KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Assisted Suicide Legalization Urged; Abortion Bill Tensions In Wash., Ore.; Budget Squeezes In Ga., Conn.

The Associated Press: Assisted Suicide On Legal Agenda In Several States
A push for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide is under way in a half-dozen states where proponents say they see strong support for allowing doctors to prescribe mentally competent, dying individuals with the medications needed to end their own lives. ... Groups such as Compassion & Choices, a national end-of-life advocacy organization, have been working to advance the cause. ... Bills legalizing assisted suicide are being considered in Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Kansas and Hawaii — and in Massachusetts ... There are also bills related to the issue under consideration in New Hampshire, New York, Arizona and Montana (Haigh, 2/8).

The New York Times: Smoking, Once Used To Reward, Faces A Ban In Mental Hospitals
Until recently, Louisiana law required psychiatric hospitals to accommodate smokers — unlike rules banning smoking at most other health facilities. The law was changed last year, and by March 30, smoking is supposed to end at Louisiana’s two remaining state psychiatric hospitals. ... smoking was endorsed by advocates for people with mental illness and family members, who sometimes sued to preserve smoking rights, considering cigarettes one of the few pleasures patients were allowed (Belluck, 2/6).

The Associated Press: Wash. Abortion Insurance Bill Prompts Tension
A measure to require most insurers in Washington state to cover abortions will receive a hearing before a Senate committee, Majority Leader Rodney Tom pledged late Thursday, setting up a discussion on a measure that had been thrown into limbo a day earlier by another key senator. The proposal has been a political hot-button in the state, as supporters say it would protect existing abortion coverage once new insurance rules come into effect under the federal health care overhaul (Kaminsky, 2/7).

Oregonian: Abortion Insurance Bill Will Be Heard By Committee, Washington State Senate Leader Says
A measure to require most insurers in Washington state to cover abortions will receive a hearing before a Senate committee, Majority Leader Rodney Tom pledged late Thursday ... The proposal has been a political hot-button in the state, as supporters say it would protect existing abortion coverage once new insurance rules come into effect under the federal health care overhaul. Opponents, however, say the measure puts federal dollars at risk and threatens the religious freedoms of those who oppose abortion rights (Yu, 2/7).

The Associated Press: NM Medical Board Exonerates Late-Term Abortion Doctor
The New Mexico Medical Board on Thursday exonerated an Albuquerque doctor of gross negligence for her handling of a late-term abortion in a case that raised questions about whether politics trumped patient privacy. Anti-abortion activists filed the complaint against Dr. Shelly Sella after hearing a 911 call from the Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic about a woman who suffered a ruptured uterus during a May 2011 abortion there and was rushed to a hospital. Sella is a former colleague of slain Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller and one of the few doctors in the country who still openly performs third-term abortions (Clausing, 2/7).

Georgia Health News: Rally Opposes Cuts In Care For Seniors
Dianna Massey of Norcross says respite care greatly helped her family when her mother had Alzheimer’s disease. For years, "she was aggressive and combative," Massey said. ... Concerned about those who cannot afford such care, Massey came to the state Capitol in Atlanta ... She joined lawmakers and other officials who spoke to scores of seniors gathered in a cold rain on the Capitol steps, attending a rally against proposed budget cuts in government aging programs. ... Because of state budget constraints amid a persistently weak economy, Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered every agency to trim 3 percent of its current year’s spending and to carry that over into next year (Miller, 2/7).

San Francisco Chronicle: UCSF, St. Mary's Hospitals Fined By State
California health officials fined two San Francisco hospitals -- UCSF and St. Mary's Medical Center -- for two violations each as part of the state's efforts to penalize hospitals for errors serious enough to cause major injury or put patients' lives at risk. UCSF's fines totaling $200,000 were for not following proper procedures in two cases in which foreign objects were left inside patients, resulting in additional surgeries and other complications. The fines were among the 10 violations and $775,000 in penalties issued Wednesday to seven California hospitals after state investigations found the hospitals failed to follow proper procedures (Colliver, 2/7).

CT Mirror: Some Want More, Some Less: Malloy Budget Sparks Tax Debate
 In the first 24 hours since unveiling his new budget, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has heard from state and local officials, including some from other states. … Malloy's new budget would slash aid to hospitals to offset the cost of treating uninsured patients. It also would eliminate Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor parents with the expectation that they would get private coverage as part of federal health reform, eliminate the state-run Charter Oak Health Plan and slash payments to hospitals (Phaneuf, 2/7).

Boston Globe: Insurers Say Health Spending On Rise In Mass.
Despite more modest increases in recent years and a state push to hold down costs, the message from health insurance executives gathered here Thursday for a market outlook seminar was clear: Massachusetts health spending is heading up in 2013. Representatives from the state’s nonprofit health plans as well as national for-profit insurers doing business in Massachusetts estimated the “medical cost trend,” a key industry measure, will climb between 6 and 12 percent this year — higher than last year’s cost bump and more than double the 3.6 percent increase set as a target in a state law passed last year (Weisman, 2/8).

California Healthline: Health Reform Benchmarks Linked To FQHCs
Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) already have shown some of the results pursued by the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released this week by the California Primary Care Association. The CPCA commissioned researchers to compare high-cost factors, such as hospital stays and emergency department use, as well as total cost of care, between FQHCs and non-FQHCs in California. Some of the findings from John Snow, Inc. Health Services Division, a public health research firm based in Boston, were released Monday and showed enviable differences in FQHC care (Gorn, 2/8).

Kansas Health Institute: Dentist Groups Announce Scholarships For Dentists Going To Rural Areas
Organizations representing dentists today announced the first three scholarships awarded under the Kansas Initiative for New Dentists (KIND), which is aimed at steering more dentists to rural parts of the state. Representatives from the Kansas Dental Association and the Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation said $25,000 per year scholarships would be given to three students who have agreed to serve in counties with fewer than 50,000 people for at least two years per year of scholarship accepted (Cauthon, 2/7).

The Denver Post: Colorado Loans To Groceries Aim For Greener Good In Obesity Fight
Frustrated by lack of progress in the obesity fight, one of the nation's richest health charities will pay to build better stores and buy greener groceries itself, if it has to. The Colorado Health Foundation has set aside $7.1 million for a loan-and-grant fund aimed at grocery stores and retail developers that need a subsidy to supply more nutritious goods in "food deserts” (Booth, 2/8).

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