KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

State Highlights: Smoking Age Raised To 21 In Maine; In Effort To Improve Veterans’ Care, Fla. To Get 7 New VA Facilities

Outlets report on news from Maine, California, Florida, Rhode Island, Maryland, Kansas, New Hampshire, Texas and Pennsylvania.

The New York Times: Maine Raises Smoking Age To 21 After Lawmakers Override Veto
Maine will become the fourth state to raise the smoking age to 21 and will adopt stricter regulations on the sale of electronic cigarettes after lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override the governor’s veto. Gov. Paul R. LePage, a Republican, had called the bill an attempt to “social engineer our lives,” saying that if 18-year-olds can join the military and fight in wars, they should be allowed to decide on their own whether to use tobacco. (Haag, 8/2)

Miami Herald: Florida To Get Seven New VA Medical Facilities After U.S. Senate Vote
Florida veterans will have more medical centers at which to receive mental health and outpatient services after the U.S. Senate late Tuesday unanimously approved legislation authorizing seven new major VA medical facilities in the state. The new Florida VA facilities will be in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa, Lakeland and two in Gainesville, according to a written statement from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who co-sponsored legislation authorizing the new facilities. (Chang, 8/2)

Sacramento Bee: Universal Healthcare Bill Attracted Lots Of Lobbying
From rehab centers to burger joints, more than 100 businesses, unions, trade groups and other entities weighed in on California’s universal healthcare legislation during the first half of 2017, according to new state lobbying disclosures. The filings, covering spending on lobbyists through June 30, underscore how Senate Bill 562 had the attention of special interests based in more than a dozen states as the measure advanced through the state Senate. (Miller, 8/2)

KQED: Despite Backlog Of Rape Kits, California’s Not Requiring They Be Tested Or Tallied
Victims’ rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of rape kits remain untested at police departments and crime lab storage facilities nationwide—thus far a partial inventory of California by the End the Backlog Initiative has identified some 9,000 untested kits. But the precise number remains a mystery because most states, including California, don’t inventory rape kits, and rape survivors sometimes struggle to get information about their own cases. (Young, 8/3)

The Baltimore Sun: Evergreen Health Put Into State Receivership Program 
Evergreen Health Inc. has been formally ordered into the state’s receivership program after its investors backed out last month, leaving the young health insurance company financially unstable. On Wednesday, Baltimore Circuit Judge Yolanda Tanner ordered Risk & Regulatory Consulting LLC, a professional services firm in Connecticut, to take control of Evergreen on behalf of the Maryland Insurance Administration and under supervision of the court. (Gantz, 8/2)

KCUR: Patient Who Had Parts Of Her Organs Removed Sues KU Hospital For Fraud 
The once-anonymous patient at the center of a whistleblower action filed against KU Hospital by one of its own pathologists is now suing the hospital herself for fraud, negligence and civil conspiracy. Like the whistleblower case, the lawsuit by Wendy Ann Noon Berner accuses the hospital and the now-former chair of its pathology department of misdiagnosing her with pancreatic cancer and then covering up the misdiagnosis after parts of her pancreas and other body parts were surgically removed. (Margolies, 8/2)

New Hampshire Union Leader: Executive Council OK's State Hospital Staffing Review 
The Governor and Executive Council approved an independent review of staffing levels at the New Hampshire Hospital on Wednesday as part of a settlement agreement with Dartmouth-Hitchcock over a contract dispute. The no-bid $85,000 contract with Joint Commission Resources will fund a review of the quality of care at the hospital from Nov. 1, 2016, to April 30, 2017. (Tuohy, 8/2)

San Jose Mercury News: County To Parents: Get Children Vaccinated Before School
San Mateo County Health officials have issued a reminder to parents to make sure that their children’s vaccines are current before the first day of school or child care. California law requires that students receive certain vaccines or they won’t be permitted to attend school or child care, unless they have a valid exemption, said Diana Rohini LaVigne, public information officer for the San Mateo County Health System. (Orr, 8/2)

Texas Tribune: When School’s Out, Rural Texas Towns Struggle To Feed Their Hungry Kids
The Texas Department of Agriculture administers a summer meals program providing federal reimbursement for school districts and nonprofits to give out meals to hungry children — but in recent years, the program has failed to draw students in, with July participation rates crashing by 20 percent in 2016. Experts and even the state have had trouble pinpointing exactly why, but they cite lack of transportation as the main reason rural Texas kids can't reach free summer meals available at hundreds of locations across the state. (Swaby, 8/3)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/ These Are The 'Bad Guys' Who Can Help You Take Away An Elderly Driver's Keys
As an attorney specializing in elder law, Jerry Rothkoff sees many adult children at their wits’ ends about their parents’ driving. It’s “devastating” for a parent to lose the ability to drive, he said, but also terrifying to know your parent is a danger on the road. Here’s his advice: Make somebody else the bad guy. Rothkoff has geriatric social workers on his staff who can help, but the most effective third parties, he said, are doctors and specially trained occupational therapists who can evaluate drivers with disabilities. (Burling, 8/4)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/ Cancer Society: Pa., N.J. Fall Short On Tobacco Control
Research shows that tackling tobacco use requires a four-pronged approach: Tax it. Restrict it. Prevent it. Help people quit it. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are strong on the taxation piece, but both states could do more on the other prongs, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. “On tobacco control, I’d say we have a mixed bag. There is certainly room for improvement,” said Diane Phillips, who directs the network’s advocacy and lobbying efforts in the Keystone State. (McCullough, 8/3)

Texas Tribune: With Retired Texas Teachers' Health Care At Stake, Legislators Clash On Fixes
As of Tuesday afternoon, the House and the Senate had each voted out bills that would put $212 million into the Teacher Retirement System to make the TRS-CARE health insurance more affordable for retired teachers over the next two years, lowering their deductibles and premiums. The one-time influx of money would temporarily bolster a state-run program that has been faltering for years, with the state keeping base funding stagnant despite the rising costs of health care. (Swaby, 8/3)

Los Angeles Times: Defibrillator Breathes New Life Into Safety Training, ER Response
Last week, officials with the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge installed a device they hope they never have to use — an automated external defibrillator (AED), used in cases of cardiac arrest to assist CPR and help hearts find lost rhythms. The cabinet containing the unit is located next to the center’s office counter, high up on a wall where curious, young hands cannot likely reach. A blinking green light shows the battery is functioning, and an alarm sounds whenever the cabinet door is opened. (Cardine, 8/2)

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