KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Jails Treat Huge Number Of Mentally Ill; Class Action Bid Denied In Fla. Lawsuit Over Disabled Children In Nursing Homes

A selection of health policy stories from Florida, Illinois, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Washington.

The Wall Street Journal: The New Asylums: Jails Swell With Mentally Ill
America's lockups are its new asylums. After scores of state mental institutions were closed beginning in the 1970s, few alternatives materialized. … The country's three biggest jail systems -- Cook County, in Illinois; Los Angeles County; and New York City -- are on the front lines. With more than 11,000 prisoners under treatment on any given day, they represent by far the largest mental-health treatment facilities in the country. By comparison, the three largest state-run mental hospitals have a combined 4,000 beds. Put another way, the number of mentally ill prisoners the three facilities handle daily is equal to 28 percent of all beds in the nation's 213 state psychiatric hospitals, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute Inc. (Fields and Phillips, 9/26).

News Service Of Florida/Miami Herald: Class Action Denied In Lawsuit For Kids Placed In Nursing Homes 
A federal judge Wednesday rejected arguments that a lawsuit challenging Florida's placement of severely disabled children in nursing homes should be a class action -- but left open the possibility that it could become a class action in the future. The lawsuit, filed last year on behalf of several plaintiffs, contends that Florida has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing children with complex medical needs in nursing homes instead of providing services in the children’s homes and communities (9/25).

Miami Herald: Clinic Program Brings Health Care To Schools 
A student suffering from a mild asthma attack stops by North Miami High's medical clinic. After receiving a breathing treatment, he heads back to class in 30 minutes. At John F. Kennedy Middle, a student stops by the dental trailer and gets a sealant painted onto her teeth to prevent cavities. The services are the results of the Dr. John T. Macdonald School Health Initiative, a network of school-based health clinics that operate out of nine Miami-Dade public schools, mostly in North Miami and North Miami Beach (Green, 9/22).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Three With Local Ties Named Macarthur Fellows 
One local winner is Jeffrey Brenner, 44, a Camden primary care physician who turned to advocacy and organizing to create a health care delivery model designed to meet the medical and social service needs of some of Camden's most vulnerable residents. ... Through his own research, Brenner was able to establish that half of Camden's residents used emergency rooms each year, often for minor health problems, and that 13 percent of the patients were generating 80 percent of the costs. One patient alone racked up nearly $5 million in charges over five years. ... Brenner founded the Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers, a broad network of private practices, hospital staff, and social workers attempting to deliver strategic preventive and primary care (Giordano, 9/25). 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Booming Sales Of E-Cigarettes Attract Big-Time Marketing And More Calls For Regulation
Harry and Donna Kholer sell e-cigarette kits with devices they import from China and liquids they mix for the faux-smoke sensation. Their Move2Vapor is a mom-and-pop business in a wide-open, burgeoning and unregulated market that is attracting the big tobacco companies, which are launching advertising campaigns and pushing slick display cases in convenience stores. Anti-smoking organizations are pressing the federal government to at least regulate the devices, if not restrict them pending lengthy studies. Last week, 16 organizations, including the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians, urged President Barack Obama to press the Food and Drug Administration to quickly approve regulations (O'Neil, 9/26). 

The Seattle Times: Most Seattle Firms Comply With Sick-Leave Law But Startup Flawed, Study Says 
A year after city's new mandatory paid sick-leave law went into effect, a majority of businesses are providing benefits to their employees, but the initial implementation was often confusing and time-consuming. Those are the results of a small study conducted for the Seattle City Council by University of Washington researchers as part of a larger, ongoing follow-up survey of 550 companies to determine how well the law is working (Thompson, 9/25). 

The Seattle Times: Shaken By School HIV Lessons, A Mom Shakes Up What's Taught 
When her daughter was going into the fifth grade two years ago, Jodie Howerton reviewed the HIV/AIDS educational materials that would be used in her child's class -- and was appalled by what she saw. The opening clip of a video, circa early 1990s, featured this headline: "Thousands die of AIDS." In it, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was dressed as a growling, red monster and there was a cameo appearance by the Grim Reaper. The outdated images and statistics about AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and the virus that causes it, were particularly troublesome to the Woodinville mother of three, who had adopted a son born with HIV and who worried the video would perpetuate existing stereotypes (Turnbull, 9/25). 

The Associated Press/Miami Herald: Fla. Legislators Will Soon Pay More For Insurance
House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has come under fire for rejecting calls to expand the state's safety-net health care program to cover more Floridians, is going to require House members to pay more for their own insurance starting in January. Weatherford decided to have House legislators pay the same rate as career service workers: $50 a month in premiums for individual coverage and $180 a month for family coverage. Senators already started paying the same rate as career service workers at the start of 2013. House members — as well as Gov. Rick Scott and other top state officials — have been paying $8.34 a month for individual coverage and $30 a month for family coverage (Fineout, 9/25).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Fitzpatrick: Obamacare Hurting Sesame Place Employees
In a letter sent last week to President Obama, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick contended that the Affordable Care Act had caused Sesame Place, one of Bucks County's biggest tourist attractions, to terminate health benefits for its part-time employees. ... A spokesman for SeaWorld, the amusement park's parent company, confirmed Wednesday that the company was cutting the weekly work limit for part-time employees from 32 to 28 hours. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies can face fines if they do not provide insurance for staffers who work at least 30 hours per week (Zauzmer, 9/25).

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