KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State News: Calif., Iowa Hope To Streamline Mental Health Care Delivery

California Healthline: Careful Steps In Dismantling Mental Health Agency
Over and over yesterday, in two separate Health and Human Services budget subcommittee hearings, officials insisted that eliminating the California Department of Mental Health was not a diminishment of services, but rather a reorganization. ... The question from the hearing room full of health care advocates was: How do you eliminate a whole department, and still keep heightened focus on its subject of mental health? (Gorn, 5/26). 

Des Moines Register: Iowa Senate Approves Mental Health Reform Bill
The Iowa Senate approved a bill Thursday that establishes a framework for reform of Iowa's mental health system, although differences must still be resolved with House members. Senate File 525 was approved on a 36-9 vote. It calls for a plan to be developed in the coming months to redesign Iowa's mental health system, which costs $1.3 billion annually to operate. The Iowa Legislature would be asked to take action on the proposals during its 2012 session, with the new system implemented by July 1, 2013 (Petroski, 5/27). 

The Christian Science Monitor: Wisconsin Judge Invalidates Law Curbing Unions, But Fight Isn't Over Yet
A Wisconsin circuit court judge has invalidated a controversial law designed to limit the power of public-sector unions in the state – legislation that prompted massive protests in Madison, the state capital, and brought international attention to Wisconsin earlier this year. … As written, the legislation strips away the collective bargaining power of non-law-enforcement public workers on everything except wages. It also increases pension and health-benefit obligation (Guarino, 5/26).

Politico Pro: Maryland Pulls Ahead On Implementation
The key takeaway from the launch of Maryland's exchange board here: This is one state to definitely keep an eye on. Maryland has, in some ways, flown under the radar on implementing the Affordable Care Act. It has always been a leader but hasn't racked up any first-in-the-nation accomplishments. It was the third to pass legislation enabling a health exchange, the second to set up an exchange board and one of six states participating in HHS's Early Innovator grant program, for states leading the way on exchange information technology (Kliff, 5/27).

The Baltimore Sun: Johns Hopkins Receives $10 Million To Open Patient Safety Institute
Johns Hopkins plans to use a $10 million gift to launch an institute for patient safety, aiming to reduce medical mistakes that have long troubled health care facilities around the nation. The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality will conduct research and develop methods for use at Hopkins and other hospitals around the globe that could prevent infections, misdiagnoses, improper treatments and other errors. It may be the first of its kind in the country, Hopkins and patient advocates say (Cohn, 5/26). 

The Boston Globe: Stark Hospital Fee Disparities Found
A new report from Governor Deval Patrick's administration confirms previous findings that hospitals are paid widely varying amounts for providing similar care. But it also shows that some are paid a lot more even for common bread-and-butter procedures, such as for appendectomies and minimally invasive gallbladder removals, that many hospitals do well (Kowalczyk, 5/27).

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