KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Improving Chronic Care In Las Vegas; Standoff Over N.C. Medicaid

A selection of health policy stories from Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington

Los Angeles Times: Unequal Treatment: Las Vegas Tries New Tactic To Improve City's Notorious Healthcare
Now, Las Vegas is emerging as a test of how much a community can improve chronically poor health by expanding insurance coverage and using models of medical care pioneered in healthier places. "We are a prime example of what people see as problematic about the American healthcare system," said Larry Matheis, the former longtime head of the Nevada State Medical Assn. "That makes a lot of the ideas in health reform very attractive. … The challenge is going to be figuring out how to make it all work" (Levey, 6/7).

WRAL: NC Leaders Still At Odds Over Future Of Costly Medicaid Program
State Senate leaders don't just dislike Gov. Pat McCrory's plan to remake the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Their budget would legally bar the Department of Health and Human Services from working on it anymore (Binker, 6/8). 

North Carolina Health News: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Medicaid?
Leaders at the state’s Department of Health and Human Services believe they have a good idea in their Medicaid reform plan. And they’re sticking to their guns, despite the displeasure of the North Carolina Senate (Hoban, 6/9).

NPR: Hospitals Put Pharmacists In the ER To Cut Medication Errors
In the emergency department at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, pharmacists who specialize in emergency medicine review each medication to make sure it's the right one in the right dose. It's part of the hospital's efforts to cut down on medication errors and dangerous drug interactions, which contribute to more than 7,000 deaths across the country each year (Silverman, 6/9).

The Boston Globe: UnitedHealthcare To Cut Doctors For Mass. Seniors
National insurance giant UnitedHealthcare plans to cut up to 700 Massachusetts doctors from its physician network for seniors enrolled in its private Medicare plan as a way to control costs, according to company officials. For elderly patients enrolled in the plan, the cuts mean they will have to find a new doctor or eventually switch to a new health plan that covers their current doctor. The move, effective Sept. 1, follows similar cuts made by the insurer to its Medicare Advantage provider networks in 11 other states, including in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where the reductions drew outrage from patients, doctors, and lawmakers earlier this year (Jan. 6/8). 

The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal: Hospital Giant Uses Data To Vet Treatment Options
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has found a way to improve health outcomes at lower cost thanks to a new data analytics program in which the hospital-and-insurance behemoth invested $105 million last year. UPMC says a pilot program that directed patients to a centralized care facility helped save $15 million in medical costs over the course of a year. These clinics, known as patient centered medical homes, centralize all of a patient’s various care and medical services under the auspices of a single physician, and are assigned to patients once they’ve been released from the hospital (Hickins, 6/6).

The Associated Press: Medical Situation Grows Dire As State Holds Migrant Kids
Mattresses, portable toilets and showers were brought in Saturday for 700 unaccompanied migrant minors who spent the night sleeping on plastic cots inside an Arizona warehouse, a federal official said. The Homeland Security official told The Associated Press that about 2,000 mattresses have been ordered for the makeshift holding center — a warehouse that has not been used to shelter people in years. [Arizona] Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman, Andrew Wilder, said Friday that conditions at the center are so dire that federal officials have asked the state to immediately ship medical supplies to the center in Nogales (Skoloff and Spagat, 6/7).

The Seattle Times: Longtime Leader Mike Kreidler Plunges Into Political Storms
On the steps of the Insurance Building on the state Capitol campus, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler pauses to ponder a question about his motivations. With his moves watched by policymakers, insurance regulators and companies across the country, this affable 70-year-old politician has had anything but a predictable life in the past few years. Consumer advocates say he may be the most respected insurance regulator in the country, but some state legislators tried to have his office abolished in the last session (Ostrom, 6/8).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Missouri Health Planners Discard Legislator’s Idea On Nursing Homes
A state health planning board on Thursday defeated a proposal that would have given a small subcommittee dominated by legislators control over whether new nursing homes or assisted living facilities are built in Missouri. The proposal, championed by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, had drawn strenuous criticism from some long-term care groups, particularly those affiliated with nonprofit homes. They said it would have made the state’s approval process more political (Young, 6/6).

Los Angeles Times: Feds Step Up Pressure For L.A. County Jail Reforms
Citing a dramatic increase in jail suicides, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that it was seeking court oversight of how the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department treats mentally ill inmates. The move marks a significant expansion of the federal government's efforts to improve the "deplorable" living conditions and care of the mentally ill in the nation's largest jail system (Chang and Sewell, 6/6). 

The Oregonian: Oregon Researchers Reviewed 58,000 Death Records To Check On State's End-Of-Life Planning Program
Three years ago, after an ambulance rushed Betty Lou Hutchens to Oregon Health & Science University for care of her malfunctioning heart, she was glad her three children didn't have to make tough choices on how much medical treatment she should receive to keep her alive. Now 92, the Lake Oswego retirement community resident had spelled out her wishes clearly using a pioneering Oregon program launched more than a decade ago. It set up a registry that all providers and emergency medical technicians can use to check patient's wishes. "It gives me peace of mind to know that that was taken care of," said Hutchens (Budnick, 6/8).

Georgia Health News: Georgia Still A National Leader In Health IT
An industry magazine’s list of top U.S. health care IT companies again shows a heavy Georgia presence. Healthcare Informatics Magazine lists eight Georgia-based companies in its top 100 health IT companies in 2014, based on revenues from the previous year…During the years 2008 through 2013, the state’s health IT sector added 17.2 percent more technology workers, according to the Technology Association of Georgia. “Georgia is at the forefront of the health information technology sector with more than 225 health IT companies based in the state,” said Tino Mantella, TAG president and CEO (Miller, 6/7).

The Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today: The Doctor Will See You Now – Virtually
Advances in telehealth are changing the way health care is delivered in the Cincinnati area. ... At St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Northern Kentucky, seeing your primary doctor may soon be as easy as logging onto your computer. And in Cincinnati's West End, formerly homeless veterans and recovering drug addicts at the Talbert House now have access to free, live online doctor's visits thanks to a first-of-its kind telehealth video console donated by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Bernard-Kuhn, 6/7).

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