with her mom, Alyce Cheatham. Then, that same evening, Cheatham, 96, landed in a Portland, Ore., emergency room, lethargic, unable to speak and paralyzed on her right side by a massive stroke. Cutler now admits her first impulse was to demand action. (Aleccia, 10/10)

Pioneer Press: Regions Hospital Is Sued, Years After Stillborn Baby Discarded With Dirty Laundry 
The family of a stillborn baby discarded in Regions Hospital’s dirty laundry after staff promised to cremate the remains is suing the medical institution. The mother of the child, Esmeralda Hernandez, filed a lawsuit against the St. Paul hospital in Ramsey County District Court earlier this month along with several of her family members. The civil suit accuses Regions of reckless interference with a dead body. The family is seeking damages “far in excess of $50,000” for their ongoing pain related to the incident, according to legal documents. (Horner, 10/9)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Why N.J. Patients With Chronic Pain Still Can't Get Medical Marijuana
Five months ago, a New Jersey health panel voted in favor of dramatically expanding the list of conditions that may be treated with cannabis. Chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, autism, anxiety, migraines, and other maladies should be added to the list of 13 ailments, said the panel of doctors and other health professionals. Before the panel reached this decision, it reviewed petitions submitted by 68 patients a year ago, and then held three hearings. At these hearings, patients pleaded for the right to use cannabis to alleviate various ailments. Many confided that they had tried cannabis and wanted to be able to use it legally because it had helped. (Hefler, 10/10)

North Carolina Health News: It Takes A Village To Improve A Community's Health
In 2015 and the years preceding, Halifax County came in almost dead last North Carolina’s county health rankings at 99 out of 100. The local medical community was alarmed by this rating, and by the number of people suffering complications from hypertension, cancer and heart disease. ...In response, Hardy said, the medical community formed the Roanoke Valley Community Health Initiative. The group talked about changing the healthcare landscape from caring for people who are already sick to preventing disease. An additional motivation was cost: Practicing “sick care” and treating chronic diseases is costly and patients didn’t always have the best insurance. (Knopf, 10/9)

The Star Tribune: Synthetic Cannabis Sent 60 To Hospital In Mpls. In Last Week
Overdoses on synthetic cannabis sent people to the hospital in Minneapolis at least 60 times last week, causing hallucinations and violent behavior in some users, while leaving others nearly “comatose,” health officials said. The number of emergency calls involving suspected overdoses in the city was double that number, from midnight Sept. 29 through Sunday afternoon, officials said. (Jany, 10/9)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.