KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

High Court’s ‘Alarming’ Move On Abortion; Tragic Attack In Virginia Points To Needs In Mental Health Services; A Better Way To Reduce Hospital Readmissions

The New York Times: Texas Women And Abortion Rights
In an alarming 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court turned away an emergency application to block a new Texas law that is impeding access to safe and legal abortion care in the state. The ruling leaves in place an order by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the law go into effect while it considers an appeal (11/20). 

Los Angeles Times: Battle Over Abortion In Texas
It's disappointing that the Supreme Court denied a request to temporarily block an onerous new abortion law in Texas from taking effect while a federal appellate court determines whether the law is constitutional. The high court's decision could force as many as a third of the abortion clinics in Texas to close, creating a hardship for thousands of women seeking to terminate their pregnancies (11/21).

Los Angeles Times: Good News And Bad News For Women As The Abortion Battle Rages
The battle over abortion continues to rage, and both sides got good news this week. In a win for antiabortion forces Tuesday, an ideologically split Supreme Court refused, 5-4, to stop the implementation of a Texas law aimed at squeezing abortion providers out of the state by requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. ... On the other hand, those who favor abortion rights were pleased Tuesday when the citizens of Albuquerque turned out in record numbers to overwhelmingly reject a measure that would have outlawed abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy (Robin Abcarian, 11/20).

USA Today: Deeds Attack Shows That Our System Is A Mess
The stabbing of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds on Tuesday apparently by his son, Austin, who later committed suicide, is the latest in a string of mental health related violent incidents. Initial news reports said Austin Deeds had been turned away from a treatment center because no beds were available -- a claim later denied by state hospital officials. What's uncontestable is that Deeds didn't get the help that he needed (Pete Earley, 11/20).

The Seattle Times: The Rare Mental-Health Fixers
Crystal looked down at her bowl of handmade pasta like she expected it to suddenly disappear. You can understand her hesitation. The day before, she was in a West Seattle psychiatric hospital after being committed for wandering Seattle streets, suicidal. This day, she lived in a downtown Seattle homeless shelter, a 57-year-old woman adrift, without a phone, clothes or identification. Enter Dennis Villas and Mary McDonald. … Mary and Dennis's job title — peer bridgers — is new to the local mental-health system, but so intuitive it is a no-brainer (Jonathan Martin, 11/20).

JAMA: To Reduce Hospital Readmissions, Perhaps Focus On The Whole Patient And Not A Specific Condition
US Hospitals, which can face financial penalties for readmitting large numbers of patients within 30 days of discharging them, want to lower their 30-day readmission rates. And patients certainly don't want such return visits, either. Research appearing today in BMJ suggests that hospitals can lower 30-day readmission rates by developing strategies that focus on the whole patient rather than concentrating on such a specific time period or diagnoses that have historically been associated with a higher percentage of readmissions (Mike Mitka, 11/20).

New England Journal of Medicine: Making Medical Decisions For Patients Without Surrogates
People who are decisionally incapacitated but haven't provided advance directives for their health care and have no health care surrogates — sometimes called the "unbefriended" or "unrepresented" — are some of the most powerless and marginalized members of society. Most of the unrepresented are elderly, homeless, mentally disabled, or socially alienated. Yet medical decision making for these vulnerable patients often lacks even minimally sufficient safeguards and protections. ... We must strike an appropriate balance between a decision maker who is responsive and can make timely decisions and a decision maker who is independent from the treating clinicians. Occupying this middle ground, I would argue, is the ethics committee (Thaddeus Mason Pope, 11/21).

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