KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: N.Y. Revises Its Request For Medicaid Adjustment

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Washington state, California, Virginia, Idaho, Connecticut and Georgia.

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Feds Urge More Talks On N.Y. Medicaid Application 
New York has revised its request for a $10 billion Medicaid adjustment, which would allow using that money in related health care programs, after federal officials concluded capital investment and some other programs are ineligible. The application was first filed 18 months ago, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah last week to publicly blame the federal delay for threatening financially distressed New York hospitals (1/26).

The Washington Post: Medical Advocates Decry Insurance Rules In Wash. State On Waiting Period For Transplants
Newly insured consumers in Washington state who purchased health plans through the online exchange might find a surprise when they comb through the fine print in their policies: They’ll have to wait 90 days from when their insurance begins before coverage for transplants will kick in. The waiting period, a holdover from the days when insurers were able to impose restrictions on coverage for all sorts of preexisting conditions, has become the latest flash point in the often tense negotiations between insurers, regulators, doctors and consumers over the design of the new individual and small-group health plans that went into effect Jan 1 (Cha, 1/26).

Los Angeles Times: Brain-Dead, Pregnant Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support
After a bitter legal battle that became a touchstone in the abortion debate, a pregnant, brain-dead woman was removed from life support Sunday as a Texas hospital agreed to comply with a court order. Marlise Munoz's body was to be turned over to her family, said attorneys for her husband, Erick Munoz. She had been on life support for about two months at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth after falling unconscious in her home Nov. 26 with a possible blood clot in her lung. At the time, she was 14 weeks pregnant (Pearce, 1/26).

NPR: Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care
Alarms are good and necessary things in hospital care, except when there are so many of them that caregivers can't keep track of the ones that signal a crisis that requires immediate attention. Then it may be that less technology can actually be more effective (Knox, 1/27).

Los Angeles Times: Judge Kills Measure For Separate L.A. Health Department
A judge has preemptively struck down a ballot measure that would force the city of Los Angeles to launch its own health department separate from the county's. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael P. Linfield ruled Friday that the measure scheduled for the June ballot would conflict with state law if passed and would "impermissibly interfere with essential government functions." The measure was advocated by the nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is a major provider of AIDS- and HIV-related health services for the county's health department, but has also frequently butted heads with county leaders (Sewell, 1/24).

Politico: Creigh Deeds Talks Of Son’s Attack
Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds says he hopes his son’s death will be used to help address “inequity” in the way the country views mental health issues. Deeds, who was stabbed multiple times by his bipolar son, Gus, on Nov. 19, 2013, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the health system had failed his family (Drusch, 1/26). 

The Richmond-Times Dispatch: Questions Remain After Inquest In Deeds Case
The message to the community services board was “we’re not taking routine admissions today,” said Dr. Jack Barber, who also is medical director for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. That wasn’t the only apparent breakdown in communication between the state and local community services board that emerged Friday from the grueling inquest conducted by the House Courts of Justice subcommittee on mental health. The subcommittee, led by Chairman Benjamin L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, and Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, has tried to conduct its own investigation of what happened to Deeds, who attacked his father, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, and killed himself, 13 hours after being released from emergency custody for a mental evaluation that determined him to be a threat to himself or others (Martz, 1/25).

The Associated Press: Mental Health Care Providers Blast Private Manager
Mental health professionals blasted a private company now managing behavioral health care for low-income Idaho residents, saying the contract is plagued with problems and hours-long delays that not only make the process more difficult but could put their clients at risk. A joint House and Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting Friday provided a venue to criticize Optum, a Minnesota-based health care services management company whose parent company is UnitedHealth Group (Miller, 1/24).

The CT Mirror: Malloy Proposes Mental Health Funding Boost, Police Training
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is proposing to fund more supportive housing and other services for people with mental illness, boosting annual mental health spending by $4.25 million in the next fiscal year and by another $3 million the year after. The governor also wants to require police to receive training on how to respond to situations involving people with mental illness and to fund an anti-stigma campaign to make people unashamed to seek help.The proposals, which Malloy will issue formally when the legislative session begins Feb. 5, are meant to complement changes to the state’s mental health system made last year in response to the massacre at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School (Becker, 1/24).

Georgia Health News: Health Plan Critics See Cause For Hope 
A leader of a group of state employees and teachers critical of their health plan choices said Friday that she welcomed Gov. Nathan Deal’s suggestion that their options may increase next year. Ashley Cline, creator of a Facebook group that has been a forum for complaints about the 2014 changes in the State Health Benefit Plan, told GHN that the governor’s comments represent progress. A main criticism of the plan is that it offers only one insurer: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. "We’re going in the right direction" if more options are a future possibility, Cline said (Miller, 1/24).

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