State Highlights: NYC’s Free Lead Testing Draws Only Small Number Of Children; Texas’s Nursing Home Chain Blames Lawsuits for Bankruptcy

State Highlights: NYC’s Free Lead Testing Draws Only Small Number Of Children; Texas’s Nursing Home Chain Blames Lawsuits for Bankruptcy

Media outlets report on news from Massachusetts, Kansas, Minnesota, Florida, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

More than a month after New York City began offering free lead testing to nearly 3,000 children living in public housing apartments in the wake of a lead-paint scare, only 73 children have been tested under the initiative, city officials said. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration offered the testing after a Department of Investigation probe last year found the city’s housing authority had failed to conduct lead inspections for four years, violating city law and federal rules. The mayor and New York City Housing Authority Chairwoman Shola Olatoye have said the lapses were unacceptable and that the city is working to ensure residents are safe and failures in compliance never happen again. (Gay, 1/25)

A stream of documented complaints from three separate states flows back to one nursing home operator: Preferred Care of Plano, which filed for bankruptcy in November. As a reason for its financial troubles, the company has cited more than 160 “predatory” lawsuits. When contacted by The Dallas Morning News, Preferred Care’s bankruptcy lawyer, Stephen McCartin, reiterated that point.“It is in the best interest of citizens to have tort reform. That clearly reduces contingency-fee, ambulance-chasing lawsuits. It absolutely does have an effect,” he said Wednesday. From 2014 to 2016, the amount Preferred Care paid in legal fees jumped fivefold to $10 million, which limits its ability to spend money on patient care, its attorneys told a bankruptcy judge in December. (Rice and Hacker, 1/25)

The Group Insurance Commission said it will reconsider its vote to eliminate popular health plans for hundreds of thousands of state employees and their families at a meeting on Feb. 1. Ashley Maagero Lee, the commission’s chief of staff, said in a prepared statement that the decision to reconsider was “a result of candid feedback from members and stakeholders.” The commission’s goal was to allow people to keep their current health care providers while controlling their premium and out-of-pocket costs, Lee said. (Dayal McCluskey, 1/25)

The Group Insurance Commission, relenting to days of withering criticism over its decision to limit health plan offerings to nearly 450,000 state employees and retirees, plans to reconsider that vote when it meets next week. The move came after Attorney General Maura Healey announced Thursday morning that her office had opened an investigation into whether the GIC properly gave notice of last week’s meeting. (Murphy, 1/25)

A whistleblower suit unsealed Thursday in federal court alleges Wichita-based Via Christi Health engaged in an illegal scheme to maximize Medicare reimbursements. The lawsuit was filed in November 2016 but only unsealed after the government declined to intervene. It was brought by Mazen Shaheen, a cardiologist who formerly practiced in the Wichita area. (Margolies, 1/26)

The Florida Department of Children and Families estimates that there nearly 800,000 adults with serious mental illness in the state. The Miami-Dade court system has estimated that an estimated 9.1 percent of the county’s has experienced a serious mental illness, with few getting long-lasting help through the public health system. (Ovalle, 1/26)

Changes continue at the top of HealthPartners, with the health system and insurance company this week announcing the hiring of a new chief financial officer. Todd Hofheins, 53, most recently was CFO at Providence Health & Services, a health system in the Pacific Northwest that in 2016 merged with a California-based group to create one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country. (Snowbeck, 1/25)

San Antonio recently took a major step to protect its residents’ health by passing a law that prevents merchants from selling tobacco products to anyone under age 21 within city limits, becoming the first Texas city to do so. Other Texas cities should follow San Antonio’s lead. (Cubbin and Ford, 1/25)

Dozens of parents, and their children, came to the State House Thursday to oppose a bill that would increase oversight for homeschoolers. The bill would require that homeschooled students have their annual assessments reviewed by either state officials or nonpublic school principals. Sponsors of the bill say it’s a way to make sure homeschooled children aren’t being neglected. (Moon, 1/26)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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