KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: Colorado’s Use Of Jails For Mental Health Holds Challenged; Audit Finds Shortcomings In N.J. Medicaid Billing Practices

Outlets report on health news from Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Denver Post: Colorado Must Stop Using Jails For People In Mental Health Crisis, Panel Says 
Colorado should stop using jails to house people placed on involuntary mental health holds who haven’t been charged with a crime, says a task force created by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The state is one of only six that still put people having a mental health episode behind bars. The 30-member panel, ordered by Hickenlooper after he vetoed a bill in June that would have strengthened Colorado’s 72-hour mental health hold law, acknowledged rural communities without hospitals or mental health centers would have the toughest time adapting to new rules. Still, the practice should end now or, at the latest, by next January, the group said. (Brown, 1/4)

NJ Spotlight: Federal Audit Finds Problems With NJ’s Medicaid Billing System, Wants $95M Refund 
A federal audit claims New Jersey officials have not done enough to monitor the billing practices of community-based organizations that treat outpatients with serious mental illness. It’s calling for the the state to refund nearly $95 million for federally funded Medicaid services it says were not properly documented. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General said the review was prompted in part by earlier findings, published in 2012, that suggested the state needed to beef up oversight of its Medicaid claims process and clarify the guidance it gives providers. The latest report, announced in late December, included an analysis of 100 claims randomly selected from the nearly 3.9 million bills submitted from 2009 through 2011. (Stainton, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Pennsylvania Is Ordered To Provide Hepatitis C Drug To Inmate
A federal judge ordered Pennsylvania’s corrections department to provide costly new antiviral drugs to an inmate infected with hepatitis C, and rebuked the state for restricting inmates’ access to the drugs. Hepatitis C is an epidemic in prisons, but state corrections departments have treated relatively few prisoners because the drugs are expensive, costing about $54,000 to $94,500 per patient. (Loftus, 1/4)

Chicago Sun Times: Rahm Says He 'Wasn't Bragging' About Cutting Retiree Health Care 
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he “wasn’t bragging” as much as he was “acknowledging how we stabilized” skyrocketing health care costs in a 2015 email exchange that has infuriated retired city employees stripped of their 55 percent health care subsidy.“ You can call what I did heartless. We worked it through over a three-year period. We avoided raising taxes. And we avoided cutting basic neighborhood services. And we still met the objective of providing and giving people health care,” the mayor said. (Spielman, 1/4)

The Baltimore Sun: New Program Trains Health Care Interpreters At Howard Community College 
As the number of people whose primary language is not English continues to rise — 23 percent of county residents speak a language other than English at home — the need grows for people who can help doctors and patients understand one another. The task often falls to the children of immigrants, says Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president and chief executive of the Horizon Foundation. Sometimes, however, those children are too young to translate medical discussions, and patients often are asked for sensitive personal information that they might not be inclined to share with their children, no matter how old those children are. Horizon, a Howard County philanthropic organization that offers seed money for health-related initiatives, awarded a grant of $166,691 to the college to launch the health care interpreter program. (Miller, 1/4)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/ North Philadelphia Health System Enters Bankruptcy
North Philadelphia Health System, which stopped paying numerous vendors in 2015 and then closed St. Joseph's Hospital last March after state officials halted a long-running subsidy, filed for bankruptcy protection late last week in Philadelphia...The tax-exempt organization said it owed $24.8 million to its 30 largest unsecured creditors. Independence Blue Cross topped the list, with $10.87 million owed for employee benefits. (Brubaker, 1/4)

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