KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State News: Calif. ‘Green Houses'; Minn. Looks At ‘Accretive Secret Sauce’

A selection of state policy news from California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

California Healthline: Senate Committee Approves New Type Of Nursing Home
A new idea elbowed its way into the familiar pile of health care legislation in the Senate Committee on Health yesterday. A nursing home model -- the "Green House Project" -- bucks the cold, institutional feel of many long-term care facilities. ... The idea is to have a small facility laid out like a regular home, with living areas such as a dining room and kitchen, as well as a private room and bathroom for each patient (Gorn, 4/26).

Related KHN blog post: Maryland’s First Green House Project Nursing Home Aids Low-Income Seniors (Kulkarni, 4/20).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Hospitals Tread Fine Line In Pressing Patients For Money
The consultants at Accretive Health readily admitted that a "typical hospital" doesn't do financial counseling in the emergency room. But, they boasted, they had found a way to get 15 percent of ER patients to pay upfront. They called it the "Accretive Secret Sauce." Accretive's secret was roundly attacked in a report this week by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. But in Minnesota hospitals, it's no longer unusual to approach patients in advance about paying their bills, according to hospital executives (Lerner, 4/25).

Stateline: Drug Database Dilemma
To deal with the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, Kentucky legislators enacted tougher regulations on doctors and pain management clinics. The law mandates that all physicians and pharmacists who prescribe schedule II and III drugs, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), check the patient’s prescription record before writing or filling a prescription. They also have to register prescriptions for those drugs in a state database within 24 hours of writing or filling the prescription (Clark, 4/26).

The Connecticut Mirror: House Votes To Legalize 'Medical Marijuana'
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted Wednesday night to legalize the production, distribution and use of marijuana as a palliative for the chronically ill, reviving Connecticut's role in a national debate. ... If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor as proponents expect, Connecticut will join the ranks of states with a softening attitude toward the dangers and beneficial uses of marijuana (Pazniokas, 4/25).

The Baltimore Sun: New Web Portal Provides County By County Health Data
A new state web portal was recently launched that provides this and other health data for every county in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County to create the website that uses data about Medicaid recipients (Walker, 4/26).

Georgia Health News: County Rankings Show Link Between Economy, Health
A county-by-county ranking of health statistics, released earlier this month, showed a geographic divide in Georgia. Rural South and Middle Georgia counties were clustered at the bottom of the state's health rankings, and urban/suburban at the top. ... It's the second year that Partner Up for Public Health, an advocacy campaign, has generated this comparison. The top 10 and the bottom 10 show that counties tend to score well or poorly on both measures (Miller, 4/25).

Health News Florida:  Suit Reveals Financial Incentives
A Clearwater doctor has filed a "whistleblower" suit against the medical practice that employed him, saying he was fired for complaining about how patients were treated. His contract offered financial incentives, such as a percent of the profits on ultrasound tests he ordered (Gentry and Clear, 4/25).

(Eau-Claire) Leader-Telegram/(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Eau Claire OKs Health Plans For Same-Sex Couples
When Eau Claire city employees re-enroll in June for their health insurance, police Detective Clay Wanta plans to switch from single-person coverage to a limited family plan to include his partner, Pete Brandt.  The 12-year Eau Claire Police Department veteran watched Tuesday, April 24, as the city council debated the cost versus the fairness of allowing domestic partnerships to qualify for the same health benefits married couples can receive. ... The council voted 10-1 in favor of extending benefits, after almost two hours of debate (Dowd, 4/25).

Mercury News / Bay Area News Group: Tobacco Industry Gearing Up To Take Down California Cigarette Tax Initiative
In what is quickly turning into another high-stakes policy battle to be decided by California voters, tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds are forking over tens of millions of dollars to defeat a new tobacco tax on the June ballot. Proposition 29, which would boost taxes by $1 a pack of cigarettes to $1.87, would raise about $735 million annually, most of which would go toward cancer research (Harmon, 4/25). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.