OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Mental health push after Calif. shooting

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) is pushing his stalled mental health reform bill in the wake of a mass shooting that left six, including the gunman, dead in Santa Barbara, Calif., over the weekend.

The Republican lawmaker convened a forum Thursday intended to build momentum for his reform legislation, which House leaders have failed to green-light despite its standing as the GOP's policy response to mass shootings.


The bill would withdraw mental health block grant funds from states that do not pass looser standards for involuntary outpatient care. Mental health groups have raised concerns over the measure and argue a less stringent approach to reform can be equally effective.

Easing standards around involuntary treatment can drive patients away from care, and privacy laws need clarification rather than changes to keep families with mentally ill relatives in the loop, they argue.

HIV/AIDS discrimination complaint: Advocacy groups have launched a formal complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services against Florida healthcare insurers they argue are discriminating against HIV and AIDS patients in violation of the Affordable Care Act.

The National Health Law Program and The AIDS Institute say CoventryOne, Cigna, Humana and Preferred Medical have pushed HIV and AIDS drugs into their higher tired drug formularies which can cost patients over $1,000 a month in out-of-pocket costs.

They warn if HHS does not find the practice discriminatory it will open up the floodgates for other insurers to do the same for other chronic diseases, raising healthcare costs on the most vulnerable.

Dr. Phil analyses foster care: The celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw told lawmakers the foster care system was broken, saying children were being overprescribing psychotropic drugs.

He argued the government should spend more money to pay for psychotherapists to treat foster children with emotional problems instead of trying to mask the issue by overprescribing drugs they may become addicted to.

McGraw was on Capitol Hill to promote and seek more funding for a new partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to help states and tribal governments improve care for foster children.

FDA regulates tanning beds: The Food and Drug Administration Thursday moved to strengthen regulations on tanning beds and other sunlamp products linked to skin cancer, requiring for the first time that they carry labels declaring them unfit for anyone under 18 years of age.

The FDA’s final order stops short of restricting the use of the products to adults, but officials said additional actions remain on the table.

Under the order, the agency is reclassifying sunlamp products and certain ultraviolet lamps from low-risk to moderate-risk devices. The elevation means manufacturers will be required to obtain pre-clearance before marketing their products.

CDC blames unvaccinated for measles outbreak: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming a dramatic spike in measles cases on people who refuse to vaccinate themselves and their children against the disease.

The federal agency reported Thursday that measles outbreaks have reached a 20-year high and could increase further as unvaccinated U.S. residents travel during the summer.

"The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.

Medicare overbilling: The inspector general’s office at HHS released a report that found Medicare was overbilled $6.7 billion for office visits and other patient evaluations in 2010.

ProPublica, the investigative journalism organization, noted this is the second time the OIG has singled out such payments for more scrutiny.


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