KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: More Allegations Against Calif.’s Prime Healthcare; Ore. CCOs Get Green Light

A selection of health policy stories from California, Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts, Iowa, Arizona, Mississippi and Michigan.

The Associated Press: States Called On To Restore Anti-Smoking Funds
A U.S. Surgeon General's report due to be released March 8 will come down hard on states that have cut anti-smoking funds in tough fiscal times, said Terry Pechacek, who oversees the report as director for Science in the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report can't result in sanctions, but it has proven to move public opinion in the past to force changes by tobacco companies in how they sell cigarettes, how states fund efforts and how the federal government regulates the trade (Gormley, 2/25).

Earlier, related KHN story: Kansas Tobacco Prevention Funds Diverted To Other Uses (Thompson, 1/20)

Los Angeles Times: Lawmakers Probe Prime Healthcare Services' Billing Practices
Controversial medical and billing practices by hospital chain Prime Healthcare Services came under scrutiny at a hearing before California lawmakers one day after the company's chief executive abruptly resigned (Terhune, 2/25).

California Watch: Lawmakers Alarmed By Hospital Chain's Practices
If a Kaiser Permanente customer ends up in the emergency room of another hospital, Dr. John Shohfi and his team of Kaiser doctors and nurses expect to be informed. ... But when Prime Healthcare Services took over a chain of Southern California hospitals, Shohfi testified today, there was a noticeable change in his relationship with Prime and its doctors. "No calls," said Shohfi, an emergency room physician (Jewett, 2/24).

Sacramento Bee: Consumer Advocates, Unions Back Health Care Ballot Measures
Consumer advocates and labor unions are looking to tap into Californians' anxiety over health care costs with ballot measures targeting insurance companies and hospitals. ... The so-called Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act also would require insurers to publicly justify proposed rate increases and get permission from the state before putting them into effect (Smith, 2/26).

The Lund Report (Oregon): Transformation Bill Passes the House
The bill allows the Oregon Health Authority to move forward with creating coordinated care organizations (CCOs) throughout the state by July 1. At the heart of CCOs will be patient teams made up of doctors, nurses, behavioral health providers, community health workers, and other providers who will integrate physical, mental and dental healthcare to the 600,000 patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Waldroupe, 2/25).

Des Moines Register: Nonprofit Co-Operative To Offer Health Insurance In Iowa
Two heavy hitters in Iowa's insurance industry are teaming up to compete with the state's dominant health insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Several past efforts have failed to dent Wellmark's hold on the market, but this one has financial backing from the federal government. ... The new venture will be a nonprofit insurance co-op, owned by its members and led by a board they elect (Leys, 2/25).

Des Moines Register: Peers Give Hope To Mental Health Patients
Taylor was one of the first clients of a pilot project that pairs psychiatric patients in emergency rooms with specially trained "peer support specialists," who have learned to cope with their own mental illnesses. State leaders hope to expand the idea across Iowa to help prevent people with mental health crises from being locked needlessly in psychiatric wards (Leys, 2/25).

Arizona Republic: Giving New Mothers A Helping Hand
Home-visiting programs like Healthy Families are considered among the most effective efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, promote healthy child development. ... A $9.4 million federal health grant — part of $88 million provided under federal health reform to support home-visiting programs — is expected to offer home visits to about 2,000 additional Arizona families in the coming year and lead to a more coordinated statewide effort (Reinhart, 2/26).

California Healthline: Exemption Granted for Pediatric Day Health
For months, Terry Racciato, ... who runs two PDHC centers in the San Diego area, has been arguing with the Department of Health Care Services that pediatric day health care services should be exempted from that 10 percent rate cut, as home health agencies were. ... The state's new course means PDHC centers will remain open (Gorn, 2/27). 

Mississippi Public Broadcasting: Black Doctors Call On Black Students To Enter Medicine
The number of black doctors in Mississippi is vastly disproportionately low, and some say that is harming public health in the state. ... [B]lack doctors from around the country and trying to persuade more black students to enter the medical field. ... African-Americans make up 37-percent of the state population but account for a little as 3 percent of its doctors (Hess, 2/24). 

Detroit Free Press: Bill In Works To Let Michigan's Community Colleges Offer 4-Year Degrees In Nursing, Other Fields
Community colleges and a number of students support the change, saying it's cheaper and would increase the number of people with degrees in areas that could be facing shortfalls (Jesse, 2/27).

Baltimore Sun: St. Joseph Considers Merger With Non-Catholic Hospital System
Financially troubled St. Joseph Medical Center may soon become part of a hospital system that does not follow its strict Catholic beliefs on abortion and reproductive rights. The Towson hospital's owner, Catholic Health Initiatives, put it up for sale after a surgical scandal threatened its business and besmirched its reputation (Walker, 2/26).

Boston Globe: New Data Posted On Payments From Drug And Device Makers To Providers
Massachusetts public health officials have published online the latest list of payments from drug and medical device makers to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, and other health care providers. The data includes $64 million in payments from hundreds of companies in 2010 for speaking, consulting, food, educational programs, marketing studies, and charitable donations (Kowalczyk, 2/24). 

The Associated Press: Conn. Pharmacies Say They Lose Out In State Deal
Connecticut pharmacies say they have lost a substantial amount of business under the 2011 state employee bargaining agreement that funnels long-term prescriptions into CVS pharmacies in an effort to reduce costs. Now some state lawmakers are looking to enact legislation that directs business back to independent pharmacies (Young, 2/25). 

The New York Times: Life, With Dementia
Dementia Behind Bars: Dementia is a fast-growing phenomenon in prisons that many are not prepared to handle. The California Men's Colony is using convicted killers to care for inmates who can no longer care for themselves. ... Dementia in prison is an underreported but fast-growing phenomenon, one that many prisons are desperately unprepared to handle (Belluck, 2/25). 

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