KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Highlights: Texas Abortion Rates Falls Dramatically; Start-Up Problems For Virginia’s Psychiatric Reforms

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina.

The Washington Post: Virginia Psychiatric-Bed Registry Does Not Work As Intended, Lawmakers Told
A four-month-old psychiatric-bed registry that is supposed to provide up-to-the-minute information for Virginians who need emergency mental health treatment is being updated as seldom as once a day, state officials told a panel of lawmakers this week (Shin, 7/22).

NPR: States Help New Mothers Get Birth Control Through Medicaid
Here's the catch: Her Medicaid plan won't pay for contraception if she tries to get it while she's still at the hospital. New York has just joined five other states in making it easier for our fictional mom to have access to the kind of family planning options she was seeking without worrying about the price tag. At first glance this is a technical issue about Medicaid reimbursements. But it is also about postpartum contraception and which women have access to it (Farrington, 7/23).

Texas Tribune: New Law Led to Statewide Drop in Abortions
The number of abortions in Texas decreased by about 13 percent statewide and 21 percent in the Lower Rio Grande Valley following the passage of strict abortion regulations that went into effect last November, according to a report that academic researchers released Wednesday. The study, by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas, which is analyzing the effects of reproductive health-related laws passed during the last two legislative sessions, found that as the number of clinics that provide abortions declined, so did the number of abortions performed statewide (Edelman, 7/23).

The Associated Press: Healthy Virginians Aim Of State Panel
First lady Dorothy McAuliffe is joining a panel of public health experts intent on promoting policies to ensure a healthier Virginia. The Virginia Department of Health is convening the meeting Wednesday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Called the “Excellence in State Public Health Law Conference,” the meeting is intended to assess policy proposals for improving the health of all Virginians (7/23).

The Wall Street Journal: Invoking Anti-Fraud Law, Louisiana Doctor Gets Rich
Over two decades, the 65-year-old internist has filed 12 lawsuits accusing health-care companies of defrauding taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare. Five of his suits have together led the government to recover hundreds of millions of dollars. Those successful suits have also enriched Dr. LaCorte, who has received a $38 million cut under a federal law that encourages fraud reporting. Much was from a $250 million U.S. settlement with Merck & Co. in 2008 over allegations it overcharged Medicaid for Pepcid, a heartburn drug. He used part of his portion to buy a boat he named Pepsid (Loftus, 7/23).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hospital Costs Rise More Slowly In Southeastern Wisconsin
Hospitals in southeastern Wisconsin have gotten serious about controlling costs, with payments from commercial health plans increasing at roughly half the national rate from 2003 through 2012, according to a study released Wednesday. Payments to hospitals from private health insurers and employers increased an estimated 37 percent in southeastern Wisconsin in that time period compared with a 75 percent increase in the national hospital component of the Consumer Price Index, according to the study done for the Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health Inc (Boulton, 7/23).

The CT Mirror: Moms Of Children With Mental Illness Share Their Pain, Tell Their Stories, Push For Change
It expands by word of mouth and whispers, the informal network of mothers who have found in each other a place to talk about having children with illnesses that are often kept secret. One mother whose son is struggling found them because she was crying every day at work. A coworker who knew someone in the group got her in touch with the other moms. Other people approach Mary Jo Andrews after she speaks at events about mental illness. “Are you taking new people in your group?” they ask. She tries to make sure they’d fit, that they’re not dealing with “normal teenage stuff.” This group is for moms whose children have serious mental illness (Becker, 7/24).

Baltimore Sun: Sinai Hospital to Address ‘Frequent Fliers’ to the Emergency Department
When people routinely visit the emergency room for nonemergencies, it's not only costly to the health care system but a stress on hospitals, especially one such as Sinai Hospital, which is among several in the state that care for the worst traumas. So the hospital announced Wednesday that it is partnering with a nonprofit health care advocacy group to target so-called "frequent fliers" or "super utilizers," about 200 patients who visit the emergency department four or more times in a four-month period, some as many as 20 times (Cohn, 7/23).

North Carolina Health News: Complicated Hospital Accounting Adds To Medicaid Uncertainty
Lawmakers in North Carolina were having trouble reconciling this year’s Medicaid numbers because of difficulty getting data out of the NCTracks Medicaid billing and claims processing system, which launched a year ago and has struggled since. So lawmakers turned to hospitals themselves, asking hospital finance officers what they thought they were owed. And the answer they got back was a collective, “We’re not sure.” That’s because hospital accounting is different from keeping the books for other kinds of businesses – very, very different. And very difficult. And the difficulty in calculating hospital costs has only added to the uncertainty at the General Assembly over how much lawmakers should set aside to resolve Medicaid’s debts (Hoban, 7/24).

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