KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Fla. Dismisses Fraud Cases

A selection of health policy news from Florida, Texas, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, California and North Carolina.

Health News Florida: Legal Opinion Kills Fraud Case
Professional boards have always held doctors and dentists responsible for filing accurate claims and honest bills. Deliberate overcharges or fraud could end a career. Now a legal opinion in a South Florida dental case has placed that assumption in question (Gentry and Sexton, 5/18).

The Texas Tribune: TDI Won't Seek Federal Funds to Prolong Health Program 
The Texas Department of Insurance will not reapply for a federal grant to prolong a program designed to help Texans navigate the health insurance market, agency spokesman John Greeley confirmed on Friday. The state-run Consumer Health Assistance Program was established in 2010 under federal health reform to help consumers enroll in health coverage and file complaints and appeals against health plans. Texas CHAP staffers have given public service announcements, made field presentations and taken calls on a hotline that helped an estimated 9,000 Texans last year (Park, 5/18). 

Kansas Health Institute News: Gavels Drop On 2012 Legislature
The Kansas Legislature ended its longest ever wrap-up session on Sunday evening after both chambers worked through the weekend and finally agreed to a budget plan. ... [Legislators] failed to agree on creating a new legislative committee to oversee the implementation of KanCare, the governor's proposed Medicaid makeover, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 1, pending federal  approvals (Shields, 5/20).

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Deval Patrick On Health Reform: Not Persuaded Hospital 'Luxury Tax' Needed
[Gov. Patrick]: "You're talking about the differences between what some of the downtown medical centers and the community hospitals charge for similar -- I would say similar and routine procedures. And that's a concern. Now some of that is addressed by greater transparency and making sure that people know what the charges are ... I had a hip replaced a few years ago and you could go online and see the difference between what the cost of that hip replacement would be at a community hospital or the downtown medical center where I had it done, but in either case my co-pay was 100 bucks; so -- no skin" (Goldberg, 5/18).

Bloomberg: Health Bargain Hunters Use Websites to Cut Doctor Bills
Surgery to remove your appendix in one California hospital could cost $180,000. Have the operation at a different facility in the same state and the bill might be as little as $1,500.  That kind of disparity, typical across the country, combined with escalating medical spending and the increasing amount of data available online, has prompted several startups to get into the business of helping companies and their employees save health-care dollars. "This is about changing the way people shop for health care, and as a consequence, changing the way care gets delivered," said Giovanni Colella, co-founder of Castlight Health Inc., a San Francisco-based company that helps patients shop for medical care (Flinn, 5/21). 

Boston Globe: State Allows Pharmacies To Offer More Vaccines
Get ready to see more advertisements in Massachusetts pharmacies for a wide variety of vaccines that consumers will now be able to receive in the stores. A new policy adopted by state health regulators grants pharmacists the authority to administer 10 adult vaccines in addition to the annual flu shot they already can give. The new vaccines being offered are for measles, mumps, and rubella; tetanus, diptheria, and whooping cough; shingles; pneumonia; hepatitis A; hepatitis B; polio; HPV; chickenpox; and meningitis (Lazar, 5/21).

The New York Times: Down To One Hospital, Rockaway Braces For Summer Crowds
Summer is coming to the Rockaway Peninsula, the thin strip of land lapped on either side by Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. And with the warmth will come the usual hordes who play and bask on its beaches, and, inevitably, suffer heatstroke, volleyball sprains, beach glass lacerations and near-drownings -- the sorts of seaside scrapes that send people to the emergency room every season (Nir, 5/20).

WBUR: Wellesley Economist Finds Income Inequality Drives Teen Birth Rate
[R]esearchers say they have now found a connection between income inequality and the teen birth rate. Despite declining in recent years, the U.S. still has the highest rate among developed countries. ... [W]hile other research has shown that poor teens are considerably more likely to give birth than those whose families are at middle-and-high-income levels, [Wellesley College economist Phil] Levine said the issue goes much deeper (Oakes and Jolicoeur, 5/21).

Boston Globe: Hospitals Mobilize On Health Cost Bill
Last Monday, leaders from Partners HealthCare System Inc. gathered in the dark-paneled office of Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo to lay out their objections to his expansive 278-page plan to tame health care costs. The House proposal, unveiled 10 days earlier, called in part for closer oversight of the prices and operations of hospitals and their physicians groups, especially more costly ones like those owned by Partners, and influential board chairman Jack Connors requested a meeting (Kowalczyk, 5/20).

California Healthline: Slower, Phase-In Approach For CBAS
The Department of Health Care Services has announced the conversion of adult day health care centers to a managed care system has been divided into a two-part process. About 12 percent of the centers, which serve about 8 percent of the state's ADHC population, will still make the conversion to managed care by July 1. That leaves the bulk of the centers -- including Los Angeles County centers which  serve two-thirds of the state's Medi-Cal beneficiariens receiving ADHC care -- to make the transition three months later, on Oct. 1 (Gorn, 5/21).

North Carolina Health News: Remote Stroke Treatment Helps Save Lives Around N.C.
For years, Lexington’s ED had telephoned neurologists to get a second opinion on a patient’s eligibility for [a Food and Drug Administration-approved drug called] tPA.  Like many rural EDs, Lexington does not have a neurologist on staff, so they conferred with neurologists like [Charles H.] Tegeler about CT scans and other patient examinations over the phone.  But in December 2009, this process became more high tech. Some patients have called Tegeler "the robot doctor."  It's no wonder, because the first look they get at Tegeler is when the doctor drives a 5-foot-tall machine into their room, Tegler's face clearly visible on the monitor. He's in Winston-Salem; they're in one of nine North Carolina hospitals that contract with Wake Forest Baptist for its telestroke services (Braden Balderas, 5/21). 

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