State Highlights: Calif. Weighs Charity Minimum For Nonprofit Hospitals

A selection of health policy stories from California, Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

The Wall Street Journal: St. Jude Hit By Suits
A raft of lawsuits filed Thursday against St. Jude Medical Inc. over an implanted heart device could challenge the broad liability protection that medical-device makers have enjoyed since a key Supreme Court ruling in 2008. The lawsuits, filed both in Los Angeles Superior Court and federal court in the Central District of California, claim that problems with the manufacturing and oversight of Riata defibrillator "leads" injured or killed more than 30 patients (Weaver and Smith, 4/4).

Kansas City Star: Kansas Agency's Promise Ends Dispute On AIDS Quarantine Ban Measure
A promise from Kansas' health department Thursday to continue protecting AIDS and HIV patients from being quarantined has resolved a dispute over a legislative proposal for helping medical personnel and emergency workers who may have been exposed to infectious diseases. State House and Senate negotiators agreed on the final version of a bill that still would repeal a 25-year-old law specifically banning state and local health officials from quarantining people with AIDS or the virus causing it (4/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Jury: Health Management Group Liable For $24M In Las Vegas Hepatitis C Outbreak Case
A Nevada state court jury found the state’s largest health management organization liable Thursday for $24 million in compensatory damages to three plaintiffs in a negligence lawsuit stemming from a Las Vegas hepatitis C outbreak that lawyers called the largest in U.S. history (4/4).

Kaiser Health News: Immigrant Docs Help Ease California's Primary Care Shortage
When Jose Chavez Gonzalez moved to the United States from El Salvador, he took any job he could get -- stocking warehouses, construction, cleaning houses and working in a meat processing plant. But unlike most of the other immigrants he worked alongside, Chavez, 38, was a doctor with eight years of medical training. He came to the U.S. in the mid-1990’s to be with his family, but like all doctors from other countries, he still had to pass the U.S. medical boards and go through at least three years of residency in order to practice here. The process can be both expensive and time consuming, so during the day he worked various menial jobs and at night he studied for the boards" (Gold, 4/4).

The Lund Report: Cultural Competency Training Compromise Likely To Become Law
Oregon took a step toward acknowledging its increasing racial diversity when the House Health Committee passed a cultural competency bill for medical professionals that heads to the House floor next week. The committee voted 8-1 to allow the state’s medical licensing boards to require cultural competency courses for continuing education that health professionals must take to remain licensed. A separate amendment allows the state's community colleges and universities to require cultural competency training (Gray, 4/5). 

Georgia Health News: Rural Counties Ailing As Suburban Ones Thrive
A Georgia county-by-county ranking that combines health and economic statistics, released this week, shows suburban counties at the top and rural areas at the bottom. Oconee County, near Athens, placed first for the second straight year in the rankings, generated by Partner Up for Public Health, an advocacy campaign. Other counties in the top eight are Forsyth and Fayette near Atlanta; Columbia, near Augusta; and Cherokee, Cobb, Gwinnett and Coweta, also near Atlanta (Miller, 4/4). 

CT Mirror: Gun Restriction Irks Mental Health Advocates
Advocates for people with mental illness began this legislative session with trepidation. Would lawmakers, eager to pass a strong response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, adopt restrictive measures against people with mental illness? Would the new law treat people with mental illness as sources of violence, even though they're more likely to be the victims? The gun violence, school security and mental health bill that passed this week with bipartisan support came as a relief to many advocates, who praised the thoughtfulness behind it (Becker, 4/4). 

The Associated Press: Mass. Gets Down To Business Of Medical Marijuana
In a packed conference room at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, the big sales pitch is on. About 300 people have gathered to get information on how to apply for a license to run a medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts. The pitch comes from Dr. Bruce Bedrick, the CEO of Medbox Inc., an Arizona-based company that offers consulting services and dispensing systems for medical marijuana that look and operate just like vending machines, though Bedrick cringes at that description (Lavoie, 4/5).

North Carolina Health News: McCrory Proposes Medicaid Overhaul
Gov. Pat McCrory rolled out his plan for revamping the state’s Medicaid program Wednesday morning, describing a managed care plan that could lead to the privatization of the program that serves more than 1.5 million people with disabilities, the low-income elderly, pregnant women and children (Hoban, 4/4).

California Healthline: Five Bills Pass Health Committee
The state Senate Committee on Health yesterday approved ... bills designed to help alleviate California's shortage of physicians and nurses in underserved parts of the state. … The provider bills, SB 20 and SB 271 both authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), sailed through the health committee on 9-0 votes. "SB 20 directs funds from the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board to help forgive physician education loans for those providers practicing in underserved area for three years," Hernandez said. ... To address the decade-long nursing shortage, particularly in underserved areas, SB 271 is based on a pilot program established in 2003 and expiring this year, he said (Gorn, 4/4).

California Healthline: Should Calif. Set Charity Minimum For Not-For-Profit Hospitals?
The California Legislature is considering a proposal to establish a minimum amount of charity care that private hospitals must provide to earn not-for-profit status and the tax benefits that go with it. AB 975 -- by Assembly members Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) -- would more tightly define charitable care and stipulate that private not-for-profit hospitals may not have operating revenue exceeding 10 percent of operating expenses, which includes charity care, community benefits and all other normal business expenses. State law currently requires not-for-profit hospitals to provide charity care, but because definitions of charity care are not specifically spelled out, minimum requirements are not clearly defined (4/4).

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.