KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Bankruptcy Risk For DC Specialty Hospital; Calif. Hospital Errors

A selection of health policy stories from the District of Columbia, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Idaho and Indiana.

The Washington Post: Specialty Hospital Of Washington Could Be Forced Into Bankruptcy By Creditors
Creditors who say they are owed millions of dollars hope to force two D.C. hospitals into bankruptcy, threatening the city’s only facilities dedicated to the long-term care of those suffering from serious and complex maladies (DeBonis, 4/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Waits For Phoenix VA Appointments Drove Sick To ER, Ex-Employee Says
Waits to see primary-care doctors in the Phoenix VA Health Care System were lengthy enough to force some patients to seek help at the emergency room, according to a former employee whose allegations are part of an investigation by the VA's inspector general. Sam Foote, a doctor who retired in 2013 from the Phoenix VA after 24 years, has lodged a number of complaints with the agency's independent inspector general (Kesling and Phillips, 4/25).

Los Angeles Times: Senator: Hospitals Reducing Treatment Errors, But Problems Remain 
Calling hospital errors "heartbreaking," U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Friday released a report detailing how some California hospitals are reducing medical mistakes that can cause infections, incorrect administration of drugs, falls and other complications. Many medical centers are preventing errors, she said, but others still need to demonstrate they are serious about addressing the problem. According to some researchers, Boxer said, between 210,000 and 440,000 Americans die as a result of medical errors each year -- making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the nation, behind heart disease and cancer (Brown, 4/25).

Los Angeles Times: More Scrutiny For UCLA's School Of Medicine
In the wake of a $10-million payout to a whistleblower, UCLA's School of Medicine is drawing more scrutiny over its financial ties to industry and the possibility that they compromised patient care. A new study in this month's Journal of the American Medical Assn. raised a red flag generally about university officials such as Eugene Washington, the dean of UCLA's medical school who also serves on the board of healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson. The world's biggest medical-products maker paid Washington more than $260,000 in cash and stock last year as a company director (Terhune, 4/25).

The Boston Globe: Urgent-Care Clinics Gain Ground
Several urgent-care medical centers are opening in the suburbs south and west of Boston, each scrambling to scoop up patients looking for convenient health care near their home or work. By July, three urgent care centers are expected to be operating on Route 1 in Norwood -- something of a medi-mile along the automile (Lang, 4/27).

The CT Mirror: CT Mission Of Mercy, In Hartford, Draws Hundreds For Free Dental Care
Standing outside the XL Center in downtown Hartford Friday morning, (Roger) Green was the 626th person in line for the Connecticut Mission of Mercy, an annual, two-day free dental clinic that typically serves more than 2,000 people. … The clinic has dual purposes: Provide free care to people who need it. And raise awareness of the extensive need for dental care in what is by some measures the wealthiest state in the country (Becker, 4/25).

Georgia Health News: Rural Health Care Surging As A Major Issue 
Hospital leaders, physicians and state lawmakers will be members of a new committee designed to help bolster rural health care in Georgia.  Gov. Nathan Deal on Friday announced appointments to the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, created to identify needs of rural facilities and offer potential solutions. The panel is one of Deal’s strategies to help rural hospitals survive, and comes in the wake of four rural Georgia facilities closing in the past two years (Miller, 4/25).

The California Health Report: Barriers To Mental Health Treatment Remain Under Obamacare
The Affordable Care Act covers treatment for some mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, but the law is not comprehensive and many Californians with mental illnesses still face challenges accessing care. As a result, whether patients are uninsured, have private coverage or government benefits determines their access to services (Bookwalter, 4/27).

Kansas Health Institute News Service:  Brownback Proposes HCBS Waiting List Reduction 
Gov. Sam Brownback today said he will ask the Kansas Legislature to approve spending an additional $2.6 million in state funds to help reduce the waiting lists for in-home, Medicaid services for the disabled. If approved, an estimated 209 additional people would receive the services. There are about 5,000 people on the waiting lists; more than 3,100 are developmentally disabled. About 1,800 physically disabled people also await services, though administration officials said they were still in the process of verifying the accuracy of that number (Shields, 4/25).

The Associated Press:  Appeals Court To Consider Miss. Abortion Law 
A federal appeals court panel on Monday will hear arguments for, and against, a 2012 Mississippi law that threatens to close the state's only abortion clinic. The law requires any physician who does abortions at a clinic to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Jackson Women's Health Organization has been unable to obtain them. U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III let the law take effect in July 2012, after the clinic sued the state. But Jordan blocked the state from closing the clinic while it tried to comply (4/27).

The Associated Press:  Phone Prescription Draws Idaho Sanction
Telemedicine -- doctors treating patients over the phone, online or by videoconferencing -- is a growing subset of the health care system. But Idaho's medical licensing board doesn't approve and earlier this year punished a doctor for prescribing a common antibiotic over the phone. The sanctions against Dr. Ann DeJong are so severe that her board certification is threatened (4/27).

The Associated Press:  Caregivers For Disabled Lament Medicaid Cuts 
Those whose hands care for people with disabilities are frustrated. Indiana Medicaid funding has been cut for the past five years and pay for the state's personal care aides hasn't kept up with inflation. In 2012, more than a third of those caregivers were receiving food stamps. The question becomes how long the best staff, the employees who know most about their clients' needs, will be able to stay in this job rather than moving on for more money or less headache. ... A national average of 50 percent has plagued the residential services industry for decades (4/26).

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