KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Mich. Gov. Calls For Investigation Of State Health Department; Puerto Rico’s Economic Woes Take Toll On Health Care Workforce

News outlets report on health issues in Michigan, Puerto Rico, Washington, Virginia, California, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina.

The Associated Press: Gov. Snyder Calls For Investigation Of Health Department
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday called for an investigation of how his health department handled an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area as well as high lead levels among residents who were drinking tainted water from the Flint River. Snyder was briefed on an “internal review” of the Department of Health and Human Services and now wants the agency’s inspector general and Michigan’s auditor general to quickly launch a broader investigation, spokesman Ari Adler said. (White, 3/11)

Reuters: Michigan Auditors Will Probe State Health Agency On Flint Water
Michigan auditors will probe the state's Department of Health and Human Services over its handling of elevated lead levels in Flint drinking water and a rise in Legionnaire’s disease cases, Governor Rick Snyder said Friday. Snyder called for the state’s Auditor General and the health agency's inspector general to investigate the problems in Flint and surrounding Genesee County, and they agreed, the state said. (Shepardson and Klayman, 3/11)

NPR: SOS: Puerto Rico Is Losing Doctors, Leaving Patients Stranded
Puerto Rico is losing people. Due to a decade-long recession, more than 50,000 residents leave the U.S. territory each year—most for jobs and new lives on the mainland. This issue is especially affecting healthcare, where it's estimated that at least one doctor leaves Puerto Rico every day. The mass exodus of doctors is creating vacancies that are hard to fill and waiting lists for patient care. Dr. Antonio Peraza is among those doctors who recently left for the mainland. He specializes in internal medicine and for nearly 14 years, had a private practice in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. (Allen, 3/12)

The Seattle Times: Group Health Approves Acquisition By Kaiser Permanente
Rejecting critics and community concern, voting members of Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative have overwhelmingly agreed to join with the California health-care giant Kaiser Permanente. Voting 8,824 to 1,586 in mailed-in ballots, the members approved the move that essentially dissolves the iconic, home-grown cooperative, founded nearly 70 years ago with the mission of providing integrated health care and health coverage to Northwest residents. (Aleccia, 3/10)

The Washington Post: Virginia Lawmakers Wrap Up Session, Send $105 Billion Budget To Governor
Virginia lawmakers finished their work late Friday one day ahead of schedule and sent Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) a budget that would give teachers raises and increase spending for education and economic development. ... For the third straight year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly denied McAuliffe and Democrats expansion of Medicaid and rejected the governor’s plan to tax hospitals and use the revenue to fund the state’s share of the federal health-care program. “We don’t have any answer for the 400,000 Virginians who don’t have any health-care coverage,” Del. Marcus B. Simon (D-Fairfax) said. (Portnoy, 3/12)

The Associated Press: Money From Hospital Sale To Be Used For Health Initiatives
Money from the sale of the Indiana University LaPorte Hospital was used to create a nonprofit foundation that will focus on trying to improve the health of the northern Indiana county. A deal to sell an 80 percent stake in the hospital to Community Health Systems, a for-profit hospital system based in Franklin, Tennessee, was finalized Tuesday. IU Health will retain a 20 percent stake in the hospital. The deal also includes the 50-bed IU Health Starke Hospital in Knox. (3/13)

The Sacramento Bee: California Tobacco Bills Spurred Hardball Political Threats
Tobacco industry lobbyists threatened to scuttle unrelated ballot initiatives if California lawmakers passed sweeping anti-smoking measures, health advocates said on Friday. While lawmakers said bills now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21 and to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products drew fierce industry opposition, they characterized the effort as a hard-to-trace background campaign. Assembly Speaker-elect Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, last week told reporters lawmakers had received “threats involving electoral efforts.” (White, 3/11)

The Chicago Tribune: Doctor Given Prison For Taking Kickbacks To Prescribe Risky Drug
A Chicago doctor who was once the nation's most prolific prescriber of the risky antipsychotic drug clozapine was sentenced to nine months in prison Friday for taking cash, vacation trips and other kickbacks from the drug's manufacturers. Dr. Michael Reinstein, the subject of a 2009 Tribune-ProPublica joint investigation, admitted to pocketing nearly $600,000 in benefits over the years for prescribing various forms of clozapine, known as a risky drug of last resort, to hundreds of mentally ill patients in his care. (Meisner, 3/11)

The Associated Press: VA Makes Home Visits To Patients In Pilot Project
The Iraq vet fitted a blood-pressure wrap around the Vietnam vet's arm, checked the gauge and announced, "Nice blood pressure today. Right in the range we want." Andrew Bisbee, a former Army medic, then checked his patient's heart, throat and swollen feet. "I know I'm not a spring chicken anymore," said the patient, Gerald Bowles, 65, of Cleveland. (Albrecht, 3/13)

The Charlotte Observer: Cheery Work Environment Shapes Busy Health Care Center
Gateway Ambulatory Surgery Center in Concord stays busy. Local surgeons perform more than 10,000 outpatient procedures a year there, according to the healthcare organization. Still, employees there make time to maintain an upbeat atmosphere at the workplace. They celebrate holidays, hold baking contests and put their own spin on the bring-your-child-to-work theme. (Smith, 3/12)

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