KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Maine Receives Federal Grants To Upgrade Electronic Public Health Systems, Scores Of Criminals Provide Home Health Care In Cal.

The Boston Globe: "Caritas Christi Health Care executives have told union negotiators they will shutter St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton and Carney Hospital in Dorchester if they can't close a deal for the six-hospital chain to be bought by a New York private equity firm. The warning was made during contract talks last week with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, according to two people who attended the meeting. The association represents nurses at four Caritas hospitals. At the Sept. 15 session - which focused on nurses at the flagship St. Elizabeth's - executives also talked of mounting financial pressures stemming from an increase in the Catholic hospital system's unfunded pension liability" (Weisman, 9/24).

Los Angeles Times: "Scores of people convicted of crimes such as rape, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are permitted to care for some of California's most vulnerable residents as part of the government's home health aide program. Data provided by state officials show that at least 210 workers and applicants flagged by investigators as unsuitable to work in the program are nonetheless scheduled to resume or begin employment. State and county investigators have not reported many whose backgrounds include violent crimes because the rules of the program, as interpreted by a judge earlier this year, permit felons to work as home care aides. Thousands of current workers have had no background checks." Under the court's ruling, people can only be disqualified from the employment if they have a history of "specific types of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding of public assistance programs" but "not all perpetrators of even those crimes can be blocked" (Halper, 9/24). 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Lawyers for Milwaukee County have refused to turn over a 2008 consultant's report on safety issues at the Mental Health Complex -- the first time in 30 years that county officials have stonewalled a county auditor investigation, the current auditor said Thursday. Jerry Heer said he was seeking the report as part of his probe of safety issues at the complex. That audit was ordered by County Board Chairman Lee Holloway in April, following Journal Sentinel coverage of a federal inspection of the complex that found multiple instances of patient sexual assault and the pregnancy of a patient" (Schultze, 9/23).

WILX-TV: A group of local dentists in Michigan are "donating their time to see as many people as they can for free -- people who don't have insurance, but desperately need dental care." That comes as more people lose their jobs and health insurance and "Medicaid cut out dental coverage this past year. It's been reinstated for now, but this free clinic being held at the Care Free Medical Clinic tells a different story. … 1.5 million more people lost dental benefits because of the Medicaid situation, says [Michigan Dental Association's Tom Kochheiser]. That makes about 4.5 million people in Michigan vulnerable when it comes to dental care" (Zakalik, 9/23).

Lincoln Journal Star: "In a tight budget year, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is looking for ways to keep spending in check. So for the first time ... HHS is proposing to lower rates paid to medical and behavioral health providers of care and services for Medicaid clients and those in the Children's Health Insurance Program. And it's a substantial cut -- 5 percent. Only primary care services ... would not be subject to the decreased rate. The decrease would reduce the department's request for state general funds and federal funds by $68.5 million -- $66.8 million for Medicaid and $1.8 million for CHIP. That's bad news for health care providers struggling to balance their own budgets" (Young, 9/23).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: "Maine is receiving a federal grant to upgrade electronic birth and death certificate systems and make other public health improvements." The Department of Health and Human Services is awarding the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $1.8 million per year for five years to fund the improvements (9/24).

Stateline: "In most of America, the issue of who should own pharmacies is not a burning political question. But North Dakota has been talking about it for the past 47 years. Alone among the states, North Dakota requires that pharmacies must be majority-owned by licensed pharmacists. Advocates say the 1963 law has allowed mom-and-pop pharmacies to survive in small towns instead of being swallowed up by big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart or Walgreens. Critics counter that the law places too much of a burden on potential drugstore owners and hurts consumers" (Harrison, 9/24).

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