KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Iowa Senate Provides $5M For Mental Health

A selection of health policy stories from around the U.S.

Des Moines Register: Senate Approves $8.5 Million Bill To Keep Iowa Prisons Staffed
The bill also allocates $5 million more from what is known as the Mental Health Risk Pool.  The pool was created about a decade ago to keep counties with financial shortfalls from denying care to people with mental disorders or retardation.  Linn County, for example, will receive $1.2 million of the extra money (Clayworth, 2/1).

Boston Globe: UMass Health System To Cut Jobs, Sell Units
UMass Memorial Health Care, which lost money in the last three months of 2011 amid shrinking patient volume, told its employees yesterday that it will shed 700 to 900 jobs, about 6 percent of its workforce, through a combination of layoffs at its flagship hospital and the sale of divisions that provide services such as home health care (Weisman, 2/2).

The Associated Press/The Seattle Times: Federal Judge Considers If Pharmacies Must Sell Plan B
A federal judge is considering whether Washington state can require pharmacies to stock and sell Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, even in the face of religious objections by druggists who say they believe they destroy human life. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton heard closing arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that claims state rules violate the constitutional rights of pharmacists by requiring them to dispense such medicine. The state requires pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community need and to stock a representative assortment of drugs needed by their patients (Johnson, 2/1).

The CT Mirror: PCA Collective Bargaining Recommendations Delayed 2 Weeks
The working group charged with recommending ways to structure collective bargaining rights for some home care workers has gotten a two-week extension on its final report. The group had been expected to issue its recommendations by today, but will instead meet and finalize them Feb. 15. … The recommendations would apply to personal care attendants who are paid through state-administered programs and who do not work for home care agencies (Levin Becker, 2/1).

Kansas Health Institute: Testimony Favors Diversion Agreements For The Mentally Ill
House Bill 2498 would encourage prosecutors to enter diversion agreements with nonviolent offenders who have a serious mental illness. Under the agreements, offenders would be required to comply with treatment regimens set by their community mental health centers for one to three years. They would be expected to pay restitution if they had damaged property. The agreements would be limited to adults who have been charged with a crime that has not gone to trial. If an offender did not comply with the proscribed treatment plan, prosecutors would have the option of either rewriting the diversion agreement or resuming criminal proceedings (Ranney, 2/1).

The Seattle Times: Swedish Alliance With Providence Is Now Complete
The affiliation between Swedish Health Services and Providence Health & Services is official, chief executives from the two organizations announced Wednesday. The agreement between Providence, a much larger organization, and Swedish will create a new organization for the greater Puget Sound area, including all of Swedish's operations in King and South Snohomish counties, and Providence's operations in King, Snohomish, Thurston and Lewis counties. Patients will see no difference in how they access care, officials said, other than having an electronic medical record available through more providers in a larger area (Ostrom, 2/1).

Lund Report: Dental Care Organizations Express Concern About Transformation
Dental care organizations are growing increasingly vocal about the future relationship they'll have with the coordinated care organizations (CCOs) that are expected to provide health care to Oregon Health Plan members in July. House Bill 3650, which set in motion the overhaul of the Oregon Health Plan, doesn't require dental organizations to participate in these CCOs until July 2014. Because of that, "some of the CCO organizational folks haven't invited oral health folks to the table," said Mike Shirtcliff, CEO of Advantage Dental (Waldroupe, 2/1).

The Miami Herald: Scott Wants To Renew Effort To Reform ALFs
As Florida lawmakers debate the biggest overhaul of assisted living facilities in a generation, Gov. Rick Scott has sent a clear signal: He wants the reform movement to stay alive. In a brief statement Tuesday, Scott said he'll ask members of his Assisted Living Work Group to convene again this year to come up with more ways to improve conditions in the state's 2,850 assisted living facilities, where someone dies nearly once a month from abuse or neglect. The group, which created a blueprint for reform last year, was expected to expire without Scott's action (Miller and Sallah, 2/1).

MinnPost: Medical Interpreters In Minnesota: Little Training Or Oversight 
Non-English speakers put their health in the hands of interpreters every day around the Twin Cities. The only training many interpreters get, especially freelancers, is through the private, often tight-budgeted agencies that contract them. In many cases, the only requirement the interpreters have to meet is a written test after a one-day seminar. The state has no enforceable standards for interpreter training, and patients pay the price (Downs, Baker, and Brennan, 2/1).

Health News Florida/Florida Trend: Small Business Health Care Plans
Florida insurance agents say the premium increases their customers are seeing vary from low single digits to double digits, but a 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation annual national survey found an 8 percent increase in premiums for employee coverage. In Florida, the size of premium increases has much to do with geography, the age of a small business's workforce and its claims history. ... Small businesses generally see their workforce age as they retain core employees through the years, driving up premium costs. … Small businesses have restrained cost increases by adopting high-deductible plans (Vogel, 2/1).

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