KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: R.I. Disabled Settlement’s Far Reach; Ore. Long-Term Care Rates

A selection of health policy stories from Oregon, Massachusetts, California, Minnesota, Kansas, Arizona and Florida.

The Oregonian: Thousands Of Disabled Oregon Workers Could Benefit From U.S. Settlement In Rhode Island
The government's landmark Americans with Disabilities Act settlement with Rhode Island on Tuesday is expected to move people with profound disabilities out of low-paying jobs in sheltered workshops into the general workforce, a move federal lawyers are calling a blueprint for the nation. Senior lawyers in the Justice Department say the settlement will serve as a model for Oregon and other states abundant with workshops and activity programs for disabled adults that keep them segregated from the greater world of commerce. The government joined a class-action lawsuit a year ago that accuses Oregon of not doing enough to move people with developmental and intellectual disabilities into mainstream jobs. Oregon is the only state in the nation confronted by such litigation (Denson, 4/8).

The Oregonian: Oregon Long-Term Care Insurance Rates Skyrocket, Part Of A National Trend
Carriers’ rates for long-term care insurance in Oregon have shot up an average of 26 percent in recent months, suggesting people might want to consider their options, officials say. The Oregon Insurance Division has released a compilation of recent state decisions affecting nearly 30,000 people who bought the long term policies. The policies are intended to ensure proper care later in life as abilities decline and independent living becomes difficult (Budnick, 4/8).

The Boston Globe: Blue Cross Cuts Back On Painkiller Prescriptions
The state’s largest health insurer has cut prescriptions of narcotic painkillers by an estimated 6.6 million pills in 18 months as part of a campaign to curb abuse of the powerful drugs, according to executives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. That estimated reduction appears to bolster the argument made by many health workers that these narcotics have been overprescribed and too easy to obtain. The drugs are cited as a gateway to heroin, which has plagued the state recently amid a startling succession of overdoses and deaths (MacQuarrie, 4/8).

NPR: Calif. Medical Center Offers Cure To Indigenous Language Barrier
Immigrants from Mexico don't always speak Spanish. Instead they speak indigenous languages. That's created huge communications problems but a hospital in Salinas has found a solution (Almanzan, 4/9).

Minnesota Public Radio: Lawmakers OK Emergency Use Of Heroin Overdose Shot; Good Samaritans Protected
First responders rushing to aid a drug overdose victim would have the power to use the antidote Narcan under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by the Minnesota Senate. The legislation would also grant immunity to "Good Samaritans" who call for medical help when someone has overdosed. Supporters of the two-part measure refer to it as "Steve's Law." It's named after Steve Rummler of Edina, who died of a heroin overdose three years ago. A companion measure in the House is awaiting final action (Pugmire, 4/8).

The Associated Press: Kansas Lawmakers OK Tougher Medicaid Fraud Law
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is praising legislators for unanimously approving a measure to increase penalties for defrauding the state's Medicaid program. Schmidt said Monday the bill approved over the weekend also would make it easier to fine people who file false Medicaid claims. The Medicaid program is funded jointly by states and the federal government and provides health coverage for the needy and disabled (4/8).

The Associated Press: Court Extends Stay On New Arizona Abortion Rules
A federal appeals court panel on Tuesday issued an injunction blocking new Arizona abortion restrictions that are considered the most stringent in the nation, saying women likely would suffer irreparable harm if the rules are allowed to take effect. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay blocking the Arizona rules last week while it considered an appeal from Planned Parenthood of Arizona and abortion rights groups. The court extended the stay into a full injunction on Tuesday (Galvan and Christie, 4/8).

The Associated Press: Fla Lawmakers Look To Expand, Regulate Telehealth 
The calls may come in the middle of the night and from hospitals more than an hour away. Someone is having a stroke and is en route an emergency room in the Florida Keys, but there aren't any neurologists on call. … A Senate bill would increase the use of telemedicine in Florida and establish requirements for health providers who treat patients remotely. A companion bill is also making its way through the House, but that bill doesn't require doctors to have a Florida license -- only that they be licensed in their home state and registered in Florida (Kennedy, 4/8).

Kansas Health Institute: Prominent Kansas Insurance Agent Sanctioned For Misrepresenting ACA
In a move that may be unprecedented simply because of the subject matter involved, the Kansas Insurance Department has fined a prominent insurance agent $1,000 for publishing false and misleading information about the Affordable Care Act. Scott Day of Day Solutions LLC, which is based in Ozawkie, signed off on a "consent agreement" with the department that, in addition to the dollar penalties, called for him to publish a correction to the misleading statements he had published in Metro Voices, a publication distributed free in 500 northeast Kansas locations (Shields, 4/8).

Kansas Health Institute: County Officials Say Health Rankings Can Be Powerful Tool
Bugging people to exercise may not be the best way to encourage healthy behaviors among local residents, according to panelists who came here to discuss recently released health rankings for Kansas counties. More subtle approaches have worked in Allen, Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties, people from those communities said Monday at a forum held at Sporting Park, the home of Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team. Wyandotte County has shifted the emphasis of the Parks and Recreation Department from play to wellness, said Mark Holland, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. (Sherry, 4/8).

Health News Florida: Doctors To Get 1-Time Fee Cut
Florida’s 61,000 medical doctors will get a 31-percent cut on their license renewal fee under a proposal adopted by the Florida Board of Medicine. The renewal fee for MDs who have active licenses will be reduced from the usual $360 to $250 during the calendar years 2015-16, under the proposal. MDs have to renew their license every other year (Gentry, 4/8).

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