KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Md. Legislature Approves Health Enterprise Zones

A selection of health policy stories from California, Utah, Maryland, Florida, Missouri and Georgia.

NPR Shots Blog: Calif.'s Prescription-Drug Monitoring System Feels Pain From Budget Cuts
California has the oldest continuous prescription-drug monitoring program in the U.S. … It used to rely on carbon copies. … The system went online in 1998, and that's when its full power was realized. ... So alarm bells went off among doctors and law enforcement when California Gov. Jerry Brown announced last year that, for budget reasons, he was eliminating the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, which had long managed the prescription-drug monitoring program (Varney, 4/10).

The Associated Press: Utah: 750K More Victims In Health Dept Data Breach
An additional 750,000 people had their personal information stolen by hackers, state health officials said Monday after discovering that the thieves downloaded thousands more files of data than authorities initially believed. Officials originally estimated that about 24,000 people had their records stolen after a computer tracked to Eastern Europe infiltrated a server beginning March 30, then changed that number to 182,000 victims. Health officials now believe a total of nearly 900,000 people have had their personal data stolen (Loftin, 4/10).

The Baltimore Sun: Health Enterprise Zone Legislation Passes
A program to improve health care in minority areas and reduce health disparities was approved by the General Assembly over the weekend. The pilot program, which now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley for his signature, would offer tax breaks and other incentives to local health departments and community groups for their programs in these underserved areas -- labeled as Health Enterprise Zones (Cohn, 4/9).

Earlier, related KHN coverage: Different Takes: Maryland Advances An 'Enterprising' Plan To Eliminate Health Disparities (2/23).

Modern Healthcare: Fla. Heightens Scrutiny Of Public Hospital Deals
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill that would add more oversight to the sale or lease of public hospitals in the state, and perhaps prompt more merger activity. Among its provisions, the law requires public hospitals to undertake a public evaluation of how they are competing in their respective markets, and evaluate whether a deal might be in their best interest. And while it does not require any hospital to pursue a sale, critics have said it could invite more deal-making in the space (Kutscher, 4/9).

The Miami Herald: Hospitals To Become 'Broward Health'
A plan to change the name of Broward General Medical Center, the county's oldest hospital, and the names of three other public hospitals has physicians and others protesting. Broward General will become Broward Health Medical Center, a change that will roll out this summer as part of an advertising campaign. The three other public hospitals in the Broward Health system will lose the words "medical center" in their titles (Nevins, 4/9).

San Francisco Chronicle: Calif. Suits On Inmate Health Care Likely To Rise
The law firm that successfully sued California in 2001 over the dismal health care in state prisons has filed a similar suit against Fresno County and is eyeing possible action against Riverside County over alleged inadequacies in medical, mental and dental care for inmates -- suits that come as counties begin to house thousands more offenders than they have in the past. The nonprofit Prison Law Office and others are concerned that California's realignment of prisons and jails -- which has inmates serving time in county jails for crimes that in the past would have landed them in prison -- may have simply shifted the state's prison problems to the 58 counties and their jail systems (Lagos, 4/9).

St. Louis Public Radio/Marketplace: Missouri's Low Cigarette Tax Under Fire
The state with the lowest tax on cigarettes? No, not tobacco country -- Virginia or North Carolina. It's Missouri, with a tax of just 17 cents a pack. The national average is a buck and a half. But health advocates are pushing a ballot initiative to increase the levy in Missouri (Altman and Brancaccio, 4/10).

Georgia Health News: Health Worse In Rural Counties, Study Shows
An analysis comparing health statistics for Georgia counties shows a wide gap between rural and urban/suburban areas in the state. The top seven counties in the state in the new health rankings -- Fayette, Forsyth, Oconee, Cherokee, Gwinnett, Cobb and Columbia -- are all in large metropolitan areas in the northern or north-central part of the state. The bottom 10 counties are in rural South or Middle Georgia, according to the rankings, compiled for each state by the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and released last week (Miller, 4/9).

California Healthline: Keeping Up With DHCS Lawsuits
The Department of Health Care Services may need an abacus to keep track of all of the lawsuits being levied against it. A ruling is expected as early as today in a lawsuit brought against DHCS by the California Primary Care Association and several other providers. The CPCA hopes a federal judge will grant a temporary restraining order to halt a lower reimbursement rate for adult day health services in the recently launched Community Based Adult Services program. A full hearing on the case is expected in about two weeks, when the CPCA will argue for a preliminary injunction to stop the rate reduction (Gorn, 4/10).

California Healthline: Should California Reconsider Health Care Districts?
Shortly after World War II ended, the California Legislature passed laws allowing counties and communities to create special health care districts to ensure that low-income and underserved Californians have access to hospitals. These districts, most of them built around publicly owned hospitals, could levy taxes and gain access to special financing tools. … Now, with the Affordable Care Act poised to dramatically change the state's health care system, we asked stakeholders and experts if California should be reconsidering health care districts (4/9).

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