State Highlights: States Scramble To Change Newborn Screening Programs

A selection of health policy stories from Wisconsin, New York, the District of Columbia, New Mexico, California and Florida.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Moving Quickly To End Delays In Newborn Screening Programs 
States across the country are making significant changes to their newborn screening programs after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found that thousands of hospitals were sending babies' blood samples late to state labs that test for rare yet deadly genetic disorders. From keeping labs open on weekends to identifying problem hospitals and providing them with regular performance reports, dozens of health officials are reviewing and retooling their state-run programs (Gabler, 12/11).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Obesity Rate Flat For First Time In Decades, Health Rankings Find
An annual state-by-state survey says the country is making good progress in improving its overall health — including a flat obesity rate and a lower rate of smoking. But individual states, especially in the South, continue to lag. The 2013 edition of 'America's Health Rankings' by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention says that, 'for the first time in decades,' the nation’s obesity rate did not rise between 2012 and 2013 (Whitney, 12/11).

Kaiser Health News: New York Data Show Hospital Charges All Over The Map
New York State has pulled back the curtain on hospital charges. A new database shows what each hospital across the state charges for 1,400 different procedures. The differences can be dramatic: At Bellevue Hospital, the median charge for an uncomplicated birth is $6,330, and at NYU Langone Medical Center next door, the median charge is $12,222. Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, typically charges $5,686 and Maimonides Medical Center, a dozen miles away, $14,763 (Mogul, 12/12).

The Washington Post: 'Stuck In The Safety Net,' Elderly District Veteran Hopes Crowdfunding Will Help
Eighty-year-old Ralph Bolen sat in front of the care facility where he lives, pulled on a cigarette and contemplated the four blocks separating him from his first-floor studio in a co-op near Dupont Circle. "It's one big room and it’s very comfortable, with a picture window," he said, adding that he likes to lounge on his couch there and watch TV, or sit on the steps and chat with neighbors (Bahrampour, 12/11). 

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Trial On Assisted Suicide Law Begins In New Mexico
Two doctors and a Santa Fe woman with advanced uterine cancer want physicians in New Mexico to be able to prescribe -- without the fear of prosecution -- the needed medications for terminally ill patients who want to end their lives on their own terms. Standing in their way is a decades-old New Mexico law that makes it a fourth-degree felony to assist someone in suicide (12/12).

California Healthline: Physician Group In Favor Of Provisions Dropped From New California Law
The American College of Physicians yesterday published a position paper in a medical journal that supports mandatory reporting of all prescription-drug dispensing -- a requirement that was stricken at the last minute from a California bill passed last legislative session. Yesterday's article in the Annals of Internal Medicine said physicians and policymakers should stand shoulder-to-shoulder on a provision that would require physicians to report every time they prescribe certain controlled substances (Gorn, 12/11).

The California Health Report: State Gets Mixed Reviews On Electronic Health Record Use
To make the Affordable Care Act work, one tool is critical: the electronic health record. These digital forms, known in the medical community as EHRs, can help doctors identify and offer preventive treatment to illness-prone patients, instead of waiting for a crisis and hospitalization. And EHRs are crucial to such Affordable Care Act goals as treating Medicare patients with closely integrated medical teams and curbing hospital readmissions. But according to a recent report, that road still has some potholes in California (12/12). 

Health News Florida: Dropping Doctors: About Quality Or Profits?
On Jan. 1, hundreds of Florida doctors who now treat United Healthcare's Medicare patients will be dropped. A host of patients have been affected nationwide. Ever since United started sending out letters to doctors, telling them they won’t be on United’s Medicare network next year, it’s been a big story (Gentry, 12/11).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major 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.