KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State News: Va. Health Chief Quits, Citing New Abortion Clinic Regulations

A selection of health policy stories from Virginia, Texas, California, New York, Massachusetts and Florida.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Va. Health Commissioner Resigns Over State's Controversial New Abortion Clinic Regulations
Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley resigned Thursday over new GOP-backed regulations that could shutter most Virginia abortion providers as reproductive rights take center stage in pivotal Senate and presidential races (10/18).

Politico: Va. Health Chief Resigns
Virginia's health commissioner Karen Remley resigned Thursday over strict new state regulations on abortion clinics. "As you know, over the past year VDH has been developing and implementing regulations of all abortion facilities in Virginia. I have worked to guarantee the process of survey and licensure would be fairly and thoughtfully applied across the Commonwealth," Remley wrote in a letter to colleagues (Smith, 10/18).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Health Commissioner Quits, Citing Abortion Regulations
Virginia's health commissioner, Dr. Karen Remley, resigned Thursday, saying the environment in the wake of new abortion clinic regulations compromised her ability to fulfill her duties. Remley steered the massive state health agency during two gubernatorial administrations and recently as the Virginia Board of Health dealt with controversial abortion clinic regulations. "Unfortunately, how specific sections of the Virginia Code pertaining to the development and enforcement of these regulations have been, and continue to be, interpreted has created an environment in which my ability to fulfill my duties is compromised, and in good faith I can no longer serve in my role," she wrote in a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell (Meola, 10/19).

Reuters: Texas To End Health Program If Planned Parenthood Participates
A Texas health program that serves more than 100,000 low-income women will shut down if Planned Parenthood is allowed to continue participating, the state's health and human services chief said on Thursday. Planned Parenthood has asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a lower court ruling that allows Texas to ban it from the program (MacLaggan, 10/18).

Houston Chronicle: Texas Outlines Rules For Women's Health Care Program
As Texas prepares to take over a key health program for low-income women, its new rules specify the program will be killed if a court requires Planned Parenthood to be among service providers. The state is assuming full responsibility for the Women's Health Program - doing without federal funds, which had paid 90 percent of the program - so that it can exclude clinics that are affiliates of abortion providers, even if the clinics themselves don't provide abortions. The federal government says its rules don't allow for the exclusion, which notably affects Planned Parenthood, a main provider in the program that offers contraceptives and health screenings to more than 100,000 women (Fikac, 11/18).

Los Angeles Times: SAG-AFTRA Offers New Health Mart Service For Actors And Agents
SAG-AFTRA is launching Health Mart, a website to make it easier for actors and agents who don't qualify for the union's health insurance to shop for benefits (Verrier, 10/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Lawsuit Claims Aspen Dental, Private Equity Firm Violate NY Law, Put Profits Ahead Of Care
Aspen Dental Management and the private equity firm that controls it illegally operate dental clinics across the country and engage in aggressive, misleading profit-driven practices that cause patients economic harm, claims a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in New York (10/18).

WBUR: Gov. Touts Health Reform: Prevention Up, Smoking & Cervical Cancer Down
In a speech to the Massachusetts Medical Society today, Gov. Deval Patrick took the opportunity to crow about health improvements linked to reforms that started in 2006. There were the usual statistics about coverage: 98.2 percent of the total population and 99.8 percent of children in the state have health insurance. But the governor also cited some other, less familiar numbers. … And he detailed some of the actions his administration took to control those costs, including creating limited network plans and rejecting rate increases by private health insurers (Zimmerman, 10/18).

WBUR: Boston Hospital Addresses Concerns About Possible Additional Contaminated Drugs
A steroid shot used to treat back and joint pain. That's the type of drug that's caused a nationwide meningitis outbreak after it became contaminated at a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. But now the Food and Drug Administration worries that other drugs made by that same pharmacy may be contaminated, too. That has prompted several hospitals in the state, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women's Hospital and Tufts Medical Center, to contact patients who may have received those other drugs. WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with Tufts’ Chief Medical Officer Michael Wagner about these additional concerns (Pfeiffer, 10/18).

Health News Florida: Seniors Forced To Choose Between Doctor And Health Plan
A fractious contract dispute between UnitedHealthcare and Tampa Bay's largest hospital network has heated up, leaving patients stuck in the middle. BayCare Health System, which includes 11 major hospitals in the Pinellas-Pasco-Hillsborough region, has sent letters to patients informing them that United’s Medicare Advantage plans won't be acceptable coverage there after Nov. 26, except for emergencies. Its contract with United is expiring and the Medicare HMO and PPO plans won't be renewed, says BayCare's letter from Diane Kazmierski, vice president for managed care at the hospital network (Gentry, 10/18).

California Healthline: Can UC-Davis Change Pace Of Health Information Exchange In California?
After multiple attempts to launch a health information exchange in California, the Institute for Population Health Improvement, part of the UC-Davis Health System, is the latest organization to assume the task. It recently signed a 16-month, $17.5 million cooperative grant agreement with the California Health and Human Services Agency to facilitate the flow of information between physicians, hospitals and other providers. Called the California Health eQuality program, or CHeQ, the latest HIE project follows close on the heels of Cal eConnect, a not-for-profit, public benefit corporation that served as the state-designated governance entity until it was effectively abandoned in August. (Edlin, 10/18).

California Healthline: San Jose Democrat Working On Bill To Create Oversight For Health Apps
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) plans to introduce in the U.S. House of Representatives a bill that calls for a new FDA office specifically designed to regulate health applications on smart phones and other mobile devices. The new regulatory office in Honda's bill, expected to be introduced at the beginning of the next session, would oversee apps designed for consumers, as well as those used by health professionals. According to a spokesperson in Honda’s office, there is not enough oversight for apps that consumers use to access health information (Nick-Kearney, 10/19).

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