KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. May Vote On Assisted Suicide; Colo. To Try Medical Homes

Health policy news from Masschusetts, California, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and Connecticut.

Boston Globe: Dying Wishes Expected To Be Decided On November Ballot
Heather Clish has become a leading advocate for affording terminally ill patients in Massachusetts the same choice her father had. Clish and other supporters are pushing a ballot initiative to legalize the practice they call Death with Dignity, more commonly known as physician-assisted suicide. Voters will almost certainly decide at the polls this November whether it should be allowed here, as in Oregon and Washington, the only two states where voters have explicitly authorized it (Helman, 4/29).

KQED/The California Report: Hospice Homes Provide End-of-Life Care Alternative
According to a recent survey, the vast majority of Californians would prefer to die at home. But year after year, most people die in hospitals or nursing homes. It's expensive and not especially comfortable for patients or their families. Hospice homes offer an alternative for the terminally ill -- and they provide end-of-life care at a fraction of the cost (Goldberg, 4/27). 

The Connecticut Mirror: As DSS Seeks Public Comment, Advocates Critique Proposal For "Dual Eligibles"
The Department of Social Services is seeking public comments on an application to run a federal demonstration program ... At issue is a proposal to create a new model for providing and coordinating care for state residents who receive health care coverage through both Medicaid and Medicare. ... Their care costs more than $3 billion a year, an average of $53,500 a person. And despite the price tag, it's often inadequate and poorly coordinated (Levin Becker, 4/27). 

Reuters: Kansas Lawmakers To Debate Who Can Pull Baby Teeth
The problem is that rural areas in the United States have a shortage of dentists, and one proposed solution is to license "dental practitioners" who could do things such as fill cavities and pull baby teeth. But the lobbying group representing dentists in Kansas wants no part of non-dentists messing with people's mouths, saying that only a person with a four-year graduate degree and additional training should be allowed to extract teeth (Murphy, 4/28).

Related, earlier KHN story: In Kansas, No Consensus On How To End ‘Dental Deserts’ (Thompson, 4/8)

Des Moines Register: Addition To Spending Bill Would Benefit One C.R. Doctor
When it comes to state permission to run a surgery center alongside his medical practice in Cedar Rapids, Dr. Lee Birchansky won’t take no for an answer. ... Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House last week added an amendment to a state spending bill providing an exception to the authorization process that has tripped up Birchansky all these years. ... Birchansky has been a generous political donor in recent years, contributing more than $18,000 to gubernatorial and legislative candidates since 1997 (Noble, 4/27).

Denver Post: Partisan Debate Over 'War On Women' Legislative Proposal
Senate Memorial 3, by Sen. Tim Neville, a Littleton Republican, urged Congress to enact what is known as the "Blunt amendment," which allows a health plan to decline coverage or services that are contrary to its religious beliefs. ... Neville's measure died on a party-line vote, with all 20 Democrats opposed and all 15 Republicans in support (Bartels, 4/27).

California Healthline: Mixed Reviews At Basic Health Program Briefing
The state Legislature is considering a bill to create a Basic Health Program in California. If adopted, SB 703 by Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) would create low-cost health care insurance for as many as one million low-income Californians. ... The BHP is an alternative to the exchange's coverage for two sets of Californians -- adults with income between 133% and 200% of the federal poverty level, and for legal immigrants with income below 133% of the poverty level (Gorn, 4/30).

HealthyCal: Mental Health Treatment Newly Available At Clinics
Federal funding is available to help community clinics transition towards what they will resemble in 2014. ... community clinics are moving towards becoming ‘medical homes,’ or centers of care. That means qualifying low-income patients have access to primary care, pharmacy services, or specialty care (by referral). And especially exciting to health specialists is the new availability of mental health and substance abuse services, which are being included at clinics for the first time (Flynn, 4/29). 

Colorado Public Radio: Home Sweet Medical Home
Colorado's just been chosen to be part of a big federal initiative to encourage medical homes. Doctors will get paid more if they take on greater responsibility for their patients. Here to explain is Dr. Marjie Harbrecht with the non-profit health consulting group HealtTeamWorks in Lakewood, and Julie Schilz, with Anthem-Wellpoint Health Insurance in Denver (Whitney, 4/27). 

Medscape: Providers to Test Power of Apology in Malpractice Claims
The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) wants to prove that clinicians and hospitals can keep medical malpractice out of the courtroom by owning up to their mistakes with apologies — and sometimes cash as well. ... In the Massachusetts pilot project, participating hospitals would inform patients about adverse events as soon as they become aware of them and begin conducting a root-cause analysis (Lowes, 4/27).

Boston Globe: Patrick Signs Law To Allow HIV Test With Verbal Consent
Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Friday a bill that supporters say will provide greater access to HIV tests and bring Massachusetts into compliance with federal recommendations ... But some physician groups said the law did not go far enough because the rules still require written informed consent from a patient each time information is released from a patient’s file pertaining to HIV (Lazar, 4/27). 

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