KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Maryland’s Top Health Official Leaving For Johns Hopkins

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, North Carolina and Kansas.

The Washington Post: Top Maryland Health Official Joshua Sharfstein To Step Down In January
Maryland’s top health official, Joshua M. Sharfstein, announced Wednesday that he will leave at the end of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s term in January to become an associate dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Johnson, 7/30).

The Baltimore Sun: Health Secretary Shafstein To Join Hopkins
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein said Wednesday he plans to leave his post as secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he drew criticism for the botched rollout of the state's health insurance exchange website. Sharfstein, a trained pediatrician who has spent his career in public service, will join the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as an associate dean in January as the O'Malley administration ends (Cohn, Walker and Dresser, 7/30).

The Associated Press: NY To Appeal Federal Medicaid Claim For $1.25B
The New York Health Department says it will appeal a federal claim for the return of more than $1.25 billion in Medicaid funds, saying federal authorities previously approved that funding and the claw back could hurt the state's health care system (7/30).

Pioneer Press: Minnesota Legislature To Propose Requiring Insurers To Pay For Contraception
Spurred by a recent Supreme Court ruling, DFLers in the state House say they will introduce legislation next year to require insurance coverage for contraceptives by certain employer health plans in Minnesota. House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, says the legislation is needed because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a challenge by crafts retailer Hobby Lobby to mandated contraceptive coverage in the federal Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby argued the contraceptive mandate infringed on the religious views of the closely held company's owners. A majority of court justices agreed and said the ruling should have a limited impact on employer health plans because it was focused on closely held companies (Snowbeck, 7/30).

Politico: Testing Boundaries Of Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones
The court’s ruling in McCullen v. Coakley has invigorated groups opposed to abortion and frustrated those that support abortion rights. The Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued the Massachusetts case, has sued New Hampshire over its new law with a 25-foot buffer zone and filed a court brief opposing a Madison, Wis., measure banning protesters from approaching people without permission within 100 feet of a medical center (Winfield Cunningham, 7/30). 

The Associated Press: Illinois Medicaid Restricts Use of Hepatitis Drug
Facing ballooning costs for a $1,000 pill to treat hepatitis C, Illinois' Medicaid program is putting tight restrictions in place, including requiring patients to meet 25 criteria and get prior approval before the government program will pay for the new drug. After spending an estimated $16 million this fiscal year on Sovaldi, which holds promise for a cure for the liver-damaging disease, the state agency headed by Julie Hamos approved the restrictions July 10 (Johnson, 7/30).

Winston Salem Journal: N.C. House Rejects Senate's Medicaid Reform Bill
The state House, in a rare show of bipartisan support, rejected a Senate proposal Wednesday for Medicaid reform that includes privatizing portions of the program and creating a new department to run it. The House voted 106-0 not to accept the Senate version of House Bill 1181, which is aimed at modernizing how the state operates and pays for Medicaid coverage for nearly 17 million North Carolinians. Gov. Pat McCrory opposes the Senate proposal, as do a wide variety of health care providers and advocacy groups (Craver, 7/31).

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Company Seeking To Buy Kansas-Area hospitals Draws Condemnation, Admiration
Prime Healthcare Services, the for-profit California health care company that has agreed to acquire two nonprofit Kansas City area hospitals, is no stranger to controversy. Among other things, it has faced fierce opposition from the nation’s largest health care labor organization - the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - and has been accused of billing fraud. Ascension, a Catholic health system based in St. Louis, announced Monday that its affiliate in Kansas City, Mo., Carondelet Health, has agreed to sell St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs to Prime. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Prime spokesman Edward Barrera on Tuesday declined to comment on the transaction or on questions that have arisen about its operations (Sherry and Margolies, 7/30).

North Carolina Health News: Community Homeless Clinic Connects Dots
An entire, 360 degree approach. That’s how the health care practitioners at Lincoln Community Health Center’s Health Care for the Homeless Clinic say they want to treat every homeless person who comes through its doors. The homeless clinic, located on the campus of Durham’s Urban Ministries, focuses on treating physical and psychological ailments and coordinating social services for people living on the streets or in shelters. The clinic also serves those who might be sleeping on a couch in an already crowded dwelling. At a minimum, each patient sees a nurse, a medical provider and a social worker. From there, referrals for specialty care may be added (Porter-Rockwell, 7/31).

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