State Highlights: Tough Road Ahead For Ga. Medical Malpractice Bill

A selection of health policy stories from Minnesota, Georgia, California, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina.

Georgia Health News: Medical Malpractice Bill Faces Long Odds
State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) faces an uphill climb in his effort to revamp the medical malpractice system in Georgia. Beach has been pushing his malpractice reform bill for two years, but experts say SB 141 is not likely to pass in 2014. House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told the Atlanta Business Chronicle there is not enough time to consider the legislation during this year’s abbreviated session of the Georgia General Assembly. The session will end early because party primaries will be held in May — two months earlier than in recent election years (Craig, 1/14). 

The San Francisco Chronicle: Ballot Drive Seeks Cap On Health Costs, CEO Pay
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers says its proposed measures represent the nation's most wide-ranging and aggressive ballot efforts to control hospital costs. They include one measure that would prohibit hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the actual cost of providing patient care, and another that would bar the executives of not-for-profit hospitals from earning more than $450,000 a year. Proponents of the measures say the overwhelming number of hospital beds -- more than 75 percent of those in California -- are in such not-for-profit hospitals, which include giants like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health. Supporters must gather 505,000 valid signatures of registered voters for each measure to qualify for the November ballot (Marinucci, 1/14). 

The Wall Street Journal: Splintered System Often Fails Mentally Ill With Low IQs
In most states, including California, mental-health treatment is overseen by counties, while state officials coordinate developmental-disability services. The splintered system makes it extremely hard to coordinate treatment, and few professionals are trained to even identify coexisting conditions (Ansberry, 1/14).

Minnesota Public Radio: Primary Care Shortage Raises Profile Of Nurses With Advanced Degrees
A Twin Cities foundation will invest $10 million in a University of Minnesota program that develops highly trained nurses. Minnesota's primary care shortage is raising the profile of nurses who have earned advanced degrees in the field. With that in mind, the Bentson Foundation is funding the U of M's Doctor of Nursing Practice program. By doing so, the foundation aims to help supply Minnesota with more nurses who have doctorate-level training in family medicine, geriatrics and other specialties (Benson, 1/14).

The New York Times: After Flurry of Changes, Some States Ease Up
The lowered ambition amounts, in some cases, to a declaration of victory, as is the case with abortion restrictions in Ohio and providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in California. But it also reflects political concerns among some legislators and governors up for election that they at times claimed an unfounded mandate with this aggressive period of legislating, according to analysts and elected officials. For the past three years, under the hand of a Republican governor and a Republican legislature, Ohio has forged an ambitious, if occasionally unorthodox, conservative agenda, enacting laws to limit the availability of abortion, cut taxes and restrict the power of unions, while also bolstering some programs for the needy. But for now at least, lawmakers are looking at consensus legislation, such as requiring parental notification for children getting opiate prescriptions rather than restricting bargaining rights of public workers (Nagourney, 1/15).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Poor Care Called Factor In Four Deaths At Mental Health Complex
An independent doctor, hired last spring to examine six 2012 deaths at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, found that medical treatment there was so poor, the place should be closed. The doctor, who had access to medical files and other internal documents, found that significant failures in medical care contributed to the deaths of four of the six patients. In the other two cases, he found problems but said "their treatment was at least adequate” (Kissinger, 1/14).

The New York Times: Suing To End Life Support For Woman and Fetus
Lawyers for the husband of a pregnant woman being kept on life support at a Fort Worth hospital against her family’s wishes sued hospital officials on Tuesday, asking a judge to order the doctors to remove her from the machines and declare the Texas law at the center of her case unconstitutional (Fernandez, 1/15).

Los Angeles Times: Case Of Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Goes To Texas Court
The husband of a brain-dead, pregnant woman filed papers in court Tuesday, accusing a Texas hospital of "cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body," and demanded that his wife be removed from a ventilator immediately. Erick Munoz, who found his wife, Marlise, collapsed on their kitchen floor on Nov. 26, has accused John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth of misinterpreting a state law that prohibits hospitals from suspending "life sustaining treatment" on patients who are pregnant, according to the filing (Morin, 1/14). 

The Star Tribune: Bill Takes Aim At Minnesota's Problem Nurses
Minnesota health professionals who fail a state program monitoring them for drug abuse and mental illness would automatically be suspended from practicing under a proposal introduced Monday in the Legislature. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL Rochester, said it is likely the first of many proposed changes to the state’s oversight of problem nurses. In November, the Star Tribune reported that some nurses continued to practice despite being discharged from the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) for abusing drugs or alcohol, or for stealing drugs from their workplaces. Legislators convened a hearing later that month where Minnesota Nursing Board officials expressed frustration that they could not immediately suspend nurses terminated from state monitoring (Stahl, 1/15).

North Carolina Health News: Medicaid Budget Impossible To Forecast Due To Ongoing DHHS Computer Woes
After months of negative publicity about computer glitches in her department, Health and Human Services Sec. Aldona Wos apologized for a massive data-privacy breach that occurred at the end of December, when the state Medicaid program sent the wrong registration cards to more than 48,000 child Medicaid recipients (Hoban, 1/14).

Raleigh News & Observer: Obamacare Website Fixer Has Thing For Tax Havens 
The head of the state’s health agency apologized Tuesday for errors that resulted in violations of federal privacy rights of nearly 50,000 children. ... The department has been juggling crises in the last month. In December, the agency mailed 48,752 children’s Medicaid insurance cards, which include their names, dates of birth and Medicaid identification numbers, to the wrong addresses. A few weeks earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture threatened to sanction the state for lengthy delays in processing thousands of food stamp applications (Bonner, 1/14).

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.