KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Calif. Opens Prison Psychiatric Ward, Hopes To Shed Fed Oversight

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, California, Maryland, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Kansas.

The Washington Post: Plan To Close Va. Institutions Stokes Worry For Families Of The Developmentally Disabled
Virginia is among the last states to begin dismantling its large institutions for the developmentally disabled, a decision that was made as part of a year-old settlement agreement with the Justice Department, which argued in a lawsuit that Virginia was discriminating against training center residents by keeping them institutionalized. All but one of the commonwealth's five training centers, as the state calls them, are to be shuttered by 2020, with the one in Fairfax set to close by July 2015 (Reilly, 2/17).

Los Angeles Times: State Opens New Prison Psychiatric Ward
California prison officials have opened a new psychiatric center for inmates, contending that the $24-million treatment facility is proof the state is ready to shed federal oversight of mental health care for prisoners (St. John, 2/19).

Los Angeles Times: Nursing Home Chain Settles With State Over Poor Patient Care
Hit with dozens of citations over poor patient care, a company that operates 20 nursing homes in Los Angeles County and elsewhere in California will increase its staffing levels under a settlement with the state attorney general's office. As part of the agreement, an independent monitor will ensure that Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. complies with state staffing laws, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris's office said Friday (Pringle, 2/15).

The Washington Post: Clinics Bring Together Doctors And Psychiatrists To Cure Physical, Mental Health Ailments
On a recent day at Family Services Inc., a low-income mental health clinic in Gaithersburg, clinic director Amy Van Grack was treating one of her regular patients when she realized the patient was homeless, pregnant and hadn't seen a primary care doctor in months. So Van Grack walked the patient down the hall to meet with one. In addition to therapists, counselors and psychiatrists, FSI in December added a medical clinic to its site. The idea: Individuals with behavioral health disorders are more likely to get the physical treatments they need when a doctor is readily available, affordable and near their mental health care provider (Khazan, 2/18).

The Lund Report: Sen. Monnes Anderson Creates Work Group To Require Evidence-Based Medicine
Oregon took a novel step toward improving health care while cutting costs last week with the creation of a work group to hash out a measure that would restrict health insurance companies from covering procedures that a state commission finds are not medically necessary or not best practices. "Most people really don't understand that depending on where you live … medicine will be practiced one way or another way," said Larry Kirsch, a Portland health economist at IMR Health Economics (Gray, 2/18).

Boston Globe: A Data Gap On Mass. Doctors' Troubles
The board that oversees physician discipline in Massachusetts has yet to deliver on its promise to post more information online about doctors who are charged with a crime or who have a history of negligent care. Now, doctors whose licenses are revoked or allowed to expire as a result of disciplinary actions are absent from the board's public database. And information about malpractice cases or board actions is removed after 10 years from the profiles of still-licensed physicians. After The Boston Globe reported last March about the Board of Registration in Medicine's practice of pulling information about the most troubled doctors from public view, board leaders promised to do better (Conaboy, 2/19).

The Associated Press: N.J. Hospitals Pioneering Efforts To Cut Health Costs
When a patient was moved from the intensive care unit to a regular hospital bed, it used to be routine for Anthony Granato, a pulmonary critical-care doctor, to order 24 hours of heart monitoring, just in case. A few years ago, his thinking changed: If the patient was in good enough condition to be out of the ICU, he would not need the extra monitoring at a cost of more than $1,000 per day. The main reason for the shift for Granato is a program introduced in a dozen New Jersey hospitals in 2009. It pays doctors when they save money for the hospitals as they treat patients covered by Medicare (Mulvihill, 2/19).

Kansas Health Institute: Senate Committee Axes $10 Million For KU Medical School Expansion
As part of their ongoing consideration of subcommittee reports, members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee today voted to cut the $10 million proposed earlier this year by Gov. Sam Brownback to be used as a down payment on modernization of the University of Kansas School of Medicine's facilities in Kansas City. The action was taken with a voice vote, but the two Democrats on the eight-person panel asked to have their opposition to the move recorded. The six Republicans supported it (Shields, 2/18).

California Healthline: UC System May End Health Care Caps, Making New Bill Moot
A bill introduced last week, AB 314 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), would eliminate fiscal caps on medical care for University of California students. UC officials said they're considering their own internal proposal to erase the caps, which would make the proposed legislation moot, but bill author Pan said he plans to go ahead with the legislation to ensure the rule is changed. "It's only fair that [UC students] should have the same protections as the rest of California," Pan said, referring to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that prohibit lifetime caps on care (Gorn, 2/19).

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