KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Kan. Eyes Health Law Opt-Out; Calif. Voters Could Set Malpractice Cap

A selection of health policy stories from Kansas, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida, Maryland and Georgia.

The Associated Press: Measure Aims To Let Kansas Opt Out Of Health Care Law Requirements
Kansas Republicans who loathe the federal health care overhaul have embraced a national movement aimed at helping states opt out of its requirements, but backers conceded Tuesday that the effort depends on a power shift in Congress. Secretary of State Kris Kobach and two GOP legislators urged the House Federal and State Affairs Committee to pass a bill bringing Kansas into a compact among states to assert control over health care policy within their borders (Hanna, 2/18).

Kansas Health Institute: Health Compact Bill Resurfaces In Kansas House Committee
Secretary of State Kris Kobach today urged members of a Kansas House panel to approve a measure petitioning Congress to continue federal funding for Medicaid, Medicare and other government health care programs in Kansas while letting state officials write the rules for how the money is spent and the programs are administered. Even supporters said Congress would be unlikely to grant such a request, at least so long as Democrats hold a majority in the U.S. Senate (Ranney, 2/18).

Los Angeles Times: Voters May Decide Medical Malpractice Cap
A protracted political battle over California's medical malpractice law may be coming to a new front: the voting booth. For decades, trial lawyers and consumer groups have railed against limits on certain damages in malpractice cases, arguing that such restrictions deny victims fair compensation for grisly medical mistakes (Mason, 2/18).

The Washington Post: Shortage Of Va. Psychiatric Beds Worsened By Lack Of Community Services, Report Finds
Virginia hasn’t done a good job of managing a program designed to help the mentally ill return to their communities, making it harder to free up much-needed beds for psychiatric emergencies, according to a report released last week by the Office of the State Inspector General. Ensuring the availability of emergency psychiatric beds has become a top priority this year in Richmond, as lawmakers respond to the death in November of Austin “Gus” Deeds (Shin, 2/18).

Los Angeles Times: City Attorney: Assisted-Care Facilities Abused, Punished Residents
L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit against two assisted-care facilities for allegedly abusing their disabled patients in "deplorable, overcrowded and substandard living conditions." At the behest of Feuer's office, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Friday also appointed a receiver to immediately begin relocating those being cared for at the two facilities with the assistance of state and county officials (Winton, 2/18).

The New York Times: A Crusader On What Ails Artists
These are among the dozens of stories Ms. Sokolow, 26, has collected over the past two years, showing how the lives of Pittsburgh artists are intertwined with their struggles over the costs of medical coverage. Her online video series, “Healthy Artists,” has chronicled the experiences of more than 40 painters, poets and musicians -- talented, ambitious and often with a painful story of medical debt -- and drawn the attention of national media figures like Michael Moore (Sisario, 2/18).

The Associated Press: Unusual Iowa Abortion Rule Consequences Befuddle Iowa Lawmakers
While many states passed sweeping abortion laws last year, the Iowa General Assembly endorsed just one — a perplexing measure befitting one of the few legislatures under divided control. The GOP-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate, in a compromise, put Gov. Terry Branstad in charge of signing off on any payments for publicly funded abortions (2/18).

Health News Florida: Nurses’ Bill Passes House Committee Despite Doctors’ Protest
The House Select Committee on Workforce Innovation approved a massive bill that would expand the authority of nurse practitioners and open a door for them to practice independently.  The vote, with only two dissents, followed testimony against the bill by a number of physician organizations (Gentry, 2/18).

The Baltimore Sun: More Maryland Children Getting Dental Care
The number of children in Maryland with untreated tooth decay dropped 41 percent from 2001 to 2011, according to a new state report. The assessment of children in kindergarten and third grade  was conducted by the University of Maryland School of Dentistry on behalf of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office of Oral Health (Walker, 2/18).

Georgia Health News: Critics Of State Health Plan Take Message To Capitol 
Jennifer Ludlum, a Gwinnett County educator, wore a sign around her neck Tuesday with a number on it: $3,455.09. That amount, she said, represents her out-of-pocket medical costs so far in 2014, for a visit to her neurologist, an MRI –- she has multiple sclerosis –- and surgery for her daughter. ... Ludlum was among the roughly 100 people who rallied on the steps of the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest the changes implemented this year to the State Health Benefit Plan. Those changes have sparked a groundswell of criticism from thousands of Georgians about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs (Miller, 2/18).

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