KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Mo. Lawmakers Look To Cap Malpractice Awards

A selection of health policy stories from California, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, Illinois and North Carolina.

The Associated Press/Kansas City-Star: Missouri GOP Looks To Impose Caps On Malpractice Cases
Missouri lawmakers have their eyes on reinstating liability limits for medical malpractice cases after the state Supreme Court struck down an existing cap on damages last summer. Republicans claim a supermajority when the General Assembly meets Wednesday to start the 2013 session, and GOP leaders say restoring the liability limits invalidated by the high court is needed to control health care costs and help keep doctors in Missouri (Blank, 1/6).

San Francisco Chronicle: Low-Income Kids Shuffled Onto Medi-Cal
On Tuesday, California started dismantling a popular health care program for low-income children by shifting nearly 200,000 young people into the massive Medi-Cal program, a move many health advocates fear will disrupt their care. And this is just the first phase of the transition away from the program called Healthy Families. By August, the nearly 900,000 people in the program will be shifted into Medi-Cal. The move is expected to save the state about $58 million in health care costs in 2013-14 and more than $70 million a year when Healthy Families is fully phased out (Colliver, 1/4).

Los Angeles Times: Vast Cache Of Kaiser Patient Details Was Kept In Private Home
Federal and state officials are investigating whether health care giant Kaiser Permanente violated patient privacy in its work with an Indio couple who stored nearly 300,000 confidential hospital records for the company (Terhune, 1/5).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Woodbury Hospital Lawsuit Pits Privacy Rights Vs. Cover-Up Allegations
Three years ago, Barbara Peterson walked out of Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury with more than 200 pages of confidential patient files. On that much, everyone agrees. Now those files are at the heart of a federal lawsuit, in which Peterson accuses the hospital of trying to cover up evidence of medical misconduct. Peterson, who was a patient advocate at Woodwinds, claims that she was ordered to destroy notes and e-mails about incidents that could damage the hospital's reputation -- including an allegation that a doctor was drunk while delivering a baby. She says she took the documents home to protect them. The hospital says that her version of events "simply did not happen." And it accuses Peterson of violating patient privacy by walking off with -- and refusing to return -- hospital records. Woodwinds fired her in 2010 before the missing documents came to light (Lerner, 1/6).

The New York Times: Pregnancy Centers Gain Influence in Anti-Abortion Arena
With free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, along with diapers, parenting classes and even temporary housing, pregnancy centers are playing an increasingly influential role in the anti-abortion movement. While most attention has focused on scores of new state laws restricting abortion, the centers have been growing in numbers and gaining state financing and support. ... Abortion rights advocates have long called some of their approaches deceptive or manipulative. Medical and other experts say some dispense scientifically flawed information, exaggerating abortion's risks (Belluck, 1/4).

Texas Tribune (Video): The Fight To Restore Health Care Cuts
Doctors in the Rio Grande Valley are leading the charge to restore cuts made during the 2011 legislative session. They want lawmakers to once again make it so that Medicare and Medicaid benefits add up to 100-percent of dual eligible patients' bills. They're expecting a fight (Rocha, 1/7).

The Associated Press: Sandy Prompts Some Elderly To Seek Assisted Living
Although New York and New Jersey health care officials say it's too soon to confirm a spike, some senior care operators say they've seen a surge in older people relocating to assisted-living or retirement communities after Sandy. Prolonged power outages, wrecked homes and flooded streets have helped convince even the most stubborn seniors that they may not be capable of living independently (Eltman, 1/7).

Chicago Sun Times: Casinos, Health Care, And Education Concerns For Local Lawmakers
With the first super majority in both houses of the [Indiana] General Assembly since 1964, Republicans have the ability to pass a number of legislative measures, while Democrats are looking for ways to keep their voices heard during the process. For representatives of Northwest Indiana, concerns that may come up this year include protecting Indiana casino revenues from out-of-state competition, funding for both K-12 and vocational education, and how the state will handle requirements from the federal Affordable Care Act. Republicans stress the importance on keeping a balanced budget, helping to determine the priorities for the state (Mikus, 1/5).

North Carolina Health News: Community Health Center Leaders Eye Uncertain Future
Brian Toomey is worried. Toomey runs Piedmont Health Services, a network of community health clinics serving eight counties in the center of the state. More than half of the patients who visit Piedmont’s six clinics lack any form of health insurance, including Medicaid. So you might think that Toomey would be sleeping better now that it’s clear that, in the wake of President Obama’s reelection, the Affordable Care Act will proceed. Once the law goes into effect, many of Toomey’s patients could either gain Medicaid or some form of insurance coverage, making it easier for Piedmont to cover its costs. But Toomey said his relief at knowing the law will go forward is tempered by a multitude of questions still remaining about the implementation of health reform in North Carolina (Hoban, 1/7).

California Healthline: How Can Hospitals Thrive In Future?
The first step in dealing with complex financial and care issues faced by community hospitals is to get people engaged and talking about them, according to the organizers of tomorrow's online "Future of the Hospital" game. People will compete to present the most cogent and worthwhile ideas for improving hospitals in California and the nation. Starting tomorrow morning and running for 24 hours, the Institute for the Future is putting on an online forecasting competition to prompt possible solutions for community hospitals with a discussion involving as many people as possible (Gorn, 1/7).

California Healthline: State Delays Adult Day Center Not-For-Profit Requirement
The requirement that adult day health care centers become not-for-profit operations has been delayed at least a year, according to Department of Health Care Services officials. A Dec. 31 letter to centers caring for the frail and elderly population in the Community Based Adult Services program said "DHCS has decided to postpone until further notice and no sooner than January 1, 2014, the implementation of the requirement restricting CBAS providers to Non-Profit legal status." About two thirds of California's 250 adult day centers are for-profit entities, according to state officials. Putting as many as 186 centers through the complexity of a not-for-profit conversion was a little too much for the state and the centers, according to Jane Ogle, deputy director for DHCS (Gorn, 1/4).

CQ HealthBeat: Illinois Judge Grants Temporary Injunction On Birth Control Rule
A federal judge has granted an Illinois company a temporary injunction against an Obama administration birth control rule, making it yet another private business to succeed in staving off any enforcement while the court considers legal challenges to the policy. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents plaintiffs in some of the cases filed against the rule, says 10 for-profit companies now have obtained injunctions against the requirement that contraceptives be provided as preventive health services in employee health plans. The mandate went into effect for many health plans on Jan. 1 (Norman, 1/4).

The Oregonian: Oregonians Who Buy Own Health Insurance Face Major Cost Changes
Insurers and state officials are bracing for major upheaval for more than 200,000 Oregonians who buy their own insurance. Insurers' rate requests for 2014 will be announced in less than four months. But the general outlines are clear: Under the new federal health law, the reasonably well-off can expect to pay higher premiums in the individual market, especially if they're 49 or younger. For many of the rest, there's good news: Costs of coverage will drop significantly thanks to tax credits. But important details remain to be worked out, including how big a role age plays and specific rate hikes (Budnick, 1/6).

The Miami Herald: State Appeals Order To Pay For Special Autism Treatment
Already facing sharp criticism over policies that have resulted in the rationing of care to severely disabled children, Florida health care regulators are challenging a federal judge’s order that the state provide a costly -- but potentially life-changing -- treatment to children with autism. Last spring, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard struck down the state's refusal to pay for applied behavior analysis (ABA) for autistic children, calling the state’s policy "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." The court case involved three autistic youngsters -- then-5-year-old K.G., 2-year-old I.G. and 4-year-old C.C. -- whose efforts to obtain behavioral therapy had been denied by the state’s Medicaid insurance program for needy and disabled people. Lenard ordered that the three children be given the care they sought -- and that the state provide such care to other autistic children, as well (Miller, 1/6).

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