KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Battles Fought Over Lyme Disease, Autism and Abortion

In Texas, abortion providers file suit to block a state rule that could shut down many of the state's remaining clinics, while lawmakers in Vermont and N.Y. seek to protect doctors who prescribe long-term antibiotics for patients with lasting symptoms attributed to Lyme disease. In Kansas, a mandate to cover autism treatments is sent to Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature.

The New York Times: Abortion Providers In Texas Sue Over A Restrictive Rule That Could Close Clinics
Health clinics offering abortions in Texas filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday to block a new state rule that could shut down more than half of the state’s remaining providers this fall, forcing women seeking an abortion in southern and western Texas to drive several hundred miles each way or go out of state (Eckholm, 4/2).

Kaiser Health News: Top Boston Hospital Begins To Tackle Readmissions Problem
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a highly regarded teaching hospital in Boston, but in 2012, the hospital found out it had one of the highest rates of readmissions among Medicare patients in the country. That meant federal fines of more than $1 million—and a lot of soul searching for the staff, says Dr. Julius Yang, the head of quality for the hospital. "Patients coming to our hospital, getting what we believed was high quality care, were coming back at an alarmingly high rate," says Yang (Gotbaum, 4/3).

The CT Mirror: Key CT Legislator Wary Of Proposed For-Profit Hospital Moratorium
Connecticut hospital officials came to the state Capitol Wednesday for their annual lobbying day with a big question mark lingering over the session: How far will lawmakers go in restricting the conversion of nonprofit hospitals to for-profits? With four of the state’s 28 nonprofit hospitals poised to be acquired by a national for-profit chain, the legislature's Public Health Committee last week advanced a bill that would place a moratorium on hospitals converting to for-profit, a concept cheered by union leaders and other critics of for-profit health care. But that proposal is expected to be revised, and on Wednesday, House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey indicated that he would prefer a less restrictive approach (Becker, 4/3).

The New York Times: A Union Aims At Pittsburgh’s Biggest Employer
For decades, United States Steel was this city’s dominant employer, but now the biggest employer is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, with its 22 hospitals and 62,000 workers. … And just as labor unions famously clashed with Andrew Carnegie, UPMC faces its own labor showdown. The Service Employees International Union is seeking to organize more than 10,000 of UPMC’s service workers, and demanding that the hospital system be a leader, much like U.S. Steel once was, in raising wages (Greenhouse, 4/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Lyme Disease Dispute Draws In State Legislatures
Some patients with lasting symptoms attributed to Lyme disease believe long-term antibiotics can help. But advocates claim doctors who back the approach are hesitant to prescribe for fear of professional sanctions, given a long-roiling dispute over whether such treatment even works. Now, lawmakers in a growing number of states in the Northeast, where the tick-borne illness is particularly prevalent, are taking up the cause. Bills in Vermont and New York would protect doctors from punishment just for prescribing long-term antibiotics for patients who have lasting symptoms that they blame on a Lyme infection (Kamp, 4/2).

The New York Times: At Trial, Queens Doctor Is Accused Of Recklessly Prescribing Drugs
Among Dr. Li’s patients, prosecutors say, were drug addicts and street dealers who knew they could get a prescription, with few questions asked, for the right price. One patient was David S. Laffer, an addict who in June 2011 massacred four people while stealing narcotics from a drugstore in Medford, N.Y., on Long Island. He is now serving life without parole. Dr. Li, through his lawyer, has previously denied selling drugs to Mr. Laffer (McKinley, 4/2).

Los Angeles Times: County Urges Meningitis Vaccinations For Men Who Have Sex With Men
Citing a recently identified uptick in potentially deadly meningococcal disease, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommended Wednesday that men who have sex with men get a meningitis vaccination (Brown, 4/2).

The Kansas City Star: Autism Coverage Mandate Goes To Kansas Governor
Advocates for children with autism won a breakthrough Wednesday when the Kansas Senate approved a bill mandating insurance coverage for the developmental brain disorder. The Senate voted 38-2 to pass the bill and send it to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature (Cooper, 4/2).

Modern Healthcare: Reform Update: Higher-Risk Medicare Shared Savings Program Pays Off For Some
Heartland Regional Medical Center had more to lose than most when it gambled and joined Medicare's experiment with accountable care in 2012 (Evans, 4/2).

The California Health Report: Future Uncertain For California’s Uninsured Kids
The Camacho family has six children, none of whom have health insurance. The Sacramento residents emigrated from Mexico about 13 years ago, staying without legal papers. They are among the estimated 2.6 million undocumented California residents who will largely be left out of health-care reform (Jones, 4/2).

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