KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Calif. Hospital Bid Draws Scrutiny; Hospital House Calls

A selection of health policy stories from California, Pennsylvania, Washington and Minnesota.

Los Angeles Times: Health Care Chain's Bid For 6 Hospitals Draws Protest
Prime Healthcare Services Inc., a hospital chain that has come under fire for billing and patient privacy issues, is facing opposition over its potential acquisition of six California hospitals, including two medical centers in Los Angeles County. On Friday, hospital workers, union representatives and elected officials protested against Prime outside St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown Los Angeles, one of the six hospitals put up for sale this year by the Daughters of Charity Health System (Garland, 8/15).

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Hospital Makes House Calls To High-Risk Patients
The doctor sat in Valerie Robinson's apartment and marveled at the number of pill bottles she kept in a zippered bag. "Holy schmoley, girl!" Dr. Rick Fogle said as he sorted through the medications in Robinson's Harrison high-rise. Checking the drugs against a list, Fogle concluded that more than half were not part of her official medical record. Within two hours, he found that Robinson's doctor had moved offices and she needed a new doctor. Without this rare home visit, Robinson, 65, likely would have ended up hospitalized, Fogle said. To avoid this, hospitals target patients such as Robinson and send doctors to their homes, hoping to prevent readmissions (Fabregas, 8/16).

The Star Tribune: Care Aides Get Little To No Training For Life-And-Death Tasks
Each day, thousands of home-based caregivers such as Sernett are thrust into similar life-and-death situations with little training and virtually no direct supervision. They perform a dizzying array of complex medical tasks -- from inserting feeding tubes and cleaning infections to monitoring intravenous fluids -- that once were provided only in hospitals or nursing homes by medical professionals. Many say they feel overwhelmed and unqualified as they struggle to help patients with serious illnesses and disabilities. In Minnesota, where more than 100,000 care assistants serve some 36,000 vulnerable patients, all it takes to be certified as a home caregiver is a brief online quiz with questions such as, “When talking to a 911 operator, do not hang up. True or false?” (Serres, 8/17).

Seattle Times: Premera And LifeWise Will Include Children’s In Coverage
Premera Blue Cross and its subsidiary, LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, will include Seattle Children’s hospital and its specialists in its individual and small-group health insurance-plan networks for 2014 and 2015. The moves put an end to the insurer’s part in a long-running legal dispute with widespread implications. The issue -- whether the state insurance office violated state and federal laws in approving plans that didn’t include Children’s -- sparked a yearlong battle that pitted various insurers against a medical system whose patients include children with difficult, often deadly, conditions (Ostrom, 8/17).

MinnPost: Midwest Leads In Increase Of Hospitalizations For Prescription Painkiller Overdoses
Hospitalizations resulting from the overuse of prescription opioid painkillers have risen more than 150 percent during the last two decades, according to a new national report. That stunning increase was greatest among Midwesterners, women and people aged 45 or older. Much recent media attention on drug overdoses has focused on deaths from illegal drugs, particularly heroin. But, as the findings from this new report underscore, deaths from prescription opioids -- a class of drugs that includes oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and morphine -- is an even bigger problem. Some 60 percent of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involve prescription drugs, and three out of four of those deaths -- more than 16,600 each year -- are caused by prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Perry, 8/15).

Minnesota Public Radio: New Immunization Requirements Coming
Thousands of Minnesota children will be subject to new vaccination rules next month. Beginning Sept. 1, children enrolled in childcare and early childhood programs will be required to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B. Those requirements already applied to some programs, but the rule change extends the requirement to every early childhood program. "If you weren't caught up this is the reminder that you need to make sure that your kids are getting caught up," said Kris Ehresmann, director of the infectious disease division at the Minnesota Department of Health (8/16).

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