State Highlights: Dispute Over What Doctors Can Say At Catholic Hospital

A dispute between a Colorado cardiologist and a Catholic hospital over what he says is a ban on discussing abortion with patients, even when a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, is part of today's health policy roundup from Colorado and California.

ProPublica: At A Catholic Hospital, A Dispute Over What A Doctor Can Do – And Say
A dispute between a Colorado cardiologist and the hospital he works for has highlighted a growing area of concern among patient advocates and civil libertarians: gag rules imposed on doctors and nurses by Catholic health-care providers. In a complaint filed Wednesday, ACLU of Colorado accused Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, in the remote southwest corner of the state, of illegally telling doctors and other employees that they cannot discuss abortion with patients, even if a pregnancy threatens a woman's life. The complaint was filed with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees the state's hospitals (Martin, 11/14).

California Healthline: Interest In Exchange Running High, But Enrollment A Fraction Of States Goals
Exchange officials predicted October would be a slow month for enrollment and that enrollment would increase as the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for the exchange in time to receive coverage on Jan. 1, 2014 draws closer. That was reflected in the written comments from Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California: "The numbers are better than encouraging," Lee said in a statement. "They show momentum and very high consumer interest. As anticipated, consumers spent October comparing plans and educating themselves about their health care options” (Gorn, 11/14).

California Healthline: Partnership Brings Clean Drinking Water To Central Valley Schools, Programs
More than 3,500 students in four public schools and five Head Start centers in the small towns of Arvin and Lamont southeast of Bakersfield in Kern County no longer have to worry about unsafe levels of arsenic in their drinking water. "We really see this project as a model for other schools and communities that are struggling with contaminated water," said Shen Huang, a technical analyst for the Community Water Center. … CWC worked with the Committee for a Better Arvin, the Arvin Union School District and the Community Action Partnership of Kern on the project. The California Endowment is a major funder of the effort, and several manufacturers provided filters at no cost (Daniel, 11/14).

The California Health Report: Practices Service Low-Income Areas Left Out Of Reform
When it comes to allowing for a sufficient number of essential community providers, the terms "sufficient" and "essential" lend themselves to interpretation. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services defines essential community providers as those who "serve predominately low-income, medically underserved individuals." Covered California consulted numerous sources in determining what constituted an ECP (Fulton, 11/14).

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.