KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Fla. Employees’ Unequal Premiums; Abuse By Calif. Doctor Alleged

The Associated Press: Highest Earners Pay Lowest Premiums 
The Florida Cabinet, state agency managers and legislative staff are among 30,000 top-ranked state workers who will continue to pay ultra-low health insurance premiums in the coming year. In a reverse of the Robin Hood principle, the state charges lower-paid workers six times more than those who have the highest earnings pay. ... [B]oth the House and Senate this week released initial budgets that would keep premiums at the same rate (3/22).

The Associated Press: Women's Issues Could Dominate Texas Election
Women's pay and health care are taking over the headlines in the Texas governor's race, and for good reason: Women comprise the majority of voters. U.S. Census data shows that in the 2012 general election, 4.72 million Texas women cast ballots compared to 3.92 million men (Tomlinson, 3/23).

Los Angeles Times: O.C. Pain Doctor Caused Deaths Of Three Patients, Authorities Allege
An Orange County pain doctor caused the deaths of three patients by negligently prescribing them powerful narcotics, state medical authorities said in a complaint made public Friday. The Medical Board of California is seeking to suspend or revoke the license of Dr. Van H. Vu, who was linked to more than a dozen patient overdose deaths by a Times investigation in 2012 (Glover and Girion, 3/21).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Assembly Signs Off On Oversight Of Milwaukee County Mental Health
After decades of ignored calls for reform, Milwaukee County's mental health system is getting a major overhaul. Medical professionals and others with experience in the system -- not politicians -- will now make decisions about how to care for people with mental illness, thanks to a bill the state Assembly passed at 3:45 a.m. Friday with bipartisan support. The bill passed 89-1, with Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) voting against it (Kissinger, 3/21).

The Associated Press: NY Bill Seeks Police Training On Mentally Ill
Mental health advocates ... propose the state spend $2 million so New York and other cities statewide can establish training programs to help officers assess and de-escalate confrontations with such suspects while establishing "crisis intervention teams" with mental health professionals (3/22).

Los Angeles Times: UC Hospital Strike Averted By Tentative Contract Agreement
A strike planned this week by 13,000 UC hospital technical workers was averted with the announcement Sunday of a tentative four-year contract agreement. The pact between UC and the AFSCME 3299 union concludes more than a year of tense negotiations and means that UC's five major medical centers and numerous health clinics around the state will operate as normal Monday. Up until the agreement, the union for respiratory therapists, operating room technicians and radiology workers had threatened to start a five-day strike Monday and the university had been prepared to hire replacement workers, potentially costing millions of dollars (Gordon, 3/23).

The Boston Globe: Bill Could Ease Burden Of Those Disfigured By HIV Medications
(John) Wallace suffers from lipodystrophy, an atypical distribution of fat brought on by an interaction between HIV and the toxicity of medications introduced in the 1990s to treat the virus. The disorder causes fat to gather around the neck, in what is called a "horse collar," and on the upper back, in a "buffalo hump." He is one of many with the condition, doctors say, who rarely leave home, avoiding the eyes of strangers by disengaging from the world. Wallace has sought approval for liposuction to remove the fat deposits three times, through two different doctors. Twice, MassHealth rejected his claims, declaring the treatment cosmetic, he said. A third time, his doctor declined to submit a claim (Fox, 3/24).

The Associated Press: Gov. Dayton Seeks $2.2M For Marijuana Study 
With a push for legalizing medical marijuana stalled this session, [Minn.] Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he would ask for $2.2 million for research into its possible benefits. Mayo Clinic would head the study, which would focus on cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, a marijuana compound that does not produce a high (3/21).

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