KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Highlights: L.A. Nursing Homes Scrutiny

A selection of health policy stories from Texas, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Virginia and Georgia.

The New York Times: Texas G.O.P. Beats Back Challengers From Right
The primary served as a kind of referendum on Mr. Cornyn. He faced seven challengers, a sign of the frustration among some Tea Party activists and conservative groups with him for failing to back Mr. Cruz in his efforts to shut down the government over Mr. Obama’s health care law and to block a vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. But Mr. Cornyn’s main challenger, Representative Steve Stockman, made few campaign appearances, and Mr. Cornyn beat him easily (Fernandez, 3/4).

Kaiser Health News: L.A. County Health Officials Grilled Over Nursing Home Inspections
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously ordered an audit Tuesday of how the public health department oversees nursing homes, after a news report revealed that managers told inspectors to close cases without fully investigating them. Expressing anger and shock, the supervisors summoned Department of Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding to the meeting to answer questions about the nursing home inspection process. During the heated discussion, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for the audit (Gorman, 3/5).

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Orders Audit Of Department Over Nursing Home Complaints
Los Angeles County supervisors ordered an audit Tuesday of how the county's Public Health Department investigates complaints about health and safety issues at nursing homes. Members of the county board sharply criticized health officials over a report that complaints were not always thoroughly investigated. An investigation by Kaiser Health News found that public health officials told inspectors to close certain cases without fully investigating them in an effort to reduce a backlog (Sewell and Brown, 3/4). 

Kaiser Health News: Health Workers' Union Pushes Hospital Cost Control In California
A California health care workers’ union is collecting signatures to get two measures onto the ballot that it says would lower health care costs. United Health Care Workers West, or SEIU-UHW, wants to cap what hospitals can charge to 25 percent above the actual cost of services. SEIU-UHW says on average, hospitals charge 320 percent above the cost of care (Bartolone, 3/5).

The Arizona Republic: Childhood Trauma Common In Arizona
Growing up in a single-parent household as a result of divorce, death or incarceration. Being the victim of racial or ethnic discrimination. Witnessing gun violence in the neighborhood. A report being released today concludes that children in Arizona experience more trauma than those in other states and that those experiences put them at greater risk for health problems later in life. Several Arizona leaders say the data are the latest alarm bell indicating that the state should focus more resources on child welfare (Wang, 3/4).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bill Creating Mental Health Board For Milwaukee County Advances
A bill with bipartisan support that would put control of Milwaukee County's troubled mental health system in the hands of a board of professionals is advancing despite union opposition. A final vote could come as soon as March 18. The measure was prompted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Chronic Crisis" investigation, which showed how politicians had ignored decades of calls for reform while patients suffered, many dying of neglect or abuse, in an outdated system (Kissinger, 3/4). 

The CT Mirror: Analysis: Obamacare Won’t Replace Connecticut’s Mental Health Cuts
An early analysis suggests that the assumptions behind a $15.2 million cut to mental health and substance abuse treatment services in this year’s budget aren’t being realized and could leave some service providers with significantly less funding than lawmakers intended. And several legislators said Monday that they’re concerned about what the cuts could mean for access to care. “We’re going to have to do something because we can’t go down this path,” Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said during a work session with other members of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee (Becker, 3/4). 

The CT Mirror: CT Mission Of Mercy Free Dental Clinic Targets Pregnant Women
Hoping to correct misconceptions while providing care, the organizers of the Connecticut Mission of Mercy dental clinic are planning a special section for pregnant women at this year’s free clinic in Hartford. Research suggests that fewer than half of pregnant women seek dental care, despite evidence that mothers’ oral health is strongly connected to their children’s dental health. Some research has also suggested that women who don't receive dental care during pregnancy are at a slightly higher risk for preterm delivery (Becker, 3/4).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Resignation Raises Questions In Mental Health Probe
A cloud hangs over a state inspector general’s investigation that is supposed to give a long-awaited public accounting of how Virginia’s mental health system treated the son of Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, before he attacked his father Nov. 19. G. Douglas Bevelacqua, who led the investigation as director of the behavioral health division of the Office of the State Inspector General, abruptly resigned his position Tuesday, citing interference by office leadership that weakened the still-unreleased report. The investigation has focused on why Austin C. “Gus” Deeds was released from an expired emergency custody order 13 hours before he stabbed his father multiple times and then shot himself to death at their home in rural Millboro (Martz, 3/4).

Georgia Health News: Hospitalists: The Specialists Whose Patients All Have Beds
Morgan Memorial Hospital in Madison got tired of having so many patients who were just passing through. Too often in the past, the hospital has stabilized newly arrived patients, only to see them quickly bundled off to Athens for further treatment. Ralph Castillo, the administrator for the 25-bed hospital in one of the most famously beautiful communities in Georgia, thinks he has the solution to this stopover problem.  He has launched a program that he says will save lives and keep more patients in Morgan County, closer to home and family. Castillo introduced a team of hospitalists -- mainly physicians who specialize in the care of patients who are admitted to a hospital (Adcock, 3/4).

The California Health Report: As Doctors Struggle With New Electronic Record Systems, Care Can Suffer
According to recent surveys, more than half of California physicians and clinics have switched to electronic health records to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act -- but for many it has not been a smooth process. Implementation problems are, in some cases, hurting patients. “While vendors are making an effort to make their (electronic health) systems more usable, there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” said Glen Moy, senior program officer at the California Healthcare Foundation (Guzik, 3/5).

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