A selection of health policy stories from Minnesota, California, Georgia, Kansas, Arkansas and Maryland.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: New Minnesota Vaccine Requirement Inspires Pro-Vaccination Effort
For the first time in a decade, Minnesota schoolchildren are required to receive additional vaccines this fall. Seventh-graders now must get the meningococcal vaccination and an additional pertussis (whooping cough) booster. And younger children in day care and early-childhood programs must get hepatitis A and B shots. For most parents, complying is not a problem. Vaccination rates in Minnesota top 90 percent for almost all immunizations required by law, according to the state Department of Health. Less than 2 percent of the state’s more than 70,000 kindergartners enter school unvaccinated under Minnesota’s conscientious-objection exemption, the agency says (Prather, 8/25).
California Healthline: High-Priced Drug Makes Its Way Into California Prisons
While lawmakers in Congress and policymakers in Sacramento grapple with how to pay for -- and perhaps regulate the cost of -- high priced new drugs, an effective and expensive new treatment for hepatitis C continues to make inroads in California. California Correctional Health Care Services, which oversees clinical care and drug prescriptions for 125,000 inmates at 34 prisons, began using Sovaldi last month. Made by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, Sovaldi has become part of the "community standard" for medical professionals treating patients with hepatitis C, according to prison officials. The high cost of the drug -- $1,000 per pill, about $84,000 for a full course of treatment -- sparked a congressional investigation after objections from several corners of the health care industry (Lauer, 8/25).
Georgia Health News: Freestanding ERs Target Suburbs, Rural Panel Told
Freestanding emergency departments have been proposed in Georgia as a potential solution for struggling rural hospitals, or newly closed ones, that want to remain operational in downsized form to help patients in need. But the trend toward such standalone emergency rooms nationally is totally different from that picture, members of the Georgia Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee were told Monday. Freestanding EDs are actually proliferating in suburban areas, targeting high-income patients who have private insurance, said Charles Horne of accounting firm Draffin & Tucker. The prevailing emphasis is on patient convenience, not need, he told committee members at a meeting in Cordele (Miller, 8/25).
Kansas Health Institute News Service: Overuse Of Antipsychotic Drugs In Some Kansas Nursing Homes Endangering Patients
Experts say powerful antipsychotic drugs -- sometimes given in combination -- are used too much and often inappropriately as “chemical restraints” or sedatives to control the behavior of Kansas nursing home residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and that efforts to curb the practice so far are showing weak results compared with other states (Shields, 8/25).
Modern Healthcare: Another Rural Hospital Succumbs To Mounting Financial Pressures
Rural hospitals are about to lose another comrade. Crittenden Regional Hospital, a 142-bed facility in West Memphis, Ark., said Monday that it has stopped admitting patients and will permanently shut down by Sept. 7. The hospital has been facing a host of financial and operational challenges. It lost almost $3 million on $55 million in revenue in 2012, according to Crittenden Regional's latest Form 990. That came one year after the hospital lost $1.3 million on $57 million in revenue. Reimbursement cuts and sharp declines in patient volumes led to those troubles. Also, hospital officials said outgoing physicians and two fires negatively affected its outlook. Most recently, a fire kept the hospital closed for more than six weeks (Herman, 8/25).
Baltimore Sun: Agency Strips Shuttered Health Clinic Group Of Funding
Nearly two months after People's Community Health Centers shut the doors to five low-income health clinics in Baltimore city and Anne Arundel County, a federal agency confirmed it is no longer providing critical grant money to the nonprofit group. People's had received $2.4 million a year from the Health Services Resources Administration to treat uninsured patients -- its largest source of revenue. That loss comes as the organization faces a new federal tax lien nearly that doubled the amount it owes the Internal Revenue Service and mounting claims from employees seeking backpay (Wood, 8/25).