KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Death With Dignity Act Unlikely To Pass In Maryland; Miss. House Votes To Loosen Vaccination Exemptions Process

News outlets report on health issues in Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Michigan, Florida, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

The Washington Post: Doctor-Assisted Suicide Bill Unlikely To Pass Md. Senate Panel, Sponsor Says
A bill that would allow terminally ill adults in Maryland to take their own lives appears likely to fail in committee for the second straight year, its lead sponsor said Wednesday. With a vote expected Thursday, none of the four lawmakers whose support is needed to move the Death With Dignity Act to the full state Senate appears ready to commit to the measure, Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) said. (Hernández and Wiggins, 3/2)

The Associated Press: Mississippi House Votes To Expand Vaccination Exemptions
The Mississippi House voted 65-54 Wednesday to loosen the process for getting medical exemptions to some of the strictest childhood vaccination requirements in the nation. It is not clear whether the proposal will survive in the Senate, however. All states allow a process to get a medical exemption to avoid some or all vaccinations that are required to attend school. (Pettus, 3/3)

Bloomberg: New York Hospitals Must Restructure Finances, Comptroller Says
New York’s public hospital system, the largest in the U.S., projects it will end the fiscal year with its lowest cash level in at least 15 years, and it’s “imperative” that city officials come up with a plan to stabilize it, according to the state comptroller’s office. The Health and Hospitals Corp., which serves 1.4 million patients annually, projects a closing cash balance of $104 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, enough to meet obligations for six days. The estimate was included in a report on New York City’s finance issued by the state comptroller’s office Monday. (Braun, 3/1)

Tribune News Services: Michigan Restricted Flint From Switching Water In Loan Deal
The state of Michigan restricted Flint from switching water sources last April without approval from Gov. Rick Snyder's administration under the terms of a $7 million loan needed to help transition the city from state management, according to a document released Wednesday. By the time the loan agreement was in place, cries about Flint's water quality were growing louder, though it had not yet been discovered that the improperly treated Flint River water had caused lead to leach from aging pipes and put children at risk. Flint's state-appointed emergency manager said at the time that switching back to the water source would cost the city more than $1 million a month and that "water from Detroit is no safer than Flint water." (3/2)

The Detroit Free Press: Gov. Snyder Retains Outside Attorneys Over Flint Water
Gov. Rick Snyder has hired two outside attorneys in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis, including a criminal defense attorney retained to serve as "investigatory counsel," a Snyder spokesman confirmed Thursday. Eugene Driker, a civil defense attorney, and Brian Lennon, a criminal defense attorney, were each awarded a contract worth $249,000 through Dec. 31, after which those contracts can be extended, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler told the Free Press. (Egan, 2/3)

The Associated Press: VA Watchdog Releases Report On Florida Facilities
Reports documenting scheduling problems and wait-time manipulation at the Department of Veterans Affairs are being made public, as the agency’s internal watchdog bows to pressure from members of Congress and others to improve transparency. The VA’s Office of Inspector General released 11 reports Monday outlining problems at VA hospitals and clinics in Florida. The reports are the first of 77 investigations to be made public over the next few months. (3/2)

Health News Florida: 'Direct Primary Care,' 'Balance Billing' Get House Support
With the support of doctors and small businesses, the Florida House has unanimously passed a bill that would clear the way for "direct primary care” agreements. The agreements involve monthly payments that patients or their employers make to doctors to cover routine primary-care services, which would cut out the role of insurers. (Miller, 3/2)

Kaiser Health News: Boston's Heroin Users Will Soon Get A Safer Place To Be High
A Boston nonprofit plans to soon test a new way of addressing the city’s heroin epidemic. The idea is simple: Starting in March, along a stretch of road that has come to be called Boston’s “Methadone Mile,” the program will open a room with a nurse, some soft chairs and basic life-saving equipment — a place where heroin users can ride out their high, under medical supervision. ... With state statistics indicating that roughly four Massachusetts residents die every day from an overdose, the need for some sort of new approach seems more urgent than ever, [Dr. Jessie Gaeta, chief medical officer at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which initiated the project] said. Still, her organization plans only a limited version of the “safe place” other countries offer. In Boston, patients will not be allowed to take drugs in the room. (Bebinger, 3/3)

The Associated Press: Hundreds Of Flu Cases Confirmed In Delaware
Public health officials say there have been more than 90 new confirmed cases of the flu in Delaware in a week, and the numbers could go higher. The Delaware Division of Public Health said in a news release Wednesday there were 92 new cases confirmed by lab tests for the week ending Feb. 27. Officials say that is more than double the new cases reported the week before. (3/2)

WBUR: Midwives Handle 16 Percent Of Mass. Births, And There’s A Wide Range Among Hospitals
Lauren Frick is waiting for the “crampy feeling” in her lower back that signaled the beginning of labor with her first two children. Her third child is due March 23. Frick plans to deliver at the Cambridge Birth Center, where 100 percent of babies arrive with the assistance of midwives. The 34-year-old biological engineer will have chosen a midwife instead of an MD as her primary provider for all three births. Doctors, Frick says, seem to focus on what can go wrong, not on childbirth as a normal, natural process. (Bebinger, 3/3)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Major Ambulance Firm To End Operations In Pa.
An ambulance company that provides services to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Main Line Health, and Crozer-Keystone Health System plans to close up shop June 30. The company, Falck USA, an arm of a Danish company that operates in the Philadelphia region as LifeStar Response, blamed low reimbursement rates. (Brubaker, 3/2)

NPR: Baltimore's Leana Wen: A Doctor For The City
It's only March, but Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen already has an embarrassingly full calendar. She's put together the city's plan for dealing with the Zika virus, launched a campaign against soda and other sugary beverages and overseen an investigation into why so many people in the city are overdosing on fentanyl. Trained in emergency medicine, Wen, 33, says running the health department in Baltimore is the fastest-paced job she's had. (Hsu, 3/2)

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