Montana High Court Allows Physician-Assisted Suicide

The Associated Press/NPR reports: "The Montana Supreme Court said Thursday that nothing in state law prevents patients from seeking physician-assisted suicide, making Montana the third state that will allow the procedure. Patients and doctors had been waiting for the state's high court to step in after a lower court decided a year ago that constitutional rights to privacy and dignity protect the right to die. The Montana Supreme Court opinion will now give doctors in the state the freedom to prescribe the necessary drugs to mentally competent, terminally ill patients without fear of being prosecuted, advocates said" (1/2).

The Los Angeles Times reports on the effects of a recent state appellate court's ruling on health insurers ability to end policies for sick patients: "California's health insurance companies may have hoped that the more than $13 million in fines they paid to regulators would put an end to the scrutiny of their practice of rescinding the policies of sick patients. But a recent appellate court decision suggests that scrutiny over rescission, as well as other health insurance business practices, will continue and may even expand, legal experts say. The state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ruled last month that local prosecutors could sue health insurers over the way they treat consumers" (Girion, 1/2).

The Las Vegas Sun reports on Nevada's aging population: "The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the fastest-growing segment of Nevada's population over the next 10 years will be senior citizens, and the prospect has policymakers on edge. They fear Nevada's aging population will put an unbearable strain on the state's overburdened health care system and social services and create greater urgency to build affordable housing. And given the state's current fiscal crisis that has forced agencies to cut programs and freeze vacant positions, the concerns about the graying of the Silver State are valid" (Kanigher and Richards, 1/3).

The Lawrence Journal World reports on health insurance for Kansas children: "As debate rages in Washington over health care reform, thousands of Kansas children will become eligible, starting today, for low-cost health insurance because of an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. ... Under the new rules, the eligibility limit for the Kansas SCHIP program will increase from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 250 percent. That translates to about $44,000 a year for a family of three or $53,000 a year for a family of four. A family with children in SCHIP pays between $20 per month to $75 per month, depending on income" (1/1).

The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas is the first state to require reimbursements for exams for preventable heart screenings on older residents: "A new state law requires health benefit plans to cover up to $200 for a preventive heart screening every five years for certain middle-aged patients and seniors. Eligible are women ages 56 to 75 and men 46 to 75 who are diabetic or have an elevated risk of heart disease. The law applies to health plans renewed on or after Jan. 1 and includes" CT scans and carotid ultrasounds (George, 1/2).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.