KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Mass. Docs Will Soon Track Patients Who Abuse Prescription Drugs; Wis. Catholic Church Employees Now Eligible For Birth Control

The Boston Globe: "With a few computer keystrokes, Massachusetts physicians will soon be able to identify patients who travel from clinic to clinic in pursuit of potent prescription drugs that feed lethal addictions. State health regulators yesterday unanimously approved the new detection system designed to stop 'doctor shopping' by addicted patients who try to dupe doctors into prescribing narcotics. The practice, specialists said, has fueled a surge in drug-related deaths in Massachusetts" (Smith, 8/12).

Los Angeles Times: "In a rebuke of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, state inspectors concluded that fund administrators violated state law when they transferred dozens of residents out of the charity's beleaguered nursing home last year. The California Department of Public Health said in a recent report that nursing-home managers did not issue [required] 30-day discharge notices to more than 30 residents who left the nursing home informing them of their rights, including the option to appeal the decision to relocate them" (Verrier, 8/12).

Kansas City Star: "Thousands of Catholic Church employees in Wisconsin are now eligible for birth control coverage through their health insurance plans, under the budget bill passed by the Legislature last year. But because the church considers artificial contraception 'gravely immoral,' at least some of those workers -- including non-Catholics -- could face sanctions, even termination, if they use it, one church official said Wednesday. … Reproductive health advocates, including the Washington-based Catholics for Choice, criticized the stand, calling birth control 'basic health care'" (Johnson, 8/12).

Texas Tribune: "Lawmakers must fund more in-state medical residency slots if Texas wants to ward off a looming physician shortage, the presidents of the six University of Texas medical centers told the UT System Board of Regents on Wednesday. With an anticipated 2 million more Texans coming on state Medicaid rolls as a result of federal health care reform - and an already serious shortage of doctors, particularly in primary care - the heads of the UT health centers said they're concerned they won't be able to meet patients' needs" (Ramshaw, 8/11).

Austin American Statesman: "The presidents of the University of Texas System's six health-related universities on Wednesday listed their worries about the prospect of millions of uninsured Texans becoming covered in 2014 under the country's sweeping new health care law: not enough doctors, too little money from government health care programs and fewer commercial insurers to cushion financial losses like they do now. … But they stopped short of characterizing the law as negative" (Roser, 8/11).

Chicago Tribune: "The 'medical home' concept under a state initiative started about four years ago appears to be saving Illinois taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars from the state Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, a new study shows. Illinois Health Connect saved the state $140 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009, and an additional $80 million in fiscal 2008, according to the study by Washington-based Robert Graham Center. Figures were unavailable for fiscal 2007 because the program was not fully implemented" (Japsen, 8/11).

Health News Florida: "The Florida Medical Association, undergoing an apparent identity crisis, is gathering in Orlando for a debate on whether to break off from the American Medical Association. Unlike past years, the sessions will be closed to the press. A resolution by Fort Myers plastic surgeon Douglas Stevens calls for the break because of the AMA's support of the new federal health law. It will be considered by the House of Delegates at the annual meeting, which begins Friday. His resolution says the law amounts to 'a severe intrusion in the patient-physician relationship and allows government control over essentially all aspects of medical care'" (Gentry, 8/12).

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