KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Texas Senate Panel Weighs End-Of-Life Bills

A selection of health policy stories from California, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Florida, Kansas and Colorado.

Los Angeles Times: Deal Will Avoid Deep Cuts In Home Care For Elderly, Disabled
Gov. Jerry Brown will no longer seek steep cuts in home care for the elderly and the disabled, ending a prolonged court battle spawned by the state's persistent budget crisis. The Brown administration reached an agreement with unions and social service advocates to allow an 8 percent cut in service hours, less than half the 20 percent reduction the state tried to enact last year (Megerian, 3/19).

Reuters: Mississippi Forbids Local Laws On Nutrition, Super-Size Drinks
Mississippi, the state with the highest rate of obesity, has banned its cities and counties from trying to stop restaurants from selling super-sized soft drinks or requiring them to post nutritional information about meals. The move came a week after a judge blocked an effort by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to prohibit vending machines, movie theaters and retailers from selling single-serving sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (473 ml), an effort that was intended to tackle the public health problems caused by rising rates of obesity (Le Coz, 3/19).

San Francisco Chronicle: Kaiser Mental Health Service Reprimanded
State regulators reprimanded Kaiser Permanente for mismanaging its mental health services, making patients wait excessively long periods between appointments and offering members inaccurate information that may have dissuaded them from receiving long-term individual therapy. The state Department of Managed Health, which regulates Kaiser and other health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, detailed the deficiencies in a report released Monday and referred the matter to the department's enforcement division (Colliver, 3/19).

The Lund Report: House Bill Requires Midwives To Be Licensed In Oregon
At a House Health Committee hearing last week, Margarita Mareboina held up pictures of her son, who died during labor after a botched delivery by unlicensed midwives in 2011. The baby was covered in meconium, the viscous, tar-like stools of a newborn’s first bowel movement. She said the unlicensed midwives told her that her pregnancy was low-risk, but she also didn't trust them in hindsight and an obstetrician may have disagreed (Gray, 3/20).

The Texas Tribune: Senate Panel Considers End-of-Life Bills
A panel of state senators on Tuesday considered two bills that would take drastically different approaches to modifying laws regarding end-of-life care in Texas. Senate Bill 303 would give patients and their surrogates more discretion under the state's existing advance directives law, while preserving physicians' ability to make a medical judgment to end treatment. Senate Bill 675 would prohibit physicians from discontinuing a patient's life-sustaining care against a family's wishes (Aaronson, 3/19).

Health News Florida: Doctors Lose On Database, Comp Votes
A bill that would require doctors to check with the state's drug database before writing a prescription for addictive medications passed today in a House panel despite the opposition of organized medicine. The House Health Quality Subcommittee also passed two other controversial bills, one on abortion and one on workers' compensation (Gentry, 3/19).

Kansas Health Institute: Senate Committee Amends KanCare Oversight Bill
The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee today agreed to amend a House-passed bill that would create a joint legislative committee for overseeing KanCare and state efforts to develop home and community-based alternatives to institutional care. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, would have the committee meet at least once during regular legislative sessions (Ranney, 3/19).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Health Access Improves, But More Children In Poverty
The percentage of Colorado children whose families live in poverty nearly doubled over the last decade from 10 to 18 percent, marking the steepest increase in the country except for Nevada, according to the 2013 KIDS COUNT in Colorado report. … the percentage of children who now have health insurance has increased dramatically over the last decade. In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, 9 percent of all Colorado children under age 18 were uninsured, the lowest percentage since 1992. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of uninsured Colorado children dropped from 117,000 to 113,000 according to U.S. Census data. [Colo. Gov. John] Hickenlooper is banking on Colorado’s health exchange -- slated to open on Oct. 1 -- to help more families get health insurance (Kerwin McCrimmon, 3/19).

St. Louis Beacon: Families In Poverty
Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, director of the St. Louis County Department of Health talks about poverty and its effects on health. In 2010, the federal poverty level was just over $22,000 for a family of four. Picture of Health is a series of graphics and audio from experts drawn from the St. Louis Regional Health Commission's Decade Review of Health Status and other sources (Joiner and Jones, 3/18).

California Healthline: Federal Approval Of Duals Plan May Come Soon
At a budget subcommittee hearing yesterday, Department of Health Care Services Director Toby Douglas said he hopes to get federal approval for the Coordinated Care Initiative within weeks. The CCI, also known as the duals demonstration project, is a plan to move half a million Californians with dual eligibility in both Medicare and Medicaid into Medi-Cal managed care programs. The plan calls for consolidating disparate health care services and funding streams to improve and integrate care for seniors and persons with disabilities, while saving the state money as well (Gorn, 3/19).

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