Tagged States

State Highlights: Minn. Plans Online Resource To Help Consumers Compare Assisted-Living Facilities’ Quality; Calif. Proposal Would Require Problem Docs To Be Transparent

Outlets report on news from Minnesota, California, Georgia, California, Massachusetts, Kansas, Alabama and Michigan.

The Star Tribune: State Plans Online ‘Report Card’ For You To Gauge Assisted-Living Facilities 
For decades, Minnesota families seeking senior living arrangements for their elderly loved ones have found themselves casting about in an informational void. But a proposal by the Minnesota Department of Human Services would create the state’s first standardized system for measuring the quality of assisted-living homes — a fast-growing but lightly regulated industry that now serves more than 50,000 Minnesotans in nearly 1,200 facilities. (Serres, 2/23)

The Star Tribune: Rochester Set To Remove 180-Plus Students Over Failure To Follow Vaccination Law
More than 180 public school students in Rochester will be removed from school March 1 if they are not vaccinated or officially exempted from the state law that requires them to be immunized. School officials said this week that they have worked “diligently” since January to inform families that students must be vaccinated to attend school or provide documentation for an exemption. (Smith, 2/23)

The Star Tribune: HCMC Cutting 131 Jobs Through Layoffs Amid Budget Pinch 
Hennepin County Medical Center leaders announced the layoff of more than 131 workers this week, saying they believe it will resolve a projected financial crisis at the hospital caused by worsening reimbursements for patient care. The announcement drew angry responses from affected employees, including a protest by cleaners and clerical workers Thursday afternoon and criticism by a bioelectronics technician, who predicted that the hospital will end up spending more by outsourcing critical tasks. (Olson, 2/23)

Los Angeles Times: Political Spending Of AIDS Nonprofit Comes Under Fire
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation oversees a global philanthropic empire that extends from its Hollywood headquarters to 15 states and 38 countries. The 30-year-old nonprofit organization treats hundreds of thousands of patients. It hands out tens of millions of condoms annually. And it puts up provocative billboards urging people to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. But in recent months, it has become known for the kind of activism usually associated with homeowner groups, spurring criticism that it has strayed too far from its mission. (Reyes and Zahniser, 2/24)

Boston Globe: City Seeks Private Partner To Rebuild Former Bromley-Heath Complex
The roofs leak, the elevators malfunction, and the heating system is old. Tenants of the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments complain about people sleeping in the hallways or doing drugs, and sometimes they find used needles scattered about. But there is no federal money to repair or rebuild the Jamaica Plain housing development’s 804 units of federally subsidized public housing, Boston Housing Authority officials say. So on Wednesday, the authority announced it is seeking proposals from private developers to tear down and rebuild a portion of the complex: six dilapidated buildings on Centre Street, Parker Street, and Lamartine Street. (Allen and Gans, 2/23)

Sacramento Bee: Muslims Seek Mental Health Aid After Mosque Attacks, Travel Ban 
Coming at the same time as other anti-Muslim attacks and a presidential order banning entry by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, many Muslim Americans are asking themselves whether they still are welcome in this country while they worry about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. In response, mosques, student groups and mental health agencies around the Sacramento region are stepping up and offering Muslims a safe place to share their anxieties and receive professional help. (Caiola, 2/23)

KCUR: Osteopathic Med Schools Like Kansas City University Answer The Call For More Doctors 
With the United States facing a shortage of physicians over the next decade, health care groups and lawmakers are scrambling to increase the number of doctors – primary care providers in particular – to serve an aging population. Kansas meets only about 65 percent of its physician needs, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration. Missouri is even worse off, meeting only about 30 percent of its physician needs. Many Missouri counties are designated Health Professional Shortage Areas, meaning they have only one provider in the area to serve at least 3,500 people. (Worth, 2/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Alabama Doctors Convicted In Health-Care Fraud Case
Two Alabama doctors were convicted Thursday of health-care fraud, taking kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics Inc. and prescribing opioid painkillers for no medical purpose, among other crimes. John Couch and Xiulu Ruan were each convicted on more than 10 criminal counts brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Mobile, Ala. (Walker, 2/23)

KCUR: Osawatomie Contract Bidder Has History Of Safety Issues At Its Florida Psychiatric Facilities 
Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida. Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others. The department is evaluating the proposal and hasn’t given a timeline for whether or when it would bring it before the Legislature. Under a law they approved last year, lawmakers must approve the contract before KDADS can move forward. (Wingerter, 2/23)

Detroit Free Press: Tick-Borne Lyme Disease Exploding Into Michigan; Human Cases Up 5-Fold
All it took was an unusual February warm spell this past week for the tiny insects causing an increasingly big problem in Michigan to become active once again, beginning their hunt for blood…The ticks are of interest because of what they often carry with them: the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. When the ticks bite an animal, seeking a blood meal, that bacteria can transfer. And that bacteria, in dogs, horses and humans, can cause Lyme disease, a serious affliction that can be permanently debilitating for people when it’s not treated early and well. (Matheny, 2/23)

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

‘Unique Threat Of Fentanyl’ Has Lawmakers Seeking Answers From Nation’s Drug Czar

The powerful opioid is responsible for nearly 20 percent of fatal overdoses, and lawmakers want assurance that the federal government recognizes the lethal threat. In other news on the crisis, researchers try to understand why there are so many relapses when it comes to opioid addiction, Virginia’s governor takes steps to address the problem, lawmakers ask for an investigation into a rash of overdoses at Connecticut “sober homes,” and hundreds rally to support preserving substance abuse treatment.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. House Committee Presses Drug Czar On Fentanyl
U.S. House lawmakers are pressing the nation’s drug czar for more data on the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl, including how it is trafficked and how many people it has killed, in the latest effort to thwart a spiraling drug crisis. The four-page letter from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, signed by bipartisan committee leaders and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, calls the fentanyl crisis a top oversight priority. Addressed to Kemp Chester, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and sent Thursday, the letter includes 15 questions such as how much fentanyl comes into the U.S. through the mail and how many counterfeit fentanyl pills authorities have seized. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 2/23)

Stat: Fatal Drug Overdoses In US On The Rise, CDC Says
Fatal drug overdoses continued their depressing climb in 2015, while the opioid crisis shifts from taking lives with painkillers like oxycodone to more lethal compounds like heroin and fentanyl, new data released Friday show. Overall, the rate of fatal overdoses from all drugs has increased more than 2.5 times since 1999, rising from 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people then to 16.3 deaths in 2015, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Joseph, 2/24)

Stat: Backers Of White House Drug Policy Office Scramble To Protect It
With the US opioid crisis the subject of increased political focus, advocates in the recovery community had been quietly hoping President Trump might elevate the White House “drug czar” to his Cabinet. Now they are mobilizing to ensure the drug czar’s office won’t be eliminated entirely. A recent report that the White House may propose axing the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has sparked a scramble among leaders in the recovery community and among law enforcement. The National Fraternal Order of Police has already prepared a letter to Trump urging him to reject any proposal to eliminate the office. Advocates in the recovery community have drafted their own letter expressing support for the office. (Scott, 2/23)

The Washington Post: Many People Keep Taking Prescription Opioids During Addiction Treatment
The grip of opioid addiction is so strong that many people who undergo treatment relapse repeatedly. Now a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers offers new clues about why treatment is so difficult. The researchers discovered that 43 percent of people receiving buprenorphine, a widely used anti-addiction medication, filled at least one prescription for opioids — which they presumably consumed or diverted to others. (Bernstein, 2/23)

The Associated Press: Governor Signs Bills Aimed At Stemming Opioid Epidemic
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a set of bills that aim to stem Virginia’s growing opioid epidemic. McAuliffe’s office said in a statement Thursday that among the measures he signed into law is one allowing community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug. Another measure mandates that all opioid prescriptions be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020. (2/23)

Richmond Times Dispatch: McAuliffe Signs Four Bills To Address Virginia’s Opioid Crisis 
Noting that opioid overdose deaths are likely to have topped 1,000 in 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed four bills into law Thursday that are meant to address the state’s ongoing epidemic. The bills put into action syringe-services programs; initiatives to increase access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone; changes to opioid prescription policies; and processes for providing services to infants exposed to opioids in utero. (Demeria, 2/23)

CT Mirror: Murphy Presses For Federal Probe Of ‘Sober Homes’ After Overdose Deaths 
A rash of overdoses in “sober homes” in Connecticut and other states has prompted Sen. Chris Murphy and a bipartisan group of his colleagues to ask federal investigators to determine if additional oversight is needed of these residences for people recovering from substance abuse. Murphy is leading an effort that has been joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Orrin Hatch R-Utah; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The senators this week wrote the U.S. Government Accountability Office, asking it to investigate state and federal oversight of these homes. (Radelat, 2/23)

The Baltimore Sun: Hundreds Rally For Mental Health And Drug Treatment 
Hundreds of people packed Lawyers Mall in Annapolis Thursday to urge lawmakers to “keep the door open” for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Sen. Guy Guzzone, a sponsor of the Keep the Door Open Act, said that too often mental health and substance abuse treatment are considered the “stepchild” of the healthcare system…Guzzone’s bill would increase the rate that the state pays to state-funded community clinics and organizations that offer behavioral health treatment and would guarantee future increases. It would cost the state about $16.75 million to raise the rates as required by the bill, according to a nonpartisan analysis. (Wood, 2/23)

New Hampshire Union Leader: NH Substance Abuse Advocate To Be Hassan’s Special Guest For Trump Speech 
A substance abuse advocate from Dover will be the guest of honor of Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., when President Donald Trump gives a speech to the Joint Session of Congress next Tuesday. Ashley Hurteau lived with addiction for nearly a decade, but was helped when the state’s expansion of Medicaid gave her health insurance coverage for substance abuse, Hassan said. The new senator and former governor met Hurteau at the Farnum Center in Manchester last month where they both served on a panel to discuss changes to the Affordable Care Act. (2/23)

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

Sen. Murkowski Will Not Vote For Health Law Repeal That Also Defunds Planned Parenthood

In other news on women’s reproductive health, St. Louis takes steps to preempt an anti-abortion measure that is moving through the Missouri Legislature. And a group of doctors call on the FDA to loosen regulations surrounding the “abortion pill.”

The Hill: GOP Senator Won’t Vote To Defund Planned Parenthood 
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says she will not vote for an ObamaCare repeal bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. In her address to Alaska’s state legislature Wednesday, the moderate Republican offered her firmest commitment yet that she will not support defunding Planned Parenthood. “I, for one, do not believe that Planned Parenthood has any place in our deliberations on the Affordable Care Act,” she said. (Hellmann, 2/23)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Doctors Urge FDA To Loosen Restrictions On Abortion Pill
A group of reproductive health experts has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to loosen regulation of the “abortion pill” so women can get it by prescription in pharmacies without necessarily seeing a doctor. The commentary, in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, comes as the Trump administration, which has been hostile to abortion rights, prepares to appoint a new FDA commissioner. The FDA last year updated the prescribing information for the abortion pill, mifepristone, marketed as Mifeprex, to let women use it later in pregnancy, with two visits to the doctor rather than three. But special restrictions still prohibit the sale of the drug in pharmacies; it can only be dispensed in clinics, hospitals, and medical offices by health-care providers  who undergo a certification process. (McCullough, 2/23)

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

Threat Of Obamacare Repeal Leaves Community Health Centers In Limbo

Treating people for free or for very little money has been the role of community health centers across the U.S. for decades. In 2015, 1 in 12 Americans sought care at one of these clinics; nearly 6 in 10 were women, and hundreds of thousands were veterans.

The community clinics — now roughly 1,300-strong — have also expanded in recent years to serve people who gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act. In 2015, community health centers served 24.3 million people — up from 19.5 million in 2010. Most of the centers are nonprofits with deep roots in their communities and they meet the criteria to be a federally qualified health center. That means they can qualify for federal grants and a higher payment rate from Medicaid and Medicare.

The ACA was a game changer for these clinics — it has enabled them to get reimbursement for much more of the care they provided, because more of their patients now had private insurance or were on Medicaid. Revenue at many clinics went up overall, and many of the health centers used federal funding available under the law to expand their physical facilities and add more services, such as dentistry, urgent care or mental health care.

With repeal of the ACA looming, clinic directors said they stay up at night wondering what’s next. We spoke with four, who all say their clinics are in a holding pattern as Congress debates the health law’s future.

Saban Community Clinic, Los Angeles

Julie Hudman, the CEO of Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles, Calif., said there’s a lot at stake for her patients.

“A lot of the folks that we see are single adults,” she explained. “They’re maybe more transitional. They’re homeless patients. They have behavioral health challenges. They’re really, to be honest, some of the most vulnerable and poorest patients of all.”

Before the ACA went into effect, eligibility for Medi-Cal, as Medicaid is known in California, depended on a variety of factors, including income, household size, family status, disability and others. Under Obamacare, according to the California Department of Health Care Services, people can now qualify for Medi-Cal on the basis of income alone if their household makes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — that’s $16,395 for an individual and $33,534 for a family of four.

Prior the ACA, about half of the Saban clinic’s 18,000 patients were uninsured, Hudman said. They paid little for treatment — maybe a copay of $5 or $10. Almost all of those patients qualified for Medi-Cal after the health law expanded eligibility, she said, and that’s made a big difference for the clinic’s bottom line: Medi-Cal pays the clinic around $200 per patient visit.

These days, more than half of Saban’s revenue comes from health insurance. The possibility of losing some of that money, Hudman said, is forcing some hard decisions. She had been looking to lease or buy a fourth facility, she said, but now that plan is on hold; as are her hopes of expanding free help for the homeless.

“I’m not willing to move forward and take some of those risks,” she said. “I need to make sure that we’re able to pay our bills and pay our staff.”

Before the last election, Hudman said, “we had a lot of momentum moving forward. And now we’ve just sort of stalled.” — Rebecca Plevin, KPCC, Los Angeles

Jordan Health, Rochester, N.Y.

In the last few years, funding has been on the rise at Jordan Health, in Rochester, N.Y., and so has the extent of the clinic’s services.

The boost in funding has partly come from higher reimbursement rates the ACA authorizes, and from the increased number of patients at the clinic who have insurance. But Jordan Health, which has 10 locations in the area, has also benefited from the federal government’s pumping of more money into what are known as section 330 grants that enable expansion of services and facilities.

Janice Harbin, CEO of Jordan Health in Rochester, N.Y. says section 330 grants have allowed Jordan Health to hire more health practitioners. (Karen Shakerdge/WXXI)

Janice Harbin, CEO of Jordan Health in Rochester, N.Y. says section 330 grants have allowed Jordan Health to hire more health practitioners. (Karen Shakerdge/WXXI)

The 330 grant money gives qualified clinics the option of offering services that aren’t billable to insurance plans. At Jordan Health, the funds enabled the hiring of some different types of health practitioners who were not previously part of the team — dietitians, behavioral health specialists and care coordinators. And that, in turn, said Janice Harbin, president and CEO of Jordan Health, means patients can increasingly get the different kinds of care they need in one place.

Almost 90 percent of Jordan’s patients are considered a racial or ethnic minority, and over 97 percent live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, according to data gathered by the federal Health Resources & Services Administration.

“When you’re dealing with a situation of concentrated poverty,” Harbin said, “your patient needs more than just ‘OK, let me give you a checkup, and pat you on the back and say now go out and do all these things I told you to do.’”

Jordan Health received an increase of about $1 million since 2013, according to its grant coordinator, Deborah Tschappat.

Tschappat said she expects Jordan will get about the same annual award in 2017, assuming federal funding for the 330 program stays about the same. If federal funding is cut significantly, they would potentially lose some services.

For now, Jordan Health plans to “expand services judiciously, while increasing efficiency and productivity,” Tschappat said.

In the coming months Harbin and her colleagues will be lobbying lawmakers in Albany and Washington, D.C., to renew Jordan’s funding — including the 330 grant, which is set to end in September.

“We’re used to doing a lot with a little, but we increasingly know that we do need to have financial support,” Harban said. “And that’s keeping us up at night.” — Karen Shakerdge, WXXI, Rochester

Adelante Healthcare, Phoenix

Adelante Healthcare has been part of the health safety net in Phoenix for nearly four decades — when its doctors began helping farm workers in the city’s surrounding fields. But the Affordable Care Act enabled Adelante to expand like a brand new business.

“Adelante has grown by 35 percent in the last 12 months,” said Dr. Robert Babyar, Adelante’s assistant chief medical officer. “We’ve increased our provider staffing — almost doubled our providers. And the number of services we provide has doubled.”

Adelante operates nine clinics throughout the Phoenix metro area. The one where Babyar met with me includes play areas for children and a dental office.

Most of their 70,000 patients are low-income and about half are covered by either Medicaid or KidsCare — Arizona’s version of the Children Health Insurance Program. In 2014, Arizona became one of the Republican-led states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. That brought more than 400,000 people onto the state’s Medicaid rolls and created big demand for Adelante. Low-income patients who did not have insurance before the expansion had relied on Adelante’s sliding fee schedule. Much of that population now has health coverage, either through the ACA marketplace or the state.

“That opened up more options for our patients, more specialists they could see, procedures they could have done,” Babyar said.

As Congress moves to repeal and replace the health care law, Adelante is in a holding pattern. It has delayed the groundbreaking of a new site until later this year because of the uncertainty. A full repeal of the ACA — without a replacement that keeps its patients covered — would limit any future growth, and strain the new staff and resources it has added. It wouldn’t be the first time Adelante had to scale back its services because of changes to Medicaid. In 2010 and 2011, Arizona lawmakers froze enrollment for its CHIP program and for childless adults in Medicaid. Then, in 2012, Adelante lost more than a million dollars.

Babyar said it has taken several years to get their new patients into the system and working with doctors consistently to manage their conditions.

“All the progress we made with those patients to stay and be healthy — that can fall apart really quick,” said Babyar. — Will Stone, KJZZ, Phoenix

Denver Health, Denver

Denver’s Federico F. Peña Southwest Family Health Center is part of Denver Health — the safety-net system that takes care of low-income people.

“Definitely this clinic has benefited from Obamacare,” said Dr. Michael Russum, who practices family medicine for Denver Health and helps lead the clinic. “And this population has benefited from Obamacare by the expansion of Medicaid.”

That’s what helped make the economics work as Denver Health put a new $26 million clinic in a high poverty neighborhood in 2016, said Dr. Simon Hambidge, Denver Health’s CEO of Community Health Services. With the ACA in place, he said, the health system was able to count on the new clinic having a population of paying patients with insurance that could help support it.

Hambidge predicted the hospital will weather the storm if Obamacare is repealed and there are serious cuts to safety-net programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, as some Republicans have suggested. But it will probably be harder to open new clinics in other high-need neighborhoods, he conceded.

“We’ll survive,” Hambidge said. “We may not be able to be as expansive, because we would be back to less secure times.” — John Daley, Colorado Public Radio

This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with local member stations and Kaiser Health News.

Categories: Medicaid, Public Radio Partnership, Repeal And Replace Watch, States, Syndicate, The Health Law

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Viewpoints: Taking Stock Of The GOP Repeal-Replace-Repair Effort; Anti-Vaxxers See A Friend In President Trump

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Republicans Suddenly Realize Burning Down The Health-Care System Might Not Be A Great Idea
The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not going well, in large part because it turns out that making sweeping changes to a system that encompasses one-sixth of the American economy turns out to be rather more complicated than they imagined. Their backtracking has an interesting character to it, in particular how they’ve been gobsmacked by the transition from shaking their fists at the system to being responsible for it. (Paul Waldman, 2/22)

JAMA Forum: Replacing ACA Would Harm Economically Vulnerable Persons And The Health Care Safety Net
The US Congress recently took its first steps toward repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Congressional Budget Office projected that repeal would increase the number of uninsured by 18 million people initially, and by 27 million after funding for Medicaid expansion and subsidies are eliminated. Repealing the ACA also threatens the safety net critical to health care access for economically vulnerable individuals and families. (Roy Grant, 2/20)

The Washington Post: Under Trump, Obamacare’s Medicaid Enrollments May Actually Go Up
Much of the media coverage and public political battle has focused on regulations and subsidies that impact middle America and those with coverage. The program targeted at the poor — Medicaid —has received less attention but demands more. For now, it looks as if the Republican Congress will end up leaving the structure of Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid program intact and that Tom Price — President Trump’s secretary of health and human services — will use his administrative powers to grant states greater discretion in running their Medicaid programs. (Timothy Callaghan and Lawrence R. Jacobs, 2/22)

Modern Healthcare: Fierce Medicaid Critic Joins Trump’s ACA Repeal Team
A fierce critic of Medicaid expansion has joined the White House team working on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. White House staffers are expected to play a key role in helping craft the upcoming budget reconciliation bill to repeal and replace the ACA. One of those key aides is Brian Blase, who recently left the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University to serve as health policy adviser to Gary Cohn, director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council and former president of Goldman Sachs. (Harris Meyer, 2/22)

The New York Times: The Anti-Vaccine Movement Gains A Friend In The White House
Vaccine opponents, often the subject of ridicule, have found fresh energy in the election of a president who has repeated discredited claims linking childhood immunizations to autism and who has apparently decided to pursue them. With President Trump’s support, this fringe movement could win official recognition, threatening lives and making it urgent that health officials, educators and others respond with a science-based defense of vaccines. Vaccines have saved lives by protecting children and adults from diseases like measles, polio, smallpox, cervical cancer and whooping cough. And there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccines or a preservative used in flu shots cause autism. (2/23)

JAMA Forum: Vaccines And The Trump Administration
Writing recently in the New York Times, infectious disease physician Peter Hotez warned: “It’s looking as if 2017 could become the year when the anti-vaccination movement gains ascendancy in the United States and we begin to see a reversal of several decades in steady public health gains. The first blow will be measles outbreaks in America.” (Joshua M. Sharfstein, 2/22)

Stat: Scientists Can’t Cower In The Face Of Trump Policies That Threaten Research
Fear of speaking and debating openly on controversial issues and inquiry is antithetical to science. So it has been chilling for me to listen to the fear expressed by medical students, resident physicians, faculty members, and administrators engendered by Trump’s actions. I’ve heard medical students say they are worried about speaking out because they might be branded as “activists” by residency programs. Faculty members worry about how their opposition to the Trump agenda may be perceived by philanthropists who fund their work. Administrators fear overstepping the line in response to Trump and struggle to balance supporting their staff’s concerns about how new policies affect their colleagues and families while avoiding perceived political conflict. (Duncan Maru, 2/22)

JAMA: Revamping the U.S. Federal Common Rule: Modernizing Human Participant Research Regulations
On January 19, 2017, the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), Department of Health and Human Services, and 15 federal agencies published a final rule to modernize the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (known as the “Common Rule”).1 Initially introduced more than a quarter century ago, the Common Rule predated modern scientific methods and findings, notably human genome research. (James G. Hodge and Lawrence O. Gostin, 2/22)

The Washington Post: A Health-Care Change That Could Prove Catastrophic
While a handful of high-profile policy questions have preoccupied Americans since the election, one potentially catastrophic health-care change has quietly been taking shape without much media attention. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education — the professional body charged with overseeing the nation’s physician training programs is poised to eliminate the 16-hour limit on work shifts for first-year resident physicians (referred to as interns) that it implemented in 2011. It proposes allowing interns to return to working extreme shifts of 28 hours — twice each week. (Christopher P. Landrigan and Charles A. Czeisler, 2/22)

Bloomberg: That Free Health Tracker Could Cost You
Using big data to improve health might seem like a great idea. The way private insurance works, though, it could end up making sick people — or even those perceived as likely to become sick — a lot poorer. Suppose a company offers you an insurance discount and a free FitBit if you agree to share your data and submit to a yearly physical. You’re assured that the data will be used only in aggregate, never tied back to specific identities. If that makes you feel safe, it shouldn’t. (Cathy O’Neil, 2/23)

The Washington Post: If Abortion Rights Fall, LGBT Rights Are Next
We represent the organizations that won leading Supreme Court cases in recent years on sexual and reproductive rights: Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which secured legal protections for the marriage of same-sex couples, and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, which struck down Texas’s attempt to use sham health regulations to shut down 75 percent of the state’s abortion clinics. President Trump has taken sharp aim at the rights affirmed in those cases. During the campaign, he attacked the Obergefell opinion and repeatedly and unambiguously promised to put justices on the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade. According to the president, it’s the government, not each individual, that should hold the power to decide who can get married and whether women can terminate a pregnancy. (Nancy Northup and Rachel B. Tiven, 2/22)

The Des Moines Register: Lawmakers, You Still Owe Us For Illegal Health Plans
Iowa Code allows state lawmakers to enroll in health insurance plans offered to executive branch employees “excluded from collective bargaining.” Those workers pay 20 percent of the total cost of their monthly premium. A few weeks ago, The Des Moines Register reported that legislators are instead enrolled in health plans negotiated by unions on behalf of union-covered state employees. Many lawmakers are paying as little as $20 in monthly premiums when they should be paying hundreds of dollars. (2/22)

Louisville Courier-Journal: Dangers Lurking In E-Cigs
During my nursing career, I have come across numerous heroes, but my first was Surgeon General Everett Koop. More than 50 years ago, he published the first report on Smoking and Health. … Today, my new hero is another Surgeon Gen. Vivek Murthy, who released the first report on E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults in December 2016. We now have data and ammunition to halt the debate that e-cigarettes are harmless. The report lays out in clear, indisputable terms that e-cigarette use increases the risk of nicotine addiction, harm to brain development and future use of other tobacco products for young users. (Janie Heath, 2/22)

The Washington Post: Helmets Save Lives So Why Don’t All States Require Them?
A new report from the World Health Organization suggests we’ve made some progress in reducing traffic fatalities through seat belt laws, improved highway and vehicle design, and campaigns to reduce drunk or drug-impaired driving. But motorcycles are bucking the trend, even in the world’s wealthiest and most developed countries, including the United States. (Fredrick Kunkle, 2/22)

Stat: Global Health Is An Investment We Can’t Afford To Pass Up
More than at any time in history, good health for all is a real possibility. The technology, scientific advancement, and remarkable understanding of disease now available to the medical and nursing community show the progress we have made. As a career physician, I have seen modern medicine rescue people from the brink of death with the power of machines, medicines, and smart minds. The successes aren’t just in developed countries — they’re global. For example, the number of people newly infected with HIV around the world has stopped growing. There are now 18.2 million people undergoing treatment for HIV, up from 15.8 million in the last year alone. Equally encouraging, new infections in children are down 50 percent since 2010. (Vanessa Kerry, 2/22)

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

State Highlights: In N.Y., Cuomo Feels Push Back On Proposed Public Health Program Cuts; Texas Lawmakers Revisit Bid To Crack Down On Bad Nursing Homes

Outlets report on news from New York, Texas, Arizona, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa and Ohio.

Houston Chronicle: Lawmakers Renew Effort To Crack Down On Bad Nursing Homes
Two years after falling short in a high-profile bid to crack down on bad nursing homes, some Texas state lawmakers are trying again. State Sen. Charles Schwertner kicked off the effort by introducing a trio of bills to make it harder for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and home and community services agencies to avoid discipline and lawsuits when they are found to have done wrong. (Rosenthal, 2/22)

Arizona Republic: Arizona Senate OKs Bill That Would Let Providers Opt Out Of ‘Right To Die’ Efforts​
Despite growing concerns that Arizona legislation to protect the religious freedoms of health-care workers could undermine patients’ end-of-life decisions, the Senate approved the bill Wednesday. Senate Bill 1439, which is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, and pushed by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, would protect from discrimination a health-care provider that refuses to participate in any service or provide any item that results in the death of an individual. (Beard Rau, 2/22)

Health News Florida: PTSD Coverage For First Responders Could Expand Under New Bill 
Democratic State Senator Victor Torres filed a bill Tuesday to allow first responders to get worker’s compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill makes PTSD and mental conditions more easily eligible, and it removes the requirement that first responders also be hurt physically. Jessica Realin’s husband was diagnosed with PTSD after cleaning up the Pulse Night Club tragedy. (Aboraya, 2/22)

KQED: After Introduction Of New Bill, Nurses Rally For Universal Health Care 
Chanting “Medicare for all is our fight, health care is a human right,” nurses and healthcare activists rallied in Sacramento Wednesday to support a new bill that would create universal health coverage for Californians. State Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced Senate Bill 562 last week. The bill would cover all residents of the state, even those who are undocumented. (Klivans, 2/22)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Nurses At Delaware County Memorial Call Two-Day Strike
Nurses at Delaware County Memorial Hospital will go on strike for two days next month to protest stalled labor contract bargaining and unfair labor practices, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals said Wednesday. The union, known as PASNAP, won the right a year ago to represent 370 registered nurses and technical employee at the Drexel Hill facility, which was purchased in July 2016 by Prospect Medical Holdings Inc. as part of the hedge-fund backed firm’s acquisition of Crozer-Keystone Health System. (Brubaker, 2/22)

Boston Globe: Doctor Says He Brought Needed Care To Bermuda 
When he returned to his native Bermuda in the early 1990s to open a medical clinic, Dr. Ewart Brown felt as if he had stepped back in time. On the small island, care that was readily available to patients he treated in one of LosAngeles’s poorest neighborhoods was out of reach. That stark portrait eventually led Brown to a partnership with Lahey Hospital and Medical Center — one that is now the subject of a civil racketeering lawsuit that has uncovered a little-noticed relationship between the Burlington-based hospital and the small British territory. (Murphy and Dayal McCluskey, 2/23)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: These High-Tech Mannequins Help LSU Medical Students Learn How To Save Your Life
…Faculty and staff at LSU’s Health Sciences Center (HSC) considered the flight simulators used by airplane pilots. The LSU team realized that a similar training system could be used in medical education, in order to more efficiently and ethically judge students’ competency. As a result, in 2001, LSUHSC began using high-tech medical mannequins to simulate human patients. LSU faculty and staff helped develop life-size mannequins that breathe and blink, have heartbeats and blood pressure, talk and even have names. The mannequins are programmed to simulate various medical conditions and injuries, allowing medical students to engage with mock patients in a low-risk, controlled environment. (Harrison, 2/22)

The CT Mirror: School-Level Immunization Data Could Be Released Under Proposal 
Wondering how many children at your kid’s school aren’t vaccinated? If you live in Connecticut, there’s no way to find out.But that could change under a legislative proposal favored by the state Department of Public Health, which is currently prohibited from releasing data on immunization rates by school. The state health department already gets data from schools on the number of vaccine-exempt students, the number who have been fully immunized and those who have received some but not all vaccines. (Levin Becker, 2/22)

Tampa Bay Times: In Harm’s Way: Gun Injuries And Deaths Among Florida Kids Have Spiked. One Child Is Shot Every 17 Hours.
Gun injuries are a growing problem for Florida’s children, rising along with the increasing availability of firearms across the state, the Tampa Bay Times has found. To determine how many kids are shot each year — accidentally, intentionally or during the commission of a crime — the Times looked at millions of hospital discharge records for patients across Florida, as well as data collected by the state’s 24 medical examiners. The analysis found that, between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,200 kids age 17 and under were killed or injured by firearms. Put another way, a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours. (McGrory and Humburg, 2/23)

New Hampshire Union Leader: Iranian Doctor At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Reunites With His Wife 
A resident doctor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said he was “shocked, relieved, happy” when he was able to hug his Iranian wife Wednesday for the first time in nine months. Dr. Omid Moghimi said President Trump’s ban on residents of seven countries to travel to the United States meant his wife, Dorsa Razi, couldn’t get her final immigration interview in late January or a required visa needed to come to the United States. But a federal court blocked the travel ban, giving her a reprieve to gain the necessary approvals. Moghimi said he had worried he might not see his wife “for several more months if not for a year. (Cousineau, 2/23)

Columbus Dispatch: Fifth Child Dies As Flu Spreads Across Ohio
Despite the relatively mild 2016-2017 winter so far, Ohio is close to matching the number of children — six — who died during the 2014-15 flu season. One child died last flu season and none in 2013-2014. Adult flu deaths are not reported in Ohio, and health officials could not release whether the children who died had received a flu vaccine. (Viviano, 2/22)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Chronic Pain Considered For Medical Marijuana Use In New Jersey
Chronic pain may be added to the list of ailments that qualify for medical marijuana treatment in New Jersey, according to the chairman of a Health Department advisory panel that took emotional testimony from patients Wednesday in a crowded meeting room at the War Memorial. The panel will decide in the coming months whether to recommend that the health commissioner expand the list, which now has about a dozen ailments, including terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. (Hefler, 2/22)

Iowa Public Radio: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances; Similar Bill Failed Last Year 
Patients and their advocates made a return trip to the Iowa Capitol Wednesday, arguing once again for the legalization of medical marijuana in Iowa. A new bill is under consideration in the House to regulate the growing, manufacturing, and distribution  of cannabis oil. This is a working vehicle. -Rep. Jared KleinEarlier legislation is about to expire. It allows epilepsy patients to travel out of state to acquire the drug, which has created numerous obstacles. (Russell, 2/22)

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Atlanta-Area Hospital System To Take Over 27 Walgreens Retail Health Clinics In City

Also in Georgia, a turf war reignites among the state’s hospitals over a cancer center’s designation. And in Maryland, Johns Hopkins partners with a health real estate firm to explore future developments.

Modern Healthcare: Piedmont Taking Over 27 Walgreens Clinics In Atlanta 
Piedmont Healthcare, a seven-hospital system in Atlanta, has agreed to take over and operate 27 Walgreens in-store retail clinics in the metropolitan area, the two companies announced Wednesday. Piedmont joins other hospital systems such as Advocate Health Care in Chicago and Providence Health in Renton, Wash., that have bought or leased retail clinics that Walgreens and other chains have opened inside their stores to provide convenience for patients with minor ailments. (Barkholz, 2/22)

Georgia Health News: Piedmont To Run Clinics At 27 Atlanta Area Walgreens Locations 
Piedmont Healthcare will operate 27 retail health clinics in Walgreens stores across the Atlanta area. The transition to Piedmont management is planned for August, and the clinics will be known as Piedmont QuickCare at Walgreens. It’s the latest move by Atlanta-based Piedmont to extend its reach across metro Atlanta and North Georgia. Last year, Piedmont acquired Athens Regional Medical Center as its seventh hospital. (Miller, 2/22)

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Hospital Battle Brewing In Georgia Legislature
With a new wave of advertising and a new bill at the Georgia General Assembly, Cancer Treatment Centers of America has re-ignited its ongoing turf war with the rest of Georgia’s hospitals. The “destination cancer hospital” is again seeking to change the terms of a 2008 legislative deal that permitted the cancer-only hospital to come to Georgia, arguing that more in-state patients should be allowed to get treatment at the Newnan facility. (Teegardin, 2/22)

The Baltimore Sun: Hopkins Partnership With Health Real Estate Firm Aims To Expand Service To The Elderly
Johns Hopkins Medicine said Wednesday it will work with health real estate firm Welltower Inc. to come up with programs and explore developing facilities to serve and treat the elderly. Welltower develops assisted-living centers, memory care facilities and other medical institutions for the elderly. Company officials said programs and technology developed in those facilities said could be useful to Johns Hopkins, particularly as the trend in health care is to do more treatment outside hospitals. (McDaniels, 2/22)

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Mass. Nonprofit Financially Helps Patients To Get Treatment For Opioid Abuse

In other news on the painkiller epidemic, a Philadelphia doctor admits to making $5 million by pushing pills on patients. And a Minnesota sheriff’s office offers addicted inmates medication to lessen cravings.

WBUR: Nonprofit Provides Financial Assistance For Opioid Treatment 
Despite efforts to stem the tide of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts, the latest numbers suggest that a record number — some 2,000 people — died of overdoses last year. One of the grassroots groups working to make a dent in this crisis is called Magnolia New Beginnings. It was formed by parents on the North Shore a few years ago to provide support to other parents and to help financially, providing scholarships for long term substance use treatment, which typically is not covered by health insurance. (Mitchell and Becker, 2/22)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: Drug-Dealing South Philly Doc Admits Earning $5 Million Selling Pills To Patients
They came by the thousands – some from as far away as Cape May, some to wait in lines 100 people deep – seeking the autograph of the man inside a South Philadelphia storefront. The man with the sought-after signature was no movie star, sports phenom, or celebrity, but, rather, a soft-spoken doctor – one who admitted Wednesday that he had turned his substance-abuse clinic into one of the city’s most notorious sources for addicts and drug dealers of highly regulated prescription medications. Federal authorities likened Alan Summers’ now-defunct National Association for Substance Abuse-Prevention and Treatment, near Broad and Wolf Streets, to an open-air drug market. (Roebuck, 2/22)

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With Abortion Potentially In Crosshairs, Oregon AG Readies For A Fight

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is concerned about the threats of federal government funds being cut off for Planned Parenthood.

The Associated Press: Oregon AG Girding To Protect Abortion Rights
On the heels of Washington state’s successful pushback of President Donald Trump’s immigration order, Oregon is readying for a court battle if the federal government tries to curtail abortion rights, the state’s attorney general said. The attorneys general of both Oregon and Washington said in interviews with The Associated Press that they are increasingly sharing information and consulting with each other and with other Democratic counterparts, as the White House and Congress try to roll back Obama policies and steer a conservative course for the nation. (Selsky, 2/22)

Meanwhile, in Arizona —

Arizona Republic: Arizona Senate Approves Birth Bill That Goes Beyond Abortion
The Arizona Senate has approved a bill requiring doctors to use “all available means and medical skills” to try to save the life of every baby born — whether the child is born alive during an abortion, unexpectedly arrives months early or is delivered with a fatal defect and expected to live only minutes. Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, the bill’s sponsor, said Senate Bill 1367 isn’t about abortion. It’s about what should happen when a baby is born alive as opposed to current “barbaric” practices. (Beard Rau, 2/22)

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Viewpoints: Health Policy Moves Back To Town Halls; GOP Wrestles With Medicaid Debate

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

Chicago Tribune: To The GOP On Obamacare: This Spud’s For You
Health care policy as a political hot potato has become a popular metaphor. Writers at Vox, CNBC, the American Constitution Society and elsewhere have compared Obamacare to a fresh-from-the-oven tuber that’s too painful to hold and must be tossed back across the aisle as quickly as possible. Noting growing concerns about inherent flaws in the complex structure of Obamacare — formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — libertarian Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle argued in a Feb. 15 essay that Congress is no longer “arguing about whether (and how) the exchanges can be saved, but playing hot potato as both parties vie to avoid being stuck with the blame for the ensuing disaster.” Nice try. (Eric Zorn, 2/21)

Roll Call: Town Hall Winners And Losers So Far
We’re halfway through the Presidents Day recess, the first during President Donald Trump’s first term in office. … it’s no surprise that town halls would become a focal point for the anger swirling on the left. Some members have plainly refused to meet with groups they think will be hostile to them. Others have flung open the sashes and let the emotions fly. Others have worked assiduously to restrain something that is inherently not theirs to control — the reaction of voters to their government’s actions in Washington. With half of the recess still left to play out, here are the winners and losers so far. (Patricia Murphy, 2/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Repeal And Replace Panic
In the 2009 ObamaCare debate, White House aide David Plouffe told nervous Democrats “no bed-wetting,” meaning keep calm and all will be well. House Democrats went on lose 63 seats in 2010, but the double irony is that Mr. Plouffe’s advice now applies to those reporters and liberals who seem to be invested in the failure of the GOP’s version of health-care reform. Every day brings a new story about Republicans in disarray, the “mirage” of the GOP’s reform and the impossibility of change. … The reality is that Congress is on schedule, progress is underway, and the many potential problems are avoidable. (2/21)

Forbes: Cassidy-Collins Patient Freedom Act Looks Better As Other Reform Efforts Falter
In a different political climate, the “Patient Freedom Act” introduced last month by Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Susan Collins would be getting close scrutiny and perhaps some significant support. It is — and I apologize for language that appears to have become profane in these polarized times — a compromise. The bill recognizes that an outright repeal and replacement of Obamacare is going to be politically challenging for at least the next two years. It likewise recognizes that the persistence of Obamacare nationwide is likely to be challenging and expensive. (Seth Chandler, 2/21)

Bloomberg: A GOP Tax Idea Would Upend Health Insurance 
Last week brought thwarted mergers, threats by insurers to leave the Affordable Care Act’s individual exchanges, and the release of a (very) rough sketch of a possible GOP repeal-and-replace plan for the ACA. What’s missing in that skeletal outline is how to pay for new initiatives, such as an expanded tax credit to help people buy insurance, while also repealing the new taxes established by the ACA. Some in the GOP are floating one possible solution: capping the federal tax breaks workers and companies get for employer-provided health insurance. (Max Nisen, 2/21)

WBUR: Caring For Immigrant Patients When The Rules Can Shift Any Time
Knowing patients’ immigration status and the reasons they came to this country can affect the services they are eligible for, the relative costs of medications, the fears that may keep them from returning for needed services, and even the diagnosis of unexplained symptoms. Immigration policy, Marlin told us, “is no longer a spectator sport” for us or for our patients. But it is not simple to practice medicine under these new and uncertain circumstances. (Elisabeth Poorman, 2/21)

Bloomberg: ‘Right To Try’ Laws Don’t Help The Dying 
A national “right to try” law, supported by Vice President Mike Pence and scores of Republicans in the the House and Senate, is meant to circumvent the FDA’s regulatory authority by giving patients who are terminally ill the right to use drugs that the agency hasn’t yet approved. The idea sounds reasonable; in the past few years, bipartisan majorities in two-thirds of state legislatures have passed essentially the same law. In reality, however, these laws give patients no new rights at all. They do nothing to compel drug makers to provide experimental medicines to the dying, or insurers to pay for them. They merely eliminate a patient’s right to sue for any injuries that might arise — that is, if any patient ever gets an untested drug in this way. (2/21)

Boston Globe: Did Dana-Farber Pay Too High A Price For Its Mar-A-Lago Fund-Raiser?
When asked why he robbed banks, the legendary bank robber Willie Sutton said, “Because that’s where the money is.” That’s also why the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute holds fund-raisers at Mar-a-Lago, the posh Palm Beach resort that serves as President Trump’s Florida home. It’s where the money is. The most recent gala, held over the past weekend, raised $2.2 million. All for a good cause. But at what cost? (Joan Vennochi, 2/21)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Turn Off The Drug Spigot In The St. Louis Region
Heroin and opioid overdoses have increased to the point where they claim more lives regionally than homicides. State and local lawmakers need to focus greater efforts on combating a growing epidemic. Gov. Eric Greitens’ pledge to help create a statewide prescription drug database is a good start, but a more comprehensive law enforcement effort would go even further to push down the number of drug-related deaths. (2/21)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Overprescribed: Curbing The Easy Fix Of Psychiatric Meds For Seniors
With many communities still struggling to manage the opioid epidemic, the last thing the nation needs is a new drug-related problem — the overprescribing of psychiatric and other medications to senior citizens. A new report in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine raises a red flag about the trend, saying it appears to be particularly common in rural areas where patients with symptoms of mental illnesses might have less access to talk therapy and other nondrug treatments. But even in these communities, there are alternatives to medications that can and should be explored. (2/20)

Stat: Patient Reviews Published Online Can Help Improve Health Care
It’s no secret that the US health care system needs to improve. Consumers — in this case patients and employers — have more collective power to influence change than they realize by choosing how, where, and from whom they get health care. Uber, Nordstrom, and many other companies seek their customers’ opinions and respond to them. Health care needs to follow suit to become the patient-centered service industry that it should be. The University of Utah, where I work, began collecting patient feedback early on and was the first health system in the US to publicly post patients’ reviews of their providers. It has paid off in many ways. (Vivian S. Lee, 2/21)

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State Highlights: N.H. Health Budget Would Give Nurses A Raise; Texas Lawmaker Moves To Outlaw Guns At State Mental Hospitals

Outlets report on news from New Hampshire, Texas, Florida, Oregon, California, Missouri and Minnesota.

New Hampshire Union Leader: DHHS Budget Calls For $10M In Raises For Nurses 
A 15 percent raise for nurses working in the Department of Health and Human Services will cost the state $10 million over the next two years, but is necessary to attract and retain health care professionals in an increasingly competitive market, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers. The head of the state’s biggest agency presented a $1.4 billion two-year spending plan for fiscal years 2018-2019 to House budget-writers on Tuesday. He said increased pay for nurses and other providers is a top priority. (Solomon, 2/21)

Austin Statesman: Legislator Seeks To Keep Guns Out Of State Psychiatric Hospitals
One year after state psychiatric hospitals began letting people carry guns on campus, a Republican legislator is pushing a bill that reverses course. House Bill 14, filed by Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, outlaws firearms at Texas’ 10 state-run mental health hospitals, which care for people with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other illnesses. (Ball, 2/21)

Health News Florida: Flu Widespread In Florida, With Extra Bug 
Influenza season is at its peak nationwide, and Florida is no exception. That’s obvious on the map at the Centers for Disease Control website. Warren McDougle, epidemiology manager for the Hillsborough County Health Department, says the flu shot apparently did a good job of covering the predominant strain, A (H3). But unfortunately, there’s another mean virus going around, according to anecdotal reports. (Gentry, 2/21)

Register-Guard: Oregon Plan Would Provide Insurance To Unauthorized Kids 
Now, both women are advocating for a new state law — dubbed “Cover All Kids” by supporters — that would extend government-funded health insurance in Oregon to many unauthorized immigrants under the age of 19. The proposal would give government-funded health insurance to an estimated 17,600 unauthorized immigrants, at a cost of $55 million in the biennium that starts July 1. Critics blast the concept and the price tag, especially given state government’s cash crisis.But supporters say it’s a humane and sensible idea. (Hubbard, 2/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Bidder Says Los Angeles-Area Hospital Didn’t Need To Close
A health-care firm that offered to buy Gardens Regional Hospital and Medical Center Inc., a Los Angeles-area hospital that cared for low-income residents before shutting down, told a bankruptcy judge that its purchase efforts were unfairly ignored. In court papers, Le Summit Healthcare LLC officials told Bankruptcy Judge Ernest Robles that they are still willing to operate the nonprofit hospital while they obtain the new licensing and permits to restart its operations. They say Gardens Regional Hospital’s lawyers closed the 137-bed hospital unnecessarily. (Stech, 2/21)

St. Louis Public Radio: Homer G. Phillips Hospital: ‘They Were Not Going To Be Treated As Second-Class Citizens’ 
In the first half of the 20th century, segregation touched virtually every part of American life. Black residents of St. Louis weren’t just barred from schools, lunch counters and drinking fountains reserved for whites. Even hospitals could refuse to admit black patients. But the hospitals that were built to serve African-American patients hold a special place in medical history. The facilities employed and trained thousands of black doctors and nurses. In St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital quickly became a trusted household name. Today marks the 80th anniversary of its dedication ceremony on Feb. 22, 1937. (Bouscaren, 2/22)

The Star Tribune: Minnesota Medical Professionals Work To Close Health Gaps For LGBT Patients 
[Deb] Thorp, medical director of the Park Nicollet Gender Services Clinic in Minneapolis, is taking part in a rare national conference next week to address health disparities among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She and other researchers say the LGBT community is more vulnerable to some diseases, and has poorer access to, and a lower quality of, health care compared with the general population — in part because of fear. (Shah, 2/21)

The Star Tribune: Minnesota Parents Lobby For Kids At ‘Dyslexia Day’ At State Capitol 
On Tuesday, the advocacy group’s annual rally spread across the Capitol rotunda, where several hundred parents and children called attention to a hidden disability that affects as many as one in 10 children. Dyslexia wasn’t even recognized as a specific learning disability by the Minnesota Department of Education until 2015. Children who spoke at Tuesday’s rally said they wished schools understood more. (Hopfensperger, 2/21)

St. Louis Public Radio: Chemical Companies To Pay $15 Million To Clean Up Sauget Superfund Site 
Four chemical companies could have to pay $14.8 million to clean up a federal Superfund site in Sauget. The settlement, which needs court approval, would address groundwater contamination, cap some of the waste and install a well monitoring system. Industrial waste has been dumped in six sites within the Sauget Area 1 Superfund from the 1930s until the 1980s. The Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the site since the early 1980s. (Chen, 2/21)

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Personal Tragedies A Driving Force For State Lawmakers Aiming To Combat Opioid Crisis

Many lawmakers across the country are motivated by the way their loved ones have been touched by the epidemic. “We’re all here because we have this empty void in our lives,” said Minnesota state Rep. Dave Baker, whose son started out taking prescription drugs for back pain and died of a heroin overdose in 2011. Media outlets report on the crisis out of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Georgia.

The Associated Press: State Lawmakers Channel Grief Into Fight Against Opioids
In statehouses across the country, lawmakers with loved ones who fell victim to drugs are leading the fight against the nation’s deadly opioid-abuse crisis, drawing on tragic personal experience to attack the problem. A Minnesota state senator whose daughter died of a heroin overdose in a Burger King parking lot — a friend hid the needles instead of calling for help — spearheaded a law that grants immunity to 911 callers. In Wisconsin, a state representative has introduced more than a dozen opioid-related bills in the years since his daughter went from painkillers to heroin to prison. A Pennsylvania lawmaker whose son is a recovering heroin addict championed a state law that expanded availability of an antidote that can reverse an overdose. (Potter, 2/21)

New Hampshire Union Leader: Ground Broken On Expanded Treatment Center In Manchester
City and state leaders marked a milestone in combating the opioid, heroin and fentanyl crisis with the ground-breaking Tuesday of an expanded treatment center and new recovery housing. The Families in Transition’s Family Willows Substance Use Treatment Center and Recovery Housing, located in the old Hoitt’s Furniture building on Wilson Street, is focused on one at-risk population: women, and mothers with children. It will provide treatment for an estimated 400 women annually, said Dick Anagnost, a businessman who is chairman of the Families in Transition board of directors. (Tuohy, 2/22)

Boston Globe: ‘Angel’ Opioid Initiative Thrives Despite Exit Of Gloucester Police Chief 
As Gloucester police chief, Leonard Campanello pledged in 2015 that drug users could walk into the police station, hand over heroin, and walk out into treatment within hours — without arrest or charges. The concept of help rather than handcuffs became a national sensation. But when Campanello left office in October, under fire for allegedly lying to city investigators probing complaints by two women against him, questions arose about the future of a program propelled in part by Campanello’s outsize personality. (MacQuarrie, 2/21)

Georgia Health News: House Health Panel Approves Needle Exchange Bill 
House Bill 161 is sponsored by state Rep. Betty Price, a physician. She is the wife of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who is also a physician and was until recently a U.S. congressman from Georgia. She backed a similar proposal last year. It was approved by the House but failed to get consideration in the state Senate. (Miller, 2/21)

Meanwhile, lawmakers want answers on drugs that are going missing at VA clinics —

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Urge VA To Explain Rising Cases Of Drug Theft
The heads of two congressional committees said Tuesday they want the Department of Veterans Affairs to better explain its efforts to stem drug theft and loss in light of rising cases of missing prescriptions and other unauthorized use at VA hospitals. Rep. Phil Roe, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said his panel had scheduled a hearing for Monday. The Associated Press reported last Monday on government data showing a sharp increase since 2009 in opioid theft and drugs that had simply disappeared at the VA. (Yen , 2/21)

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Texas Temporarily Blocked From Cutting Off Medicaid Funds For Planned Parenthood

The federal judge said the state did not provide credible evidence that the organization violated medical or ethical standards related to abortion procedures.

Houston Chronicle: Federal Judge Stops Texas From Kicking Planned Parenthood Out Of Medicaid
A federal judge on Tuesday stopped Texas officials from kicking Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program, providing a reprieve that will at least temporarily allow the organization to continue receiving reimbursements for providing non-abortion services to about 10,000 poor residents. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in a 42-page ruling that he was not swayed by the state’s explanation for the eviction – an undercover video that purported to show that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling the organs of aborted fetuses – and would not allow the move until and unless the state provides a better rationale at a full trial. (Rosenthal, 2/21)

The New York Times: Judge Blocks Medicaid Cuts To Planned Parenthood In Texas
A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked Texas from cutting off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, ruling the state had presented no credible evidence to support claims the organization violated medical or ethical standards related to abortion procedures.The ruling, a preliminary injunction issued by Sam Sparks, a United States District Court judge in the Western District of Texas, means that, for now, 30 health centers that serve about 12,500 Medicaid patients can continue to receive funding from the medical program that serves the poor. The case is set to go to trial, where the judge can rule on its merits. (Mele, 2/21)

The Associated Press: Judge Blocks Texas Cutting Medicaid To Planned Parenthood
An injunction issued by U.S. District Sam Sparks of Austin comes after he delayed making decision in January and essentially bought Planned Parenthood an extra month in the state’s Medicaid program. … Sparks’ decision preserves what Planned Parenthood says are cancer screenings, birth control access and other health services for nearly 11,000 low-income women at 30 clinics. Texas originally intended to boot Planned Parenthood in January but Sparks told the state to wait pending his ruling. Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have also had similar efforts blocked. (Weber, 2/21)

Dallas Morning News: Federal Judge Blocks Texas’ Move To Kick Planned Parenthood Out Of Medicaid
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a prepared statement that he will appeal the decision, which he said “is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency.” “Even the remains of the most vicious criminals are treated with respect,” Paxton said. “But the children who never had a chance at life become so-called medical waste or, alternatively, a commodity to be bartered for. No taxpayer in Texas should have to subsidize this repugnant and illegal conduct. We should never lose sight of the fact that, as long as abortion is legal in the United States, the potential for these types of horrors will continue.” (Mekelburg, 2/21)

The Hill: Judge Blocks Texas Plan To Cut Planned Parenthood Medicaid Funding 
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and state health officials first moved to cut Medicaid funding last year after controversial undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials surfaced. Anti-abortion groups claimed the recordings prove the organization is “harvesting” fetal tissue, while Planned Parenthood has denied allegations surrounding the videos. (Hensch, 2/21)

Meanwhile, in Virginia —

The Associated Press: McAuliffe Vetoes Bill Cutting Abortion Clinics’ Funding
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that would have restricted funding for Planned Parenthood clinics. The Democrat vetoed the measure Tuesday during an event outside the executive mansion. He vetoed the same measure last year and said Tuesday it would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on Planned Parenthood. (2/21)

Richmond Times Dispatch: McAuliffe Vetoes Bill That Would Defund Planned Parenthood 
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that would restrict Planned Parenthood from contracting with the state. The bill, sponsored by Del. Benjamin L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, passed the Senate last week on a 20-19 vote. It would prevent the Virginia Department of Health from providing funds to clinics that provide abortion services to women who are not covered by Medicaid. (Demeria, 2/21)

And a new regulation gains traction in the anti-abortion movement, but scientific evidence for the procedure is lacking —

The Associated Press: Experts: Science Behind ‘Abortion Reversal’ Is Flawed
Lawmakers in several states are considering requirements for doctors to inform women seeking medical abortions about an unproven procedure called “abortion reversal.” Doctors’ groups oppose the bills because of flawed science and ethical concerns. There is no evidence the procedure works and little information about its safety. The procedure involves shots of the hormone progesterone given if a woman changes her mind after the first step of a medical abortion. (Johnson, 2/22)

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Delays Still Plague Some Applications In Kansas For Medicaid’s Long-Term Care Coverage

The state has worked to clear up many other Medicaid backlogs, but applications for long-term care are often complicated and the decisions still lag, KCUR reports. Other outlets also report on Medicaid news in Minnesota and Colorado.

KCUR: For One Family, Move To Kansas Meant Medicaid Delays 
All that Michael Sykes has to show for his months-long quest to get his mother’s nursing home bed covered by Medicaid is a pile of paperwork. Kansans like Sykes have been facing long waits to find out if they qualify for health coverage under KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. The state has cleared up much of the backlog over the past year, but thousands of applications for long-term care coverage remain hung up. That has left applicants frustrated and forced nursing homes to absorb months of delayed payments. (Marso, 2/22)

KCUR: What’s The Matter With KanCare? Challenges On Four Fronts
KanCare is a $3 billion program that provides health insurance to more than 425,000 Kansans — complex and bureaucratic by its nature. And lately it seems the privatized Medicaid program has drawn more than its share of complaints from Kansas medical providers, beneficiaries and applicants. Some are the result of a switch in 2013 to management not by the state but instead by three private insurance companies, while others stem from court rulings or policymaker decisions. (Marso, 2/22)

The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune: Report Calls For Stronger Oversight Of Medicaid Spending For Disabled, Elderly 
Minnesota does not collect adequate information to monitor programs that spend more than $2 billion annually on care and services for the elderly and people with disabilities, according to a legislative auditor report released Tuesday. … However, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) does not provide adequate financial oversight of the organizations that provide the services, nor does it adequately regulate the workers who go into people’s homes, the report said. (Serres, 2/21)

Colorado Public Radio: Grand Junction Shows How To Lower Medicaid Costs While Improving Care
Medicaid provides health insurance for more than a million Coloradans, who comprise about a fifth of the state population. Medicaid is also one of the largest parts of the state budget, and costs rise each year. That spurred lawmakers to support an experiment by a health care collaborative in the Western Slope, Rocky Mountain Health Plans. … Patrick Gordon, associate vice president at Rocky Mountain Health Plans, spoke to Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. (2/21)

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State Highlights: Ind. House Panel To Revisit Controversial ‘Abortion Reversal’ Bill; Mich. Whooping Cough Cases On The Rise

Outlets report on news from Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Texas and California.

Detroit Free Press: Whooping Cough Cases Keep Climbing In Michigan
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is on the rise in Michigan. The number of cases this year has surpassed 100  and continues to climb, according to preliminary data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Oakland County Health Department. In 2016, there were about 448 cases of whooping cough in the state. In Oakland County last month, there were 31 confirmed and probable cases of the vaccine-preventable disease, compared with four cases in January 2016. (2/17)

The CT Mirror: Insurance Coverage Mandates Would Face More Analysis Under Malloy Proposal 
Patients who testify in support of proposed benefit mandates often share stories about struggles they faced getting needed care or medications. And critics warn legislators that adding mandates increases the cost of insurance premiums. In some cases, they also take issue with the merits of the particular service being considered for mandatory coverage. (Levin Becker, 2/20)

Chicago Tribune: School Workers In State Must Know How To Handle Asthma Crises, New Law Says
Under the new legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August, all school personnel who work with students must be trained to handle asthma emergencies. School districts must adopt an emergency response protocol for asthma — similar to those used in the case of anaphylaxis or fire. And every child with asthma must have a written “asthma action plan” on file at the school to allow the most efficient and helpful treatment when needed. “Asthma has been a chronic problem for a long time; it did not just rear its ugly head,” said Maureen Damitz, spokeswoman for the Illinois Asthma Consortium which lobbied to get the law passed. “But I think people are more aware that we need to change something.” (Healy, 2/20)

The Associated Press: Doctor-Lawmaker Tries To Restrict Smoking In Tobacco Country
When Dr. Ralph Alvarado was elected to the Kentucky state Senate in 2014, he found his new colleagues had something in common with most of his patients: They knew smoking was bad, they just couldn’t quit. For more than two years, Alvarado has led the effort to restrict smoking in a state with the highest smoking rate in the country. (2/19)

Orlando Sentinel: New Emergency Medical Campaign Aims To Save Lives
Community leaders on Monday announced the launch of a new campaign that they hope will teach bystanders how to intervene during the first crucial minutes to prevent injured people from bleeding to death. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer joined other medical leaders at Orlando Regional Medical Center to promote the national initiative. A person can bleed to death from a serious injury within five to 10 minutes, said Joseph Ibrahim, the trauma medical director. (Russon, 2/20)

WFAA: Doctor Convicted Of Botched Surgery Gets Life Sentence
Life in prison. Those were the words that Christopher Duntsch never wanted to hear. And the words that his patients and their families desperately wanted to hear. The one-time neurosurgeon was sentenced by the 12-member jury to spend the remainder of his life behind bars Monday afternoon. (Eiserer, 2/21)

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Mercy And St. Anthony’s Enter Affiliation Agreement
Mercy and St. Anthony’s Medical Center have entered into an affiliation agreement, hospital officials said Monday. While details of the agreement are still being hashed out, Mercy has agreed to a “substantial capital commitment” at St. Anthony’s, Winthrop Reed, vice chair of St. Anthony’s board, told the Post-Dispatch. For St. Anthony’s, the agreement means one of the last remaining independent hospitals in the St. Louis area will become part of a much-larger health care system. For Chesterfield-based Mercy, with 43 hospitals in four states, the move grows its market share in St. Louis, where it already has four hospitals. (Liss, 2/21)

Arizona Republic: Bleeding, Talking Mannequins Prep Health-Care Workers For Patient Crisis
Volunteers and anatomically correct mannequins that bleed, breathe and talk helped health-care professionals strengthen their lifesaving skills recently in Phoenix. Seventy-five health professionals participated in the intensive two-day training that simulated patients in crisis at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix Center for Simulation and Innovation. (Borgelt, 2/20)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Report: Northeast Ohio Ranks Fourth In Midwest Biomedical Investments
Last year was a big one for the biomedical industry in the Midwest. In the first half of 2016, healthcare startups in the Midwest brought in a record-breaking $1.04 billion. By the end of the year, Midwest healthcare startups brought in $1.7 billion. And Cleveland is near the top of the Midwest, according to a report from BioEnterprise, a Northeast Ohio biomedical business accelerator. Cleveland brought in $198 million dollars in biomedical investments last year, just behind Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis. (Bamforth, 2/20)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Disabled Ludlow Teen’s Death From Bedsores, Neglect ‘Makes No Sense’
There was just no holding him back, Terrie Collins-Laytart said last week just days after Joey [Bishop]’s mother and grandparents were charged with manslaughter in his death. The neglect, charges allege, was so severe it led to bed sores that pumped toxins through Joey’s body eventually killing him. The case has seasoned investigators shaking their heads and wondering – like Collins-Laytart – how the 18-year-old became a prisoner in the Ludlow home he shared with his mother and grandparents, why no one seemed to know he lived there and what could have been done to protect him. (Graves and Vogel, 2/20)

Miami Herald: UM’s New LGBTQ Clinic Focuses On Transgender Patients 
UM opened its LGBTQ center in January to serve the needs of the growing population. The new clinic brings together specialists in urology, endocrinology and psychiatry, as well as a team of surgeons to accompany the patient into the operating room. [Christopher] Salgado and other doctors can even perform multiple surgeries on a patient simultaneously, so after a marathon session the patient can emerge with everything done at once. (Harris, 2/20)

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In Midst Of Raging Opioid Epidemic, Some Turn To Marijuana As Alternative Pain Reliever

A 2016 study found that states with medical marijuana laws had 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than states that do not have medical marijuana laws. Some remain cautious about swapping one drug for another. Media outlets also report more on the crisis out of Maryland, Montana, Ohio, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Stateline: Can Marijuana Ease The Opioid Epidemic?
Nationwide, an estimated 1.4 million patients in 28 states and the District of Columbia use legal medical marijuana for a varying list of conditions. A much smaller number of patients in 16 states use limited extracts of the plant, primarily to treat seizure disorders. In the midst of an opioid crisis, some medical practitioners and researchers believe that greater use of marijuana for pain relief could result in fewer people using the highly addictive prescription painkillers that led to the epidemic. (Vestal, 2/21)

The Baltimore Sun: Number Of Maryland Babies Born With Drugs In Their System Growing 
Hospitals throughout the state are dealing with a sharp increase in the number of babies born exposed to drugs as the opioid epidemic grows and ensnares the youngest victims while they’re still in the womb. These newborns suffer tremors, have trouble feeding and are not easily comforted — all signs of drug withdrawal. The number of babies born in Maryland with opiates, alcohol, narcotics or other drugs in their systems has increased 56.6 percent in the last nine years to 1,419 cases in 2015, the latest numbers available. (McDaniels, 2/17)

Cincinnati Enquirer: A Jail Where Women Go Willingly To Break Heroin’s Grip
These half-dozen women, ages 18 to 38, are in jail for six months each. But they all want to be here. And once their sentences are over, they will continue being helped for as many as two more years with their addiction recovery. Welcome to the Recovery Unit of the Campbell County jail, a new addition, fashioned by social worker Kristie Blanchet, the jail’s new chemical dependency program manager. (DeMio, 2/20)

The Baltimore Sun: Doctors Are Using Alternatives To Addictive Opioids To Help Patients Deal With Pain 
The change in procedures is occurring as doctors face pressure to prescribe fewer opioids and other narcotics that can lead to addiction in some patients. Opioid addiction is fueling what’s become a nationwide heroin epidemic as addicts turn to the cheaper, more readily available street drug. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced earlier this month that it was instituting new rules for prescribing opioids to Medicaid patients that would force doctors to consider alternative painkillers, start with low doses and better screen patients for risk of abusing prescription drugs. The new rules also encourage doctors to refer more addicted patients to treatment. (McDaniels, 2/18)

NPR: Drugs Should Be A Last Resort To Treat Acute Lower Back Pain
Most of us suffer back pain at some point in our lives. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many of us also probably reach for medication. Now, new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say try exercise, yoga, or massage first. That’s a pretty big change for both doctors and patients, but a welcome one, some doctors say. (Neighmond, 2/20)

NH Times Union: Sununu, HHS Commissioner Detail Their Plan To Combat Opioid Crisis 
Gov. Chris Sununu and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers detailed their multi-prong strategy Friday to make use of $6.3 million in federal grants over the next two years to fight the opioid epidemic. State officials have already learned this is what New Hampshire should expect to receive under the 21st Century Cures Act that Congress passed late last year. Federal officials have to approve the applications of each state for how to use their money. (2/18)

The Star Tribune: Could Mandatory Database Curb Opioid Abuse? 
Doctors would be required to check up on most patients before prescribing opioid painkillers under a legislative proposal that will get a warm reception at a Capitol rally on Tuesday. From there, it may face a tougher reception from physicians who view it as overkill and a crimp on their ever-shrinking amount of time to treat patients. But national research suggests that requiring physicians to check state registries of patients’ drug histories can help curb the painkiller epidemic by identifying patients who are abusing opioids and “shopping” among doctors for prescriptions. (Olson, 2/20)

Richmond Times Dispatch: Va. Board Creates New Opioid Prescription Guidelines 
Virginia’s Board of Medicine has approved new emergency regulations that will give it authority to specifically regulate the prescribing of opioids for pain. The board’s decision was made in response to the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Opioids are a type of drug that includes both prescription painkillers and illicit drugs such as heroin. (Demeria, 2/20)

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Kansas Committee Narrowly Tables Bill To Expand Medicaid, Likely Dooming The Effort

After three days of testimony, the House committee was prepared to vote when one member called for putting the bill aside until the legislature finds out how the state Supreme Court rules in a school case that could be expensive for the state.

Kansas City Star: Medicaid Expansion Falls In Kansas House Panel, Likely Done For Year
Republicans and Democrats on the panel listened to three days of testimony on the proposal to expand coverage of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. After debating the bill Monday afternoon, lawmakers were primed to vote on the legislation and consider moving it to the House floor for further discussion. That failed to happen after Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican, asked the panel to set the bill aside until April 3. Barker cited anxiety about the possible cost of an upcoming decision by the Kansas Supreme Court in a school finance case. (Woodall, 2/20)

Wichita (Kan.) Eagle: ‘It’s Dead’: Medicaid Expansion Tabled In Kansas Committee
Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, asked to table the bill until April 3 or later to allow the Kansas Supreme Court more time to make its school finance ruling that could obligate the state to spend millions of dollars more on K-12 education. He called the impending ruling the “big elephant in the room.” “We could get a decision next week,” Barker said. “And then what are we going to do?” (Salazar, 2/20)

Topeka Capital Journal: Kansas House Committee Kills Medicaid Expansion Proposal In 9-8 Vote
A new contingent of moderate Republican and Democratic lawmakers backing expansion had raised the hopes of supporters. Some believe expansion could pass the House if put up to a vote. But President Donald Trump’s White House victory and the ascendance of congressional Republicans determined to repeal the Affordable Care Act has scrambled the Medicaid expansion discussion in Kansas and other states. Expansion opponents argue it will soon be a thing of the past, while supporters say expansion would put Kansas in a better position if the federal government converts Medicaid into a block grant program. (Shorman, 2/20)

Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World: Kansas House Panel Tables Medicaid Expansion Bill Over Objections Of Hospital Supporters
State Medicaid officials estimated the expansion would have cost the state about $52 million a year once fully implemented, and that it would bring in nearly $1 billion in federal health care money. Supporters of the expansion said that money could help save many small hospitals in the state that are struggling financially because the state hasn’t expanded Medicaid. (Hancock, 2/20)

KCUR: House Committee Votes To Sideline KanCare Expansion Bill 
Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, said the move to table deceived new legislators, who may not have understood they were killing the bill. “I’m just speechless because it was such an underhanded move,” she said. Kansas limits eligibility for Medicaid to children, pregnant women, people with severe disabilities and parents earning less than a third of the federal poverty line, or about $9,200 annually for a four-person family. (Wingerter, 2/20)

And in other Kansas news —

KCUR: KU Economists: Medicaid Expansion May Have Reduced ‘Medical Divorces’ 
The Affordable Care Act has been credited – and blamed – for lots of things, but lowering the divorce rate generally hasn’t been one of them. Not until now, anyway. A paper co-authored by two KU economists suggests that states that expanded Medicaid saw fewer so-called medical divorces than states, like Kansas and Missouri, that didn’t expand Medicaid. How so? Used to be Medicaid had an asset limit. The program’s income eligibility requirements limited the maximum amount of assets and income individuals could possess. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, did away with the asset requirement. (Margolies, 2/20)

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The Uncertainty Of Future Medicaid Policies Rattles Many Who Want Coverage

Two articles about very different circumstances — a young child adopted out of foster care and a woman who was disabled after a work accident — point to the interest in the debate in Washington about the federal-state program that provides coverage for low-income residents.

Stat: A Boy Who Can’t Speak Depends On Medicaid. What Happens To Him If It’s Cut?
As the Rankins recast their lives as parents of a medically demanding infant, one reassurance was that Nathaniel’s health care would be covered; as an adopted foster child, he could stay on the state’s Medicaid program. The Rankins would have to monitor Nathaniel’s many health problems, but they wouldn’t have to worry about whether they could afford to do so. Now, though, the Rankins don’t feel so reassured. (Joseph, 2/21)

Salt Lake Tribune: Caught In Utah’s Medicaid Expansion Limbo: Homeless Woman Wants To ‘Try To Be Happy Again’
Kimberly Fox rolled her wheelchair through the hallways of the Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City last month, reflecting on the events of the past decade that left her homeless and alone. She used to be a photographer at a glossy magazine in Baltimore. She used to manage a record store. She used to be a productive member of society, she said. But when Fox, now 53, tripped on a pile of paint supplies in 2002 while working in a Baltimore shipyard, the fall wrecked her foot and her ability to work along with it. … Just a few months ago, there was hope that Fox would get health insurance coverage from Medicaid this year. (Stuckey, 2/20)

Meanwhile, Ohio’s governor and the Tennessee legislature respond to the debate in Washington, too —

The Hill: Kasich: House GOP Medicaid Plan ‘Very Bad Idea’
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Sunday criticized the House Republicans’ plan to phase out ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid. “I’m in Munich, but I understand that there was an initial effort by House Republicans to, for example, phase out Medicaid expansion, which means phasing out coverage,” Kasich said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That is a very, very bad idea, because we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable. We can give them the coverage, reform the program, save some money and make sure that we live in a country where people are going to say, ‘At least somebody is looking out for me.’” (Sullivan, 2/19)

Nashville Tennessean: Bill Would Smooth Tennessee Pursuit For Medicaid Block Grant If D.C. Signals OK
A new bill in the state legislature would help pave the way for Tennessee to pursue a Medicaid block grant if the incoming federal administration moves in that direction. The bill, SB0118 filed by Sen. Richard Briggs, would allow the Division of Health Care Finance and Administration to expand TennCare to include people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line if President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress move toward fewer federal regulations and block grants for Medicaid. Under a block grant, the state would get some fixed level of funding to provide care for eligible Medicaid enrollees. (Fletcher, 2/17)

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Viewpoints: GOP Health Plan Runs Contrary To Robin Hood’s Rules By Redirecting Funding From Poor To Rich; The Town Hall Duck And Run

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Trump’s Toxicity Has Republicans Running Away From Their Constituents
As recent town-hall meetings of GOP Reps. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Diane Black of Tennessee and others turn into well-publicized tongue-lashings, their colleagues are ducking and running. … The scene is reminiscent of the tea party summer of 2009, but the energy is on the other side this time. Now, as then, the victims say the perpetrators are outsiders – Chaffetz said those who protested him included “paid” people from out of state, an echo of Nancy Pelosi’s claim of “astroturfing” – but now, as then, the anger is real. (Dana Milbank, 2/15)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Tries To Save Obamacare Exchanges While Undermining Them
With the drive to “repeal and replace” Obamacare losing steam, the Trump administration quietly moved to shore up a key feature of the healthcare law this week: the state exchanges where people shop for non-group coverage. And to its credit, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services zeroed in on some of the factors that have led a handful of major insurers to leave the exchanges. (Jon Healey, 2/16)

Bloomberg: A Sign That Obamacare Exchanges Are Failing
Yet more bad news for Obamacare this week: Molina Healthcare lost $110 million on the exchanges last year, and the CEO told investors, “There are simply too many unknowns with the marketplace program to commit to our participation beyond 2017.” At first glance, it’s hard to see why this piece of news is worth worrying about. UnitedHealth recently projected several times those losses, and it’s a bigger player on the exchanges. Why spend so much time looking at one modest-size insurer? Because Molina is one of the companies that has been repeatedly pointed to, by virtually every health-care-policy wonk in the business, as one of the “bright spots” on the exchanges. (Megan McArdle, 2/16)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Adjusting Risk Adjustment — Accounting For Variation In Diagnostic Intensity
In the U.S. health care system, payments and performance measures are often adjusted to account for differences in patients’ baseline health and demographic characteristics. The idea behind such risk adjustments is to create a level playing field, so that providers aren’t penalized for serving sicker or harder-to-treat patients and insurers aren’t penalized for covering them. For example, the private insurance companies that participate in Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges receive risk-adjusted payments from the U.S. government, with the rationale that insurers should be reimbursed more for enrollees with higher expected costs. (Amy Finkelstein, Matthew Gentzkow, Peter Hull and Heidi Williams, 2/16)

RealClear Health: A Small HSA Fix Could Produce Big Results
As Congress and the Trump administration begin laying the foundation for their replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), their starting point should be ensuring all Americans have a ready path for enrollment in health insurance that, at a minimum, provides protection against major medical expenses. They should also promote broadened enrollment in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as an important means for paying for care before insurance coverage kicks in. (James C. Capretta, 2/17)

Louisville Courier-Journal: Demand For Medicaid Waivers Exceeds Funds
The “most vulnerable of our society” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. Politicians employ it in speeches and press releases to describe constituents who cannot take care of themselves. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities fall under this banner of protection. (Amanda Beam, 2/16)

Sacramento Bee: California Provides Model To Replace The Affordable Care Act
The new administration and Congress are under intense pressure to craft a market-based alternative to the Affordable Care Act. It won’t be easy. To achieve the financial stability required to make the market work, reformers should heed some important lessons from California. Health plans and risk-taking medical groups essentially made a “deal” with Congress to participate in the ACA. They agreed to cover applicants with pre-existing conditions without charging higher premiums in return for: an expanded individual market driven by a federal mandate that everyone buy insurance; premium and cost-sharing subsidies financed by insurers and the government; and three federal risk-mitigation programs to help stabilize the new marketplaces. (Leonard D. Schaeffer and Dana Goldman, 2/14)

Orange County Register: California Job Losses From Obamacare Repeal? Fear Not!
Obamacare was a cash cow for providers, which now argue it was a program for jobs and economic growth. They now say that repealing Obamacare will kill California jobs. That grabs any politician’s attention, but it is not true. According to a study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, which is promoted by the California Hospital Association, “The majority (135,000) of these lost jobs would be in the health care industry, including at hospitals, doctor offices, labs, outpatient and ambulatory care centers, nursing homes, dentist offices, other health care settings and insurers. (John R. Graham, 2/16)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Boost Funding To An Ohio Foster Care System Increasingly Burdened By The Opioid Crisis
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been in the thick of the battle against deadly opioids, signing a bill this year to tighten restrictions on prescription opioids, speaking at conferences about heroin and even sending an Ohio Highway Patrol superintendent in April to Trumbull County after beleaguered officials there begged for help in quelling a rising tide of opioid overdoses and deaths. (2/17)

The Des Moines Register: A Second Chance To Pass Aid-In-Dying Bills
In a Gallup Poll conducted May 4-8, 2016, respondents were asked: “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life by some painless means if the patient and his or her family request it?” Sixty-nine percent of respondents answered yes. (John S. Westefeld, 2/16)

Lexington Herald Leader: Whooping Cough Making A Comeback
In the past few weeks, there have been several confirmed cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in Fayette County schools and other surrounding counties. Many parents are concerned about exposure and have questions about preventing pertussis infection or recognizing symptoms. (Jessica Murray, 2/16)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Addressing The Fentanyl Threat To Public Health
Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, poses an increasing public health threat. Low production costs encourage suppliers to “cut” heroin with the drug, particularly white powder heroin sold in the eastern United States. Fentanyl also appears as a prevalent active ingredient in counterfeit OxyContin (oxycodone) tablets. The result is that fentanyl plays a major role in rising mortality due to heroin or opioid overdose. It poses a serious overdose risk because it can rapidly suppress respiration and cause death more quickly than do other opioids. (Richard G. Frank and Harold A. Pollack, 2/16)

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State Highlights: Ga. Senate Panel Amends But OKs Surprise Medical Bill Measure; Conn. Non-Profit Hospitals Fight Bid To Make Them Pay Local Property Taxas

Outlets report on news from Georgia, Connecticut, Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio and Louisiana.

Georgia Health News: After Tweak In Payment Formula, Senate Committee OKs Remedy For ‘Surprise’ Billing
A Georgia Senate panel Thursday passed legislation to halt ‘’surprise’’ medical billing – but not without a last-minute amendment that changed the contentious payment formula. The Health and Human Services Committee approved Senate Bill 8, which will address those situations in which patients get unexpected bills from providers who are not in their network, even though the hospital is a network facility. (Miller, 2/16)

The CT Mirror: CT Hospitals Launch TV Ad To Protest New Tax Proposal
Connecticut’s hospital industry launched a new television ad Thursday to protest Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to end nonprofit hospitals’ exemption from local property taxation. The Connecticut Hospital Association announced the commercial will air starting today on network and cable television stations, and also can be seen at http://nomorehospitaltax.org. The commercial opens by listing a variety of occupations and one common thread among the people in all of them: they all pay a price when taxes rise on Connecticut hospitals. (Phaneuf, 2/16)

The CT Mirror: Budget Cuts Cost CT Medical Examiner’s Office Full Accreditation 
The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has lost its full accreditation and was downgraded to provisional status because of staffing and facility shortcomings driven largely by budget cuts. The National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), which ordered the downgrade, will reassess Connecticut’s status in September, the state office announced this week. (Phaneuf, 2/16)

The Star Tribune: Report On Minnesota Hospital Errors Sees Problems With Lost Tissue Samples 
The misplacing of irreplaceable biological specimens has proved to be a vexing problem for Minnesota hospitals, which reported 31 instances in the 12 months that ended last Oct. 6. The state’s 13th annual report on hospital “adverse events,” released Thursday, included 336 reportable mistakes, including operations on the wrong body parts and disabling medication errors. But few were as common as lost tissue samples, which also can have serious consequences. (Olson, 2/17)

KCUR: House Committee OKs Involuntary Hold Plan For Kansans In Mental Health Crisis 
A bill that would allow treatment centers to detain Kansans in mental health crisis for up to three days moved forward Thursday after months of work to develop a compromise. A similar bill proposed last year raised concerns that it would deprive Kansans with mental illnesses of their due process rights. A committee of law enforcement officers, treatment providers, mental health advocates and others met six times between legislative sessions to come up with a compromise bill that still fulfilled the original goal of providing short-term mental health care. (Wingerter, 2/17)

Stat: Texas Board Recommends Sanctions Against Stanislaw Burzynski
Along-running battle between the Texas Medical Board and controversial Houston doctor Stanislaw Burzynski could be coming to a head. The board said this week that it had proposed $380,000 in fines and a stiff set of sanctions for Burzynski’s failure to adhere to proper medical procedures in treating cancer patients. The decision is preliminary, and will be submitted and formally reviewed on March 3. (Tedeshci, 2/16)

Boston Globe: For This Hospital Chaplain, Work Is A Matter Of Life And Death 
As [Alyssa] Adreani, 41, likes to point out, [she] isn’t hanging out in the Newton hospital’s chapel and doesn’t wear a collar or a cross. She makes the rounds of the neonatal intensive care unit, oncology, ICU, orthopedics, and medical/surgical units, following her personal Golden Rule of chaplaincy: “Wear comfortable shoes.” The Globe spoke with Adreani about how hospital chaplains are considered part of the treatment team, sometimes even improving health outcomes. (Atoji Keene, 2/16)

Seattle Times: State Regulators Investigating Swedish’s Cherry Hill Hospital, Top Surgeon 
State health regulators have launched an investigation into the practices of Swedish Health Services’ Cherry Hill hospital, days after a Seattle Times report uncovered wide-ranging concerns about patient care at the facility. David Johnson, a spokesman with the state Department of Health, said Thursday a case-management team authorized the new investigation after reviewing The Seattle Times’ findings. Johnson added that the state Medical Commission, which handles issues involving specific doctors, was in the process of investigating complaints filed against Dr. Johnny Delashaw. (Baker, 2/16)

Arizona Republic: New Flu-Tracking App Uses Maricopa County As Beta Site
A California-based health diagnostics company has chosen Maricopa County as the pilot testing site for Communidy, a free web app that allows users to see the age and county of people who currently have the flu. The app, which displays real-time data from doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics and labs, may encourage people to get vaccinated early, said Machrina Leach, nurse program manager at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. (Bosch and Jha, 2/16)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: United Community Center Opens Third Residential Treatment Facility
This month, the United Community Center, commonly known as UCC, opened its third residential treatment facility for people working to overcome alcoholism and drug addictions. The $1.1 million residence, named Latinas Unidas II, will enable 16 more women to participate in UCC’s residential treatment program at any given time. The new residence, UCC’s second for women, also will treat women who are pregnant or who have infant children, and the program will include prenatal and post-partum care, child care coordination and parenting classes. (Boulton, 2/16)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Summa Health Gift Establishes Traumatic Stress Chair 
Longtime philanthropists Jim and Vanita Oelschlager have donated more than $4 million to Summa Heath over the last three decades. This week, couple’s foundation provided another donation to Summa Health to establish a Chair in Traumatic Stress. Dr. Patrick Palmieri, director of the Traumatic Stress Center, will serve as the first Oelschlager Chair. As director of the Summa Health Traumatic Stress Center, Palmieri is responsible for the center’s clinical, training and research activities for patients experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. (Becka, 2/16)

Health News Florida: Students Discover Lead In Tap Water May Be Common In Older Homes 
Last semester, the students in Laura Manke’s community cares class embarked on a project, collecting samples of tap water from their homes.  And testing provided by University of South Florida researchers revealed that all of the 46 samples contained lead.Fortunately, the amount of lead in the water in their homes fell below levels that would trigger action under Environmental Protection Agency standards. But experts, including the EPA, say any amount of lead is not good for the body, especially in children under six. Damage can be permanent. (Ochoa, 2/16)

Pioneer Press: Forest Lake Nurse Avoids Jail Time For Stealing Patient’s Medication
A Forest Lake nurse who pretended to check on a patient so he could steal the man’s medication evaded jail time for the offense. Gregory Thomas Welcher, 30, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court Thursday to five years probation on one count of felony-level theft. He also was ordered to spend one day in jail, but was given credit for the day he already logged at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility. Welcher pleaded guilty to the charge this past December. (Horner, 2/16)

Shreveport Times: Workshop Lets Caregivers Take Care Of Themselves
Social workers seeking a moment of rest from careers steeped in others’ suffering participated in a free “Compassion Fatigue” workshop on Thursday. The workshop, presented by the Noel Memorial United Methodist Church’s arts program, aimed at offering those who take care of others a chance to center and to take care of themselves. (Talamo, 2/16)

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U.S. Urged China To Crack Down On Synthetic Opioids Killing Hundreds Here

China is believed to be a major source for bootleg opioids, including the potent carfentanil, that are brought into the U.S. and contribute to the painkiller epidemic. In related news on the crisis, Georgia lawmakers consider regulations for opioid treatment centers.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Authorities Pressed China For Action On Deadly Opioid
China’s crackdown on an extremely potent synthetic narcotic came amid pressure from U.S. authorities and evidence linking it to hundreds of U.S. overdose deaths since it first emerged in Ohio in July. The drug, carfentanil, has been connected to at least 700 fatalities in states including Ohio, Michigan and Florida, according to data compiled by The Wall Street Journal from county medical examiners and NMS Labs, a private laboratory outside Philadelphia that performs toxicology testing for counties around the U.S. (Kamp and Campo-Flores, 2/17)

WABE: Ga. Lawmakers Look To Tighten Regulations On Opioid Clinics 
Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would further regulate opioid treatment centers in the state. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, would put into place new requirements for those wanting to open up centers in Georgia. The centers offer medical-assisted treatment and counseling to help treat patients with addictions to heroin and other opioids. (Yu, 2/16)

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Kansas Committee Expected To Take First Vote On Medicaid Expansion Today

The issue has been swatted down repeatedly since the health law went into effect, but after moderates ousted several conservatives in last fall’s elections, a legislative panel is scheduled to vote on a measure today. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, says it will be close. News outlets also report on Medicaid developments in Ohio, Alabama and California.

KCUR (Kansas City, Mo., Public Radio): Close Vote Expected On KanCare Expansion Bill 
Kansas lawmakers are getting ready to do something they have never done before: vote on a Medicaid expansion bill. For the past three years, conservative Republicans who controlled the Legislature refused to allow a vote on the issue. Things are different this session due to the ouster of several conservative incumbents by moderate Republican and Democratic challengers. (McLean, 2/16)

Toledo Blade: After Expansion, Medicaid Attracts More Older Men
Those enrolled in Ohio’s expanded Medicaid program in partnership with the federal Affordable Care Act turned out to be older than expected. Barbara Sears, Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid director and former state representative from Monclova Township, said Thursday she was a little surprised to see how the population skewed older. “But when we knew we weren’t getting the younger folks into the [federal Obamacare private insurance] marketplace, we knew they probably weren’t getting into [the Medicaid expansion],” she said after speaking to the legislative Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee. (Provance, 2/16)

Modern Healthcare: Alabama Could Lose Medicaid Funding For Allegedly Rejecting Eligible Enrollees
The CMS may cut Alabama’s Medicaid funding after learning state officials reject people eligible for Medicaid coverage if they are found to have engaged in fraud or abuse but were never convicted of any criminal act. The CMS said Alabama officials also had a practice of recouping funds from these individuals. Alabama has said it is simply trying to take action against those who lie on their applications about having been previously accused of criminal activity. (Dickson, 2/16)

California Healthline: Some Immigrants, Fearful Of Political Climate, Shy Away From Medi-Cal
Some foreign-born Californians are canceling their Medi-Cal coverage or declining to enroll in the first place, citing fears of a Trump administration crackdown on immigrants. Among those dropping coverage are people in the country legally but concerned about jeopardizing family members who lack permanent legal status, according to government officials, immigration attorneys and health care advocates. (Bazar, 2/16)

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Viewpoints: Will The IRS Do In Obamacare Or Is The Sweeping Health Law Here To Stay Despite Attack?

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Reality Dawns: Obamacare Might Be Here To Stay
The burgeoning crisis over President Trump’s and former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s connections to Russia makes the already difficult task of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act even more confounding for Republicans, who won the White House and both houses of Congress based on unrealistic expectations about an as-yet-unidentified replacement plan. (Jennifer Rubin, 2/15)

Bloomberg: A Rough 24 Hours For Obamacare
The last 24 hours have been one long string of bad news for Obamacare. Tuesday, the insurer Humana announced that it would be pulling out of the exchanges for next year. Then we found out that the IRS had responded to Trump’s executive order on Obamacare by quietly rolling back a new rule planned for this year, which would have required filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or to pay a penalty. And on Wednesday, word came that Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, had told a Wall Street Journal conference that Obamacare was in a death spiral. This stands in pretty stark contrast to claims by Andy Slavitt, who ran the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, that things were shaping up splendidly for 2018, so long as Republicans didn’t screw anything up. (Megan McArdle, 2/15)

Los Angeles Times: Trump’s IRS Stages A Stealth Attack On Obamacare
The Internal Revenue Service has become the first agency to follow President Trump’s directive to start undermining the Affordable Care Act. In a quiet rule change, but an important one, the IRS has told tax preparers and software firms that it won’t automatically reject tax returns that fail to state whether the tax filer had health insurance during the year. That effectively loosens enforcement of the ACA’s individual mandate. It appears to be a direct response to Trump’s Jan. 20 executive order requiring federal agencies “minimize … the economic and regulatory burdens of the Act.” (Michael Hiltzik, 2/15)

The New York Times: Now You Can Do Your Taxes Without Filling Out The Insurance Question
If you want to keep your health insurance status a secret from the I.R.S., the Trump administration just made it a little easier. The policy change, confirmed by the I.R.S. on Wednesday after elements were reported by the libertarian magazine Reason, does not do away with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans who can afford it obtain health insurance or pay a fine. But it might make it a little harder for the I.R.S. to figure out who is breaking the rules. (Margot Sanger-Katz, 2/15)

Forbes: 4 Ways GOP Medicare Reform Plan Will Hurt You
Now that Tom Price has been confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services, it’s time to examine what he has in store for Medicare. He backs “premium support,” which is the GOP’s backdoor plan to privatize the system. Although GOP leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan have said that privatization is the only way to save Medicare — it’s not — there are some dangerous drawbacks for retirees. (John Wasik, 2/15)

RealClear Health: High Risk Pools Solve The Problem Of Preexisting Conditions
One reason health insurance premiums exploded under the Affordable Care Act is the law’s requirement that health insurers accept anyone who applied for individual coverage, known as guaranteed issue. The provision destroys an insurance market because it allows people to wait until a medical incident has occurred to get coverage. (Merrill Matthews and Mark Litow, 2/16)

JAMA: Medical Liability Reform In A New Political Environment
The election of President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled US Congress may once again thrust medical liability reform into the health care debate. One likely policy solution to be advocated for is to place a cap on noneconomic damages that plaintiffs can recover through lawsuits. This policy proposal is part of the GOP’s A Better Way health care platform and has been part of previous Republican proposals to limit medical malpractice torts despite concerns that federal medical liability reform, by preempting state laws, may potentially weaken successful state regulation in some cases. (Anand Parekh and G. William Hoagland, 2/15)

Bloomberg: The Big Abortion Question For Gorsuch
If the U.S. Supreme Court were to reverse Roe v. Wade, individual states could still permit abortion. But, in theory, the Supreme Court could go further, and rule that laws permitting abortion violate the equal protection rights of unborn fetuses. That may seem far-fetched — but in his book on assisted suicide and euthanasia, Judge Neil Gorsuch lays out an argument that could easily be used to this end. (Noah Feldman, 2/16)

JAMA: Should The Definition Of Health Include A Measure Of Tolerance?
In 1948 the World Health Organization officially defined health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The definition has remained unchanged for more than 60 years. When it was adopted, tools to measure health did not exist. Indeed, it was decades before a comprehensive set of tools to measure physical, mental, and social well-being were developed. (Robert H. Brook, 2/14)

The New York Times: Congress Says, Let The Mentally Ill Buy Guns
For all their dysfunction, the Republican Senate and House have managed to act with lightning speed in striking down a sensible Obama administration rule designed to stop people with severe mental problems from buying guns. President Trump, who championed the National Rifle Association agenda as a candidate, is expected to sign the regressive measure. This, despite the Republican mantra that tighter control of mentally troubled individuals — not stronger gun control — is the better way to deal with the mass shootings and gun carnage that regularly afflict the nation. (2/15)

The Wichita Eagle: Statewide Health Plan Could Cost Wichita Teachers
One promising idea in a state efficiency study was having school districts join a statewide health insurance plan. But as a new audit found, such a move is complicated and would not save as much money as previously suggested. What’s more, a big share of the potential savings would be cost shifts to schoolteachers, especially in Wichita. In fact, 40 percent of the projected savings would come from shifting costs to teachers and other district employees. And of the $25 million in net cost shifts statewide, nearly $24 million would come from Wichita school district employees. (2/16)

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State Highlights: Surprise Medical Bill Measure Progresses In Ariz. Legislature; Conn. Claims One Of The Lowest Rates Of Uninsurance Naitonally

Outlets report on news from Arizona, Connecticut, California, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Arizona Republic: Arizona Lawmakers Propose Relief For Consumers From Unexpected Medical Bills
Health-care consumers who have been stung by surprise medical bills might soon find some relief from an unexpected source: the Arizona Legislature. The problem occurs when a consumer seeks care after checking to be sure a doctor, clinic or hospital is part of their insurance company’s network — only to be billed later by out-of-network providers such as anesthesiologists or surgical assistants who were part of the chain of care. That can sometimes result in a whopping medical tab, with the consumer caught between an insurance company that doesn’t want to pay more and a medical provider who refuses to accept less. (Alltucker, 2/15)

The CT Mirror: CT Uninsured Rate Among Lowest In The Country, Report Says
Connecticut had one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents in the country last year, according to estimates from a federal survey released this week. The estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, released by the National Center for Health Statistics, pegged Connecticut’s uninsured rate at 3.5 percent – but the authors warned that that figure should be used with caution because the potential for error “does not meet standards of reliability or precision.” (Levin Becker, 2/16)

KQED: California Prisons Fight To Reduce Dangerous ‘Valley Fever’ Infections Among Inmates
When the wind kicks up in the town of Coalinga, dust devils whirl over almond orchards and pumpjacks. You can even see the narrow brown funnels from the grounds of Pleasant Valley State Prison, on the outskirts of town.But at the prison itself, there’s hardly any dust. That’s evidence of years of work by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce and control the San Joaquin Valley’s ubiquitous wind-borne dust. The dust carries the spores of the debilitating fungal disease known as coccidioidomycosis, or “valley fever.” (Klein, 2/15)

St. Louis Public Radio: Refugee Restrictions Disrupt Work Of St. Louis Disease Researchers 
President Donald Trump’s executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis. But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases. (Chen, 2/15)

The Star Tribune: Resident Dies After Eden Prairie Caregiver Forgot To Plug In Heart Pump
A distracted aide at an Eden Prairie assisted-living center failed to plug in a resident’s heart pump at bedtime, and the man didn’t live through the night, according to a state investigation released Wednesday. The state Health Department found the facility, Aging Joyfully, at fault in the July 10 death because it had no procedure to ensure the pump would keep operating when switched every night from batteries to electricity from an outlet. (Walsh, 2/15)

San Jose Mercury News: Sunnyvale School Grocery Program Provides Weekend Meals To Students 
For many parents, San Miguel Elementary School is not just a place to fill their children’s minds but their stomachs as well. Since 2015 the school has participated in the Weekend School Food Program organized by Sunnyvale Community Services in partnership with the Sunnyvale School District. The program allows parents and other residents to pick up 32 pounds of donated food twice a month on Fridays. (Kezra, 2/15)

The Washington Post: ‘Urgent Care On Wheels’: Fire Departments Rescuing Patients From Costly ER Trips
In the 15 minutes after firefighters and a nurse knocked at Thelma Lee’s Maryland townhouse, they checked her blood pressure, told her what foods would keep her blood sugar from skyrocketing and set up an appointment — and a ride — to visit her primary-care physician. They also changed the battery in her chirping fire alarm and put a scale in her bathroom so she could monitor her weight. Then they rolled out in an SUV to their next house call. (Bui and Williams, 2/15)

San Jose Mercury News: Palo Alto Marsh To Get Mosquito Control Treatment
Palo Alto’s flood basin and nearby areas will be sprayed Thursday, Feb. 23 with a pesticide in an effort to reduce the growth of salt marsh mosquitoes, which are known for being “very vicious biters.” Russ Parman, assistant manager of the Santa Clara County Vector Control District, said the day-biting salt marsh mosquitoes are not known to transmit diseases such as West Nile or Zika. Officials are concerned, however, that treatment delays caused by winter storms will result in a “big cohort of mosquitoes,” Parman said. (Lee, 2/15)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: 4th Ohio Child Dies Of Flu-Related Illness: What You Need To Know 
A 7-year-old Columbiana County boy who died on Saturday of flu-related illness marked the fourth such death in the state so far this flu season, coming only two days after the death of a Rocky River 6 year old. Eva Harris of Rocky River died February 9th after being admitted to the Cleveland Clinic with a high fever two days earlier. The Columbiana County child was the second from that county to die of flu-related illness since the January 25th death of a 6-year-old Salem boy. (Zeltner, 2/15)

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Cleveland Clinic Reports A 2016 Income Drop — Blames Obamacare Reimbursement Rates And High Drug Prices

Meanwhile, in Florida, Republicans are pushing to repeal the state’s certificate-of-need regulations, a Kansas House committee blocks a bill that would allow the Kansas University Health System to ban concealed firearms and the Florida-based Nemours Children’s Hospital awaits state regulators decision about its new heart and lung transplant center.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove Reports Rough Financial Year For Hospital In 2016
The Cleveland Clinic suffered a nearly 50 percent decrease in operating income in 2016, falling to $243 million from a record high of $481 million the year before, according to a report released Wednesday. During his annual State of the Clinic address to employees, Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove said the decrease was expected and was driven by falling reimbursement brought about by the Affordable Care Act as well as rising drug costs. (Zeltner, 2/15)

Tampa Bay Times: State Approval Of Increased Hospital Beds Could End This Year
When someone wants to build a new hospital or nursing home in Florida or add beds in an existing facility, the state has to agree that their community has a need for expanded health care. It’s a regulation meant to ensure that poor and rich communities alike have equal access to hospitals, hospices and other health facilities. But at $10,000 to $50,000 per facility application, it’s also costly and can lead to lengthy, even pricier lawsuits. (Auslen, 2/15)

KCUR: Bill Allowing KU Health System To Ban Guns Fails In Committee Vote 
A Kansas House committee narrowly rejected a bill Wednesday that would have allowed the University of Kansas Health System to continue banning concealed firearms. It failed to advance on an 11-11 vote. The chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Republican Rep. John Barker of Abilene, chose not to vote to break the tie. A state law set to take effect in July will allow concealed weapons on university campuses and in public hospitals and government buildings unless security is in place to keep out guns. The bill would have exempted the KU Health System. (Koranda, 2/15)

Orlando Sentinel: Nemours Awaits State Decision On Heart Transplant Program
Nemours Children’s Hospital will find out on Friday if the state is going to give initial approval to its application for a new heart and lung transplant program, which would be Central Florida’s first and the fifth in the state. This is good news to parents such as Kelly Green, an Orlando resident whose 9-year-old son has congenital heart disease and might one day need a heart transplant. (Miller, 2/15)

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