KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mass. Regulators And Nursing Homes Fight Inappropriate Medicating; Officials Deal With Hawaii Doctor Shortage

The Boston Globe: "State regulators and the Massachusetts nursing home industry are launching a campaign today to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications for residents with dementia - a practice that endangers lives and is more common here than in most other states. During the next year, a team of specialists will identify nursing homes with successful methods for avoiding overuse of antipsychotics and determine which homes need help cutting back. ... In 2009, 22 percent of Massachusetts nursing home residents who received antipsychotic medications did not have a diagnosis for which the drugs were recommended - the 12th highest rate of inappropriate antipsychotic use in the nation" (Lazar, 11/18).

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser: "Current projections show [Hawaii] could be short 1,230 doctors and 2,669 registered nurses to care for an estimated 280,496 baby boomers who will be 65 or older by 2020, according to the Hawaii State Center for Nursing and the Hawaii/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine. By 2030, the physician shortage is estimated to grow to 2,071. The insufficient numbers of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals - due to lower pay scales, higher cost of living and fewer choices for quality education, professional development and employment opportunities - have grave repercussions given the wave of Hawaii residents expected to retire in the next 10 to 20 years" (Consilio, 11/18).

Ventura County Star: "Because never may mean at least once or twice, California health care inspectors are asking 87 California hospitals that haven't reported a severe medical error in more than three years to recheck their records. A state law that went into effect in 2007 requires hospitals to report any of 28 medical errors known as never events, meaning they're never supposed to happen, including operating on the wrong patient or body part, severe injuries caused by electrical shock, suicides and death or disability caused by contaminated medication" (Kisken, 11/17).

Health News Florida: "You might think that when a major pharmaceutical company pays a doctor to promote its medicines, it would not choose someone whose mistake killed a patient. Nor would it choose a doctor who traded drugs for sex, prescribed painkillers to obvious addicts, or violated federal rules while running clinical trials. You would be wrong. Florida doctors who receive money from drug companies have been disciplined for all those things, according to a project by the national investigative news site ProPublica in which Health News Florida took part" (Gentry and Gulliver, 11/18).

Health News Florida, in a separate story also stemming from the ProPublica investigative project, report on two Orlando-area urologists Steven Brooks and his partner E. 'Jake' Jacobo who "pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Connecticut to one count of conspiracy to defraud Medicare and the military through a complicated black-market diversion of the pricey prostate cancer drug Lupron. Despite the blotch on his record, Brooks is Florida's third-biggest recipient of pharma speaking fees overall and commands by far the largest fees among those who have been disciplined … Over the last 18 months, GlaskoSmithKline paid Brooks over $178,000, ProPublica found. The company also paid Jacobo $14,750." They are among several doctors with criminal records who are employed by pharmaceutical companies (Gentry and Gulliver, 11/18).

The Boston Herald: "The state's health insurance connector - the highly touted agency that aims to bring cheap medical care to the masses - has turned into a legal pit bull by aggressively going after a growing number of Bay Staters who say they can't afford mandated insurance - or the penalties imposed for not having it. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority is cracking down on more than 3,000 residents who are fighting state fines, and has even hired a private law firm to force the health insurance scofflaws to pay penalties of up to $2,000 a year. All told, more than 7,700 people have appealed state fines for not having health insurance, according to connector spokesman Richard Powers" (McConville, 11/17).

Detroit Free Press: "An Ingham County Circuit judge has stopped Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from implementing rate increases of as much as 66% for some seniors with supplemental Medicare policies. As a result of Tuesday's preliminary injunction, a public meeting also must be held. The Michigan Attorney General's Office filed suit in September against Blue Cross and Michigan's Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, which asked the Blues to restructure discounts given some 8,000-9,000 policies - about 5% of some 200,000 seniors with Blue Cross Medigap policies. Seniors with the policies to be increased are either out-of-state residents or retired Chrysler and Ford salaried workers who get stipends from their former employers for health insurance" (Anstett, 11/18).

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