State Highlights: States Urge Some Retailers To End Tobacco Sales; Abortion In N.D., Ark.; Conn. Assisted Suicide

A selection of health policy stories from North Dakota, Arkansas, Connecticut, New York, California, Missouri, Arizona and Minnesota.

The New York Times: States Urge Retail Giants With Pharmacies To Stop Selling Tobacco Products
More than two dozen attorneys general sent letters on Sunday to five of the country’s largest retailers, encouraging them to stop selling tobacco products in stores that also have pharmacies, which would follow the example CVS Caremark set with its announcement earlier this year that it would stop selling such products in its drugstores (Harris, 3/16). 

The Associated Press: North Dakota Abortion Lawsuit Settled
North Dakota's sole abortion clinic has settled a lawsuit it filed over a new law requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital-admitting privileges, officials said Friday. Wayne Stenehjem, the state attorney general, and an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which assisted the Red River Women's Clinic in its lawsuit, told The Associated Press that the settlement was reached late Thursday and sent to Judge Wickham Corwin for approval Friday. ... [P]hysicians at the Red River Women's Clinic have been credentialed at [Sanford Health's] hospital in Fargo. Stenehjem said this made the lawsuit moot (Macpherson, 3/14).

Los Angeles Times: Legal Attacks On Abortion Getting Some Victories But Losses Too 
With it doubtful the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion will be overturned any time soon, opponents of abortion have been attacking it piecemeal, passing legislation to make it more difficult to obtain the procedure. The tactic was vividly on display Friday as judges took up the issue in Arkansas and North Dakota. The results, echoing legal battles in other states, were mixed. In Arkansas a federal judge called a key portion of an antiabortion law unconstitutional. However, the judge upheld other parts of the law. As a result, observers of the debate say, abortion opponents will continue to support state-by-state legislation to chip away at Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion (Serna, 3/15).

The CT Mirror: Malloy Skeptical On Assisted-Suicide Bill
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed his strongest doubts to date about pending legislation that would allow physicians under certain circumstances to prescribe, but not administer, lethal drugs to the terminally ill. “I don’t think in society we should be viewed as encouraging suicide,” Malloy told reporters Friday. “I would have to understand what the safeguards are with respect to that. A lot of what I’ll say and do in the future about that issue is dependent on the language I’ve been presented.” Malloy said he is fully supportive of a separate bill that would create a pilot program making it easier for dying patients to decline treatment (Pazniokas, 3/14).

The Wall Street Journal: The Day The Drills Paid Off
"Someone came up and said, 'A building fell,' and I said, 'I think that's what I just saw on television,'" said Dr. Wright, medical director at Harlem Hospital Center. Over the next three days Dr. Wright became one of the public faces of the medical response to the disaster, providing updates on the injured in his distinctive voice -- uncommonly deep and accented by his adopted homeland of Jamaica. Far from the public eye, Dr. Wright has played a central role in the hospital's continuing improvement over the past several years, emphasizing better tracking of each department's performance and overall attention to detail (Bashan, 3/14).

Los Angeles Times: Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Over Breach Of Patient Medical Data
A patient whose personal information was stolen in a break-in at a medical billing contractor's office in Torrance has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company and Los Angeles County. Two Los Angeles law firms filed a complaint Friday in Superior Court. The suit was initially filed on behalf of a single patient whose name was not disclosed, but seeks class-action status. An office of Sutherland Healthcare Solutions, which handles billing and collections for the county's Department of Health Services and Department of Public Health, was burglarized Feb. 5 and computers were stolen. County officials said personal data of as many as 168,500 patients may have been stolen (Sewell, 3/15).

The Associated Press: Newtown Struggles To Meet Mental Health Demand
Some of the charities paying for mental health care for children and families affected by the Sandy Hook massacre are running short of money and officials don't know how much they'll need -- and for how long -- to repair the psychological scars from the mass shooting. Newtown officials are applying for a federal grant and charities are pooling their resources in an attempt to ensure that free long-term mental health care remains available following the December 2012 shooting that left 20 first graders and six educators dead (Eaton-Robb, 3/16).

St. Louis Public Radio: Is There A Doctor -- Or Nurse Practitioner -- In The House? Not In Rural Missouri
He woke up in the middle of the night late last year, one hand swollen and the rest of his body was shaking all over. John Redford realized the symptoms were the consequences of several bites and scratches the day before from his struggle to put the family's 40-pound cat into a cage. He managed to calm himself enough that night and drive an old Mustang 50 miles to a hospital emergency room  in Jefferson City. ... He lives in ... one of Missouri's 41 rural counties that have no hospitals.  In fact, there are no full-time primary care doctors in Redford's county (Joiner, 3/16).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Senators Heavily Support Cancer Drug Bill; No Vote Planned
More than two-thirds of GOP senators and four-fifths of the state Senate now publicly support a bipartisan bill to help cancer patients get critical treatments, but the measure is still being blocked by the head of that house. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Wednesday he's going to unusual steps to block the proposal because a majority of his GOP caucus opposes it, not because his brother is lobbying on behalf of influential insurers to kill the bill (Stein and Marley, 3/17).

The Arizona Republic: Feds Clear Arizona State Hospital
The Arizona State Hospital no longer faces the threat of losing federal funding after correcting problems that included patients harming themselves as well as nursing and administrative issues. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed the mental-health facility this week that it won't terminate the hospital as a provider, which could have eliminated funding from the federal health-care program. Federal inspectors last year cited the hospital for multiple violations involving patient care, supervision and governance (Alltucker, 3/15).

Minnesota Public Radio: Fight Over Minnesota's Newborn Screening Law Continues
The fight over Minnesota's newborn screening law continues this week, when state legislators consider a bill that would give state health officials unlimited time to store newborn blood samples. A bill before the House Civil Law Committee on Tuesday would allow the Minnesota Department of Health to save newborn blood samples and test results indefinitely. The program tests newborns for 55 rare conditions that could be harmful or fatal if not treated early in life. Under the bill, parents could refuse their consent, but they would have to fill out paperwork to do so (Benson, 3/16).

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.