KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Ore. Mediation For Medical Errors; Mich. Home-Help Aides

The Oregonian: New Oregon Program Allows Mediation For Medical Errors Instead Of Suing
A mediation program spearheaded by Gov. John Kitzhaber went into effect Tuesday, giving patients and their families an option besides suing when medical errors happen. But questions remain over how the mediation program will develop, including whether hospitals, doctors and other providers will take advantage of the program, or candidly discuss errors if they do. The result of a compromise between trial lawyers and the Oregon Medical Association approved in SB 483 last year, the Early Discussion and Resolution program is intended to cut down on lawsuits and boost the reporting of medical errors to help improve health care practices (Budnick, 7/1).

Associated Press: Michigan Can't Bar All Home-Help Aides With Felonies 
Michigan’s plan to conduct criminal background checks on 60,000 workers hired to help disabled Medicaid recipients live in their homes will not lead every ex-felon to be disqualified as an aide, top state officials said Monday. Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration said the U.S. government -- which helps fund the state-federal Medicaid program -- automatically excludes people from being independent-living workers only if they have been convicted of patient abuse or neglect, health care fraud, drug offenses or a Home Help Program-related crime (Eggert, 6/30).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Oklahoma Is Winning Its Medicaid Standoff With The Feds — For Now 
Oklahoma and the federal agency overseeing Medicaid are still wrestling with the fate of a decade-old state program covering almost 20,000 low-income adults. For the second straight year, the feds and Oklahoma have worked out a deal to keep the program alive after it was supposed to close at the end of 2013. The program, known as Insure Oklahoma, is partially funded by federal dollars. It covers adults earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($23,340 for an individual) and has some features, such as enrollment caps, that fail to meet Medicaid expansion requirements that took effect the beginning of this year. Because of this, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services warned Oklahoma early last year that the state would have to shutter the program if it didn't align the program with the Medicaid expansion (Millman, 7/1). 

Texas Tribune:  Injured, Dead Workers Are Casualties Of 'Texas Miracle'
The statistics tell a compelling story about the workers who are building the "Texas miracle" economy: Hundreds of thousands of them have no occupational insurance coverage. Just as many have stripped-down plans and limited legal rights. And people who try to claim benefits in the bewildering workers’ compensation bureaucracy often face denials, disputes they can’t win and a government that does little to protect them (7/2).

The Boston Globe: Undiagnosed-Diseases Center To Open In Boston
In medicine, it’s called the diagnostic odyssey: the difficult months and years that patients and families spend trying to figure out the cause of a baffling collection of symptoms. The National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday it will expand its efforts to solve such medical mysteries by creating a network of six centers, including one in Boston, that will each receive $7.2 million over the next four years. The new Harvard Center for Integrated Approaches to Undiagnosed Diseases will combine the resources of Brigham and Women’s, Massachusetts General, and Boston Children’s hospitals. A coordinating center at Harvard Medical School will help route patients to centers across the country and facilitate the sharing of data among the programs (Johnson, 7/1).

Houston Chronicle:  Lawmakers Launch Committee After Spike In Foster Child Abuse 
State lawmakers launched a special effort Tuesday to explore how to reduce child deaths after a year in which a record high number of kids died of abuse and neglect in foster care. Child Protective Services, a frequent target of criticism, has been under intense scrutiny lately. While overall Texas child deaths from abuse and neglect decreased from 212 in 2012 to 156 last year, abuse and neglect deaths of foster kids spiked from two to 10. A recent review found CPS front-line caseworkers spend just 26 percent of their time with families. The agency is also in the middle of a once-a-decade examination by the state Sunset Advisory Commission (Rosenthal, 7/1).

Georgia Health News: Experts On a Roll …To Help Rural Doctors 
"Meaningful use." It’s another confounding term in the often opaque lexicon of health care. But it represents a concept that is important for health care providers’ bottom lines. The basic idea is that Medicare and Medicaid will pay incentives for hospitals and doctors to demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) to improve patient care. And to help rural doctors get up to speed with education and technical assistance on meaningful use, a two-day bus tour swept through central and eastern Georgia last week (Miller, 6/30).

Kansas Health Institute News Service:  Surprise Halt To Health Home Program Dismays Medicaid Providers
Kansas Medicaid providers with expansion plans ready to go after spending months and thousands of dollars preparing for the state’s new health homes initiative said they were “shocked” and “disappointed” that state officials abruptly chose to indefinitely delay much of the program’s implementation while giving the providers less than 24 hours' notice of the state’s decision to hit the pause button (Shields, 7/1). 

The Associated Press: AIDS Scientist Pleads Not Guilty To Faking Study 
A former Iowa State University scientist pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges alleging that he falsified research for an AIDS vaccine to secure millions of dollars in federal funding. Dong-Pyou Han, 57, entered his not guilty pleas to four counts of making false statements during his initial court appearance in Des Moines federal court. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine (Pitt, 7/1).

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