KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Medical Malpractice On Calif. Ballot; Missouri Abortion Battle

A selection of health policy stories from California, Missouri, Nevada, Iowa, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin.

Los Angeles Times: Medical Malpractice Initiative Qualifies For November Ballot
What promises to be a hotly contested statewide voter initiative to raise the ceiling on medical malpractice judgments and require drug testing for physicians qualified Thursday for the November ballot. The measure pits insurance companies and medical providers against consumer advocates and trial lawyers, a clash expected to trigger a bitter, and extremely expensive, campaign (Mason, 5/15).

Reuters:  California Voters To Consider Raising Cap On Medical Malpractice Awards
California in November will vote on whether to raise a four-decade-old cap on medical malpractice awards to $1.1 million, from $250,000, officials said on Thursday, likely ensuring a bitter and costly fight between lawyers backing the measure and doctors who oppose it. Representatives of patients have tried for at least 20 years to persuade the state to raise the limit on pain-and-suffering awards, which was set in the 1970s and is not indexed to inflation. Opponents say a higher cap will raise healthcare costs and choke off access to care (Chaussee, 5/16).

Los Angeles Times: Missouri Is Latest Battleground Over Abortion Rights, Restrictions
In the latest front in the battle over restrictions on abortion rights, it is now up to Missouri’s governor to determine if the state will become the third to require that women wait three days after seeing a doctor before she can choose to terminate her pregnancy (Muskal, 5/15).

The Associated Press: Missouri Backs Criminal Checks For Health Advisers
A bill given final approval by the Republican-led Legislature would require criminal background checks for people applying for state licenses to help consumers sign up for health insurance through a federally run website. Anyone with past convictions involving fraud or dishonesty would be barred from the jobs (5/15).

Los Angeles Times: Nevada GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval Is Popular, But Not Within His Party
But perhaps the greatest impediment to Sandoval's national advancement is his record since taking office in January 2011, which includes a broken promise to reduce taxes, support for legal abortion, embrace of the federal health care law and a decision to drop the state's legal fight against same-sex marriage -- all of which are anathema to the Republican base, even if they sit fine with many Nevadans (Barabak, 5/15).

The Des Moines Register:  Mercy Lays Off 29 Workers Because Of Cuts In Payment 
One of Des Moines' main hospital and clinic systems laid off 29 employees this week as part of an attempt to cut $15 million in payroll costs. Mercy President Bob Ritz told employees that the cuts were necessary to deal with financial strains, including low payments from public and private health-insurance programs (Leys, 5/15).

Kansas Health Institute: Nursing Home Workers May Face Criminal Charges
Butler County Attorney Brian Divinney said today that his office is considering filing criminal charges against at least one nursing home employee suspected of abusing an elderly resident at an Andover care facility. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services on Wednesday announced that Victoria Falls nursing home in Andover had been fined at least $155,800 for failing to protect its residence from abusive workers (Ranney, 5/15).

The Associated Press:  Hospitals Reach Out To Attract Affluent Immigrants 
When it comes to ordering meals at Houston's Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, immigrant patients can choose from dishes similar to what they might eat at home: dumplings or noodles for Asian palates, curry to accommodate Indian tastes. Hospitals "are recognizing that they have to begin to gear their services and products toward more minority populations," said Rick DeFilippi, chairman of the board for the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association. The effort to cater to minority and immigrant groups began decades ago in inner-city hospitals, but it's now becoming crucial to private institutions' quest for paying customers. Immigrants from China, Vietnam and India have median household incomes above the national average of about $51,300 -- with immigrants from India earning more than double, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Plushnick-Masti, 5/16).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Delta Dental Increases Commitment To Seal-A-Smile Program
More than 8,000 children will receive dental sealants -- plastic coatings applied to the chewing surface of molars to prevent tooth decay -- at roughly 80 elementary and middle schools in Milwaukee County this school year through the Seal-A-Smile program. But the program -- which can reduce tooth decay by an estimated 60% -- is not in about 100 schools in the county. That could change in the next few years because of a grant from Delta Dental of Wisconsin (Boulton, 5/15).

The California Health Report: Let’s Not Cure Old Age, Slow Medicine Says
As Dennis McCullough’s mother made the journey from being a vibrant, healthy 85-year-old to a critically ill 92-year-old, the Harvard-trained geriatrician found himself increasingly critical of her care. Over and over, the well-intended medical professionals treating his mom advocated for more invasive, more aggressive treatment. They offered the best knowledge and drugs available, all in their determination to cure her. But she became less and less engaged in the fight to cure her of old age (Graham, 5/16).

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