KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Minn. Gov. Demands Answers Over ‘Reinsurance’; Md. Bill Would Protect Workers After Hospital Closures

Outlets report on news from Minnesota, Maryland, California, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Massachusetts.

Pioneer Press: ‘Reinsurance’: Mark Dayton Isn’t Buying What Insurance Companies Are Selling 
The state’s major health insurance companies tried to calm concerns about a proposal to stabilize the state’s insurance market Wednesday with a letter promising that a “reinsurance” bill would lower rates. But Gov. Mark Dayton isn’t buying the promises. In a series of letters back to the insurers, Dayton on Thursday asked for firmer commitments...Reinsurance would spend as much as $300 million per year to cover the cost of the most expensive patients in the state’s individual health insurance market. That’s the market that covers people who don’t get health coverage through an employer or a government plan, and affects less than 5 percent of the state. (Montgomery, 3/16)

The Baltimore Sun: State Bill Would Protect Workers Affected By Hospital Closures 
Statewide legislation is being considered in the Maryland General Assembly that would provide some relief for displaced employees of hospitals that close, such as University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace which is slated to close in the next several years. Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, whose district includes Havre de Grace, is sponsoring House Bill 932, requiring hospital operators to pay a fee to cover the cost of assisting any employees who lose their jobs because of the closing or merger. (Anderson, 3/17)

Los Angeles Times: Having Unprotected Sex Without Telling A Partner About HIV-Positive Status Would No Longer Be A Felony Under New Bill
In a test of shifting attitudes about HIV, a group of state lawmakers has proposed that it no longer be a felony for someone to knowingly expose others to the disease by engaging in unprotected sex and not telling the partner about the infection. The measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and others would make such acts a misdemeanor, a proposal that has sparked opposition from Republican lawmakers. (McGreevy, 3/17)

The Washington Post: T-Mobile ‘Ghost Calls’ Clog Dallas 911. Families Blame Backlog For Deaths.
Since November of last year, Dallas officials and cellphone provider T-Mobile have known that a mysterious technology glitch was wreaking havoc on the efficiency of the city’s 911 call center, tripping “ghost calls” to dispatchers and placing legitimate callers on hold for unsafe spurts of time. In January, they thought it was fixed. But by March, operators were once again slammed with an unprecedented backlog spike that prompted the city manager to write in a memo that at one point on March 6, there were 360 emergency calls on hold. (Mettler, 3/16)

Denver Post: Colorado Ranks Sixth In The Nation In New Health Care Ranking 
Colorado’s health care system ranks sixth-best in the country, according to a new report in which researchers argue that states that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act saw the biggest improvements to their health systems. The report, released Thursday by The Commonwealth Fund, found that Colorado’s health care system jumped five spots in the organization’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance from before the Affordable Care Act to the present. That was the fifth-largest jump among all states. All of top five most-improved states — which also included California, Kentucky, New York and Washington — each expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and set up state-based insurance exchanges. (Ingold, 3/16)

KQED News: As Regulators Weigh Reopening Aliso Canyon, Critics Ask: Is It Necessary? 
As state regulators weigh the immediate question about whether the Aliso Canyon gas field is safe to reopen, a longer-term debate is also emerging: Is the storage field even necessary to power the grid and keep the lights on? Engineers plugged the largest gas leak and methane release in U.S. history about a year ago, after evacuations forced thousands of people from their homes in nearby Porter Ranch in north Los Angeles County. Citing health concerns, some of those residents say the field remains too risky to reopen. (Peterson, 3/16)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Supporting Parents When Newborns Die: 'Bereavement Care Is Really Evolving'
Among other things, the foundation raises money to provide hospitals with a CuddleCot, a $3,000 crib-cooling device that preserves the bodies of deceased newborns so their families can take a few days — sometimes longer — to have close contact. Redeemer and three other hospitals have been beneficiaries so far. Although the notion of the CuddleCot may sound macabre to some people, it reflects a profound change in the attitudes of hospitals, bereavement experts, and patients. No longer are babies whisked away to the morgue right after death. No longer are grief-stricken parents denied the chance to bond with their offspring. (McCullough, 3/17)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/ Do Penn State Mumps Cases Mean College Students Need More Shots?
As Pennsylvania State University copes with an ongoing outbreak of mumps, infectious-disease experts are investigating why vaccinated young people are getting sick and whether a booster shot would help.  "We didn't see outbreaks like this 10 years ago," said Kelly L. Moore, director of the Tennessee Immunization Project and chair of the mumps work group for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).  Its vaccination recommendations become official policy  for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when approved by the CDC director. The government already recommends two shots, given at 12 to 15 months and just before entering school.  The second shot was added in 1989. (Burling, 3/16)

Columbus Dispatch: Program Improves Access To Health Care In Appalachian Ohio
Cook could have practiced anywhere after she graduated last year from Ohio State University's College of Dentistry. But the daughter of Appalachian Ohio was intent on returning to her home region to practice. ...The emerging, interwoven plans all are part of a strong push to increase access to health care in Perry County, while also educating and training the local workforce for jobs in the health field. (Lane, 3/17)

The Star Tribune: Mayo's Private-Insurance Preference Has Minn. Officials Concerned, Asking Questions 
The Minnesota Department of Human Services on Thursday called a Mayo Clinic plan to give preference to privately insured patients “very concerning” and said it will examine it for possible violations of civil and human rights laws. In response to a video transcript obtained by the Star Tribune in which Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy explained the policy to employees, DHS Commissioner Emily Piper said in a statement early Thursday afternoon that her department has a lot of questions about “how it will implement the directive.” (Zamora, 3/17)

Georgia Health News: Krabbe Screening Bill Moves Closer To Law
A state Senate health committee Thursday approved a bill to offer optional testing of Georgia newborns for Krabbe disease, a rare genetic disorder. The form of Krabbe that strikes newborns is caused by a change, or mutation, in the gene that carries the blueprints for an enzyme called galactosylceramidase, which is crucial to wrapping protective insulation called myelin around nerves... The disease is rare, striking between 1 in 100,000 and 1 in 350,000 babies. Infants with Krabbe typically die before their second birthday. (Miller, 3/16)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/ New Medical Office Building Underway At Deborah Heart & Lung
Work has begun on a 60,000-square-foot medical building at Deborah Heart & Lung Center in Burlington County. The $21.5 million building, which is being developed and will be owned by Landmark Medical Facilities of Milwaukee, will replace an existing building on Deborah's campus in Browns Mills. Deborah and independent community doctors have leased 86 percent of the space, the tax-exempt hospital said. Tenants will include Central Jersey Urgent Care, Garden State Diagnostic Imaging, and Epione Family Medicine, Deborah said. The building is expected to be completed in spring 2018. (Brubaker, 3/16)

Columbus Dispatch: Patients, Researchers Share Information About Concussion Injuries, Treatment
John Corrigan, director of the Ohio Brian Injury Program, said 100,000 Ohioans suffer traumatic brain injuries each year and that 1.8 million adults in the state have had at least one traumatic brain injury causing unconsciousness. As many as 750,000, he said, are at risk of disability. At the summit, Corrigan detailed the Ohio Brian Injury Program's 14-month-old strategic plan, which runs through 2020. Goals are to increase reliable data about concussions; better train people studying to become health care and social service providers in concussion protocol; implement new procedures to recognize concussions in certain areas, such as education and behavioral health; and increase awareness among the public and policymakers. (Viviano, 3/16)

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Compromise Reached Over Expanding Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Law
Lawmakers appear to have reached a compromise Thursday that would expand Georgia’s medical marijuana law. The agreement over Senate Bill 16 would add six illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to include Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. It would additionally allow use for patients in hospice care, according to both state Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, and state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. (Torres, 3/16)

Boston Globe: State Warns Leafly On Ads For Pot-Delivery Services 
Massachusetts officials are warning the online marijuana directory Leafly that it may be violating state law by publishing ads for pot-delivery services they say are operating without state oversight. The website is one of the most popular in the cannabis industry, widely used by consumers to find nearby dispensaries and other licensed suppliers in states such as Massachusetts that have legalized the drug. (Adams, 3/17)

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