KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Massachusetts To Step Up Nursing Home Oversight; Proposed Mergers Among Major Ohio Insurers Cause Consumer Concerns

News outlets report on health issues in Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa, Rhode Island and Texas.

The Boston Globe: State Officials Move To Tighten Oversight Of Nursing Homes
Massachusetts health regulators moved Wednesday to significantly strengthen oversight of nursing homes, creating a unit that will conduct unannounced inspections and promising to impose fines on problem-plagued facilities. The overhaul, unveiled by the state’s public health commissioner, also calls for intensified scrutiny of companies and executives seeking licenses to run nursing homes. (Lazar, 2/11)

Modern Healthcare: Mercy Inks First Virtual Care Deal With UNC Healthcare
The University of North Carolina Healthcare is expanding its telemedicine program through a partnership with Mercy Virtual, the virtual care arm of Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy.The collaboration is a new take on a common theme: telemedicine meets clinically integrated network. And it will allow faster and broader telemedicine adoption than if each health system tried to build its own independent program. (Kutscher, 2/10)

The Denver Post: Colorado Hospitals Claim Billions In Community Benefit Programs
Dad is 66. He just lost his wife of 38 years to a short illness and can't seem to cope without her. To make matters worse, he retired two months before she died. His 34-year-old daughter invites him to meals and outings, but he doesn't seem to see or know his grandchildren. He just sits and stares into space for much of the day, locked into his grief. Dad, in this case, is a character in a scenario, a subject for suggestions from about 20 employees of Longmont United Hospital. He's part of a mental health first-aid course that aims to make treating the mind as normal as treating the body. (Olinger, 2/10)

The Des Moines Register: Iowa Sees Big Drop In Uninsured Children
The number of uninsured Iowa children fell by one-third in just a year, a new report says. From 2013 to 2014, the state saw the number of uninsured children drop from more than 38,000 to fewer than 25,000, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says in a report being released Thursday morning. The decline was mainly due to more children joining public insurance plans, mainly Medicaid or Hawk-I. Medicaid is for poor or disabled children. Hawk-I is for children of moderate income families. (Leys, 2/11)

The New York Times: Cuomo’s Proposal Seeks Confidentiality For Minors With H.I.V.
Among the recent patients at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx was a 17-year-old with H.I.V. who put off his treatment until he turned 18, because he was worried his parents would kick him out and not pay for his medications if they found out about his status. At SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, doctors wanted to prescribe Truvada, the preventive H.I.V. pill, to a 16-year-old girl who was dating a man who was H.I.V. positive. But she did not receive it because she could not qualify for state assistance to pay for it. A new proposal from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office seeks to remedy such situations by extending to minors the confidentiality that is already given to them for the treatment of other sexually transmitted infections. (Otterman, 2/10)

Minnesota Public Radio: Report Shows Massive Racial Disparities In Health Care
White Minnesotans tend to receive better health care than people of color, a new report compiled by MN Community Measurement indicates. Generally, white and Asian patients had the highest rates of optimal care, while American Indian and black patients usually had the lowest rates, according to the report. The analysis draws on data collected from Minnesota clinics and patients. (Benson, 2/10)

The Chicago Tribune: Is Risk Of State Discipline Scaring Away Doctors From Medical Marijuana
The patients seeking medical marijuana inquire almost daily with Dr. Rahul Khare at his storefront health care clinic in Lincoln Park. They come with cancer, spinal cord diseases, rheumatoid arthritis. Some have been turned down for a cannabis referral by the doctors they see regularly, not because they might not qualify, Khare contends, but because many physicians are hesitant to refer anyone for marijuana. (McCoppin, 2/10)

The Associated Press: Data: Preventable ER Visits Cost About $90M A Year
A state agency says a new report shows potentially preventable emergency room visits cost Rhode Islanders about $90 million a year. The report released Tuesday by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services says nearly $40 million of that is private health care spending, $33.1 is Medicare spending and $18 million is Medicaid. (2/10)

The Star Tribune: Social Security Targets Disabilities Fraud In Minnesota
Federal and state investigators plan to make it a lot harder for people like James W. Smith to defraud the government out of disabilities benefits. Smith, a former IT supervisor from Hermantown, Minn., feigned early-onset dementia to collect more than $264,000 in monthly disabilities payments from the Social Security Administration and a private insurer before he was caught in 2012 and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. (Browning, 2/10)

The Texas Tribune: With 4 Candidates In Health Care, Senate Race Stirs Unique Debate
Like Republicans across the state and much of the country, all six of the GOP candidates running for Senate District 24 have voiced opposition to President Obama’s signature health law, the Affordable Care Act. They also all support the state maintaining its opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage, despite a long-standing offer by the federal government to cover most of the extra costs for expanding coverage to more low-income Texans. (Walters, 2/10)

The Des Moines Register: Doctor Fined For Improper Internet Prescriptions
A Quad Cities doctor who admitted on national TV last year that he prescribed pain medication to unfamiliar patients via the Internet has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine. Dr. Paul Bolger, 44, reached a settlement with the Iowa Board of Medicine last week, according to documents released Wednesday. (Leys, 2/10)

The Des Moines Register: Iowa Doctor Fined Over Lyme Disease Treatment
A northern Iowa physician has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine after being accused of improperly treating numerous patients for Lyme disease even though they didn’t meet standard criteria for diagnosing the condition. Mary Pat Rosman, 59, who used to practice in Sumner, also was accused of failing to accurately diagnose and treat a case of lung cancer. (Leys, 2/10)

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