KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Mass. Health Care Costs Grow By Only 2.3 Percent; New Rules In Calif. For Some Inmates

WBUR:  A First-Year Victory In The Mass. Fight To Control Health Costs
Two years ago, Massachusetts set what was considered an ambitious goal: The state would not let that persistent monster, rising health care costs, increase faster than the economy as a whole. Today, the results of the first full year are out and there’s reason to celebrate. The magic number, the one that will go down in the history books is 2.3 percent. It’s well below a state-imposed benchmark for health care cost growth (Bebinger, 9/2).

Boston Globe: Spending On Health Care Rises In Mass.
Spending at Massachusetts’ biggest health insurer and health care provider helped drive overall health care spending well above inflation last year, as the state’s efforts to control rising costs met mixed success, according to a report to be released Tuesday. Spending at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts jumped 3.65 percent, and as much as 4 percent for some Partners HealthCare patients last year, compared with an inflation rate of 1.4 percent in the Boston metropolitan area (McKluskey, 9/2).

Los Angeles Times: New Cells Will Lessen Solitary Confinement For Mentally Ill Inmates
State prison officials plan to open special solitary confinement units for the mentally ill as part of an effort to comply with court orders to improve their care. The cellblocks -- while still isolating prisoners from the rest of the population and largely from one another -- will increase the time those inmates are allowed outside their cells and the amount of treatment they receive (St. John, 8/29).

The New York Times: Federal Judge Approves California Plan To Reduce Isolation Of Mentally Ill Inmates
The revised policies, filed in Federal District Court on Friday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, were drafted in response to an order issued by Judge Lawrence K. Karlton last April. When put in place, they should greatly reduce the number of mentally ill prisoners held in so-called Security Housing Units, where prisoners remain in their cells for 23 or more hours a day, and in several other types of isolation units throughout the state (Goode, 8/29).

Los Angeles Times: Ventura County Medi-Cal Health Plan Probed
California officials are investigating financial dealings between Ventura County's Medi-Cal health plan and a key outside contractor, Xerox Corp., The Times has learned. The California attorney general's office has issued a subpoena to Gold Coast Health Plan for records related to its work with a Xerox unit, Affiliated Computer Services. Xerox is a major government contractor for Medicaid and other health programs nationwide (Terhune, 8/29).

Los Angeles Times: Despite Fractures Among Labor, Paid Sick Days Bill Clears Legislature 
A bill that would significantly expand working Californians' access to paid time off for sick leave cleared the Legislature early Saturday morning. The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) would require employers to give their workers at least three paid sick days per year. Supporters say it would provide paid leave to approximately 6.5 million workers in the state (Mason, 8/30).

Reuters: California Governor Lauds Passage Of Historic 'Sick Leave' Bill
If Brown signs the measure into law, California will join Connecticut as the only states mandating paid sick leave, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (O'Brien, 8/30). 

Kaiser Health News: Another Audit Finds Fault With Nursing Home Inspections In Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County public health officials inappropriately closed nursing home investigations and failed to follow state guidelines on prioritizing complaints, according to an audit released this week. The Los Angeles County auditor-controller also found that even after nursing home inspectors found serious problems, their supervisors downgraded the severity of findings without any explanation or without discussing the changes with the inspectors as required (Gorman, 8/29).

USA Today: U Of Oregon Grads Plot The Future Of Rural Health Care 
While many college graduates spent their summer looking for entry-level work, two recent graduates of the University of Oregon -- Oliver Alexander, 22, and Orion Falvey, 24 -- were getting ready to open their own business. The duo are co-founders of Orchid Health, which opened its first clinic in the rural town of Oakridge, Ore. this August. ... Orchid Health offers memberships to patients for a monthly free. For non-members the company accepts patients with Medicare and Medicaid and offers cash walk-in prices (Maiman, 8/30).

The Associated Press: Indiana Hospitals Fight State's Salary Disclosure Law
Indiana county hospitals are seeking an exemption from a requirement that they make the salaries of doctors and staff public, saying doing so puts them at a disadvantage with their private counterparts. State law requires that salaries of public employees be made public. They can be accessed through the Indiana Gateway for Government Units (9/1). 

The Seattle Times: As Newly Insured Seek Care, Rural Doctor Shortage Worsens
As more people get health-insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the doctor shortage in rural areas is worsening. In Port Angeles, for example, a local clinic is turning away 250 callers a week (Stiffler, 9/1).

The Seattle Times: New WSU Health Clinic Won't Be Restricted By Catholic Directives
Bylaws for a new health clinic that will open on the campus of Washington State University Spokane will be changed to ensure that care provided at the clinic isn’t restricted by Catholic health-care directives. The announcement Friday comes two days after the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern about the clinic’s bylaws and asked Washington State University regents to address the matter at their Sept. 11 meeting (Hatch, 8/29).

The Denver Post: Saline IV Shortage: Searching For A Solution
Colorado hospitals are working overtime to find stock and are changing their daily practices to protect patients in the wake of an urgent national shortage of normal saline. Normal saline, the single most-used medicine, is little more than salty water that closely matches blood serum's natural salt levels, according to Dr. Eric Lavonas, the chairman of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee at Denver Health (Mocine-McQueen, 8/31).

Earlier, related KHN story: Shortage Of Saline Solution Has Hospitals On Edge (Dembosky, 6/25)

The Denver Post: Colorado Medical-Marijuana Caregiver Rules Could Pinch Young Patients
Dozens of families who moved to Colorado to treat their severely disabled children with a special kind of marijuana could lose access to the treatment under new rules proposed by the state health department. The proposed rules would stop medical marijuana caregivers from serving more than 10 patients at a time (Ingold, 9/2). 

Charlotte Observer: Putting Teeth In Health Reform: Dental Clinics Aren't Enough 
When hundreds of desperate dental patients converge on the Charlotte Convention Center next week, it will be a testament to civic generosity and systemic failure. Over the past decade, North Carolina’s Missions of Mercy program has become one of the nation’s largest providers of free mobile dental clinics (Doss Helms, 9/1). 

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