Tag Archives: missouri

New health-related state laws for 2011

Many thanks to Melissa Preddy for pointing out, in a post on the Reynolds Center’s businessjournalism.org, the National Conference of State Legislatures’ roundup of new laws that have already go into effect in 2011, or will soon. It’s a national list loaded with localization-ready ideas and issues that should be surfacing throughout the year. Hot-button topics include expanding medical coverage and several nutrition-related laws.

Here are a few highlights, taken directly from the NCSL’s list.

Connecticut will soon be requiring health insurance policies that cover anticancer medications to cover the oral drugs at least as favorably as it does the IV ones. The law prohibits insurers from reclassifying anticancer medications or increasing the patient’s out-of-pocket costs as a way to comply.

A new Missouri law requires all group health benefit plans to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Coverage is limited to medically necessary treatment ordered by the insured’s treating physician. The law also requires the Department of Insurance and other institutions to submit a report to the legislature regarding the implementation of this coverage, including specified costs.

California became the first, on Jan. 1, 2010, to prohibit oil, shortening or margarine containing artificial trans fats in restaurants and other food facilities. Beginning Jan 1, 2011, the original law will extend to other foods containing artificial trans fats, primarily baked goods.

Retailers in Minnesota will now be banned from selling cups and bottles intended for children age 3 or younger that contain bisphenol A (BPA). These same restrictions went into effect for in-state manufacturers and wholesalers on Jan. 1, 2010.

California lawmakers have also enacted a new law requiring free drinking water for students in school cafeterias or food service areas. Schools must comply by July 1, 2011.

California will soon require all children under the age of 18, including patrollers and resort employees, to wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding. Resorts will be required to post notice about the law, including on trail maps and resort websites.

St. Louis reporters find felons practicing medicine

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Blythe Bernhard and Jeremy Kohler tell the story of an ophthalmologist to show how a convicted felon can be allowed to return to medical practice, sometimes in the same state in which he or she was convicted. The ophthalmologist in question went to prison after lying to patients, defrauding Medicare and obstructing the resulting investigation, yet now works in an Illinois clinic and has permission to reapply for his Missouri license.

The investigation is strengthened by two sidebars, one listing examples of other felons/physicians and the other explaining how and why an ophthalmologist lied to patients and Medicare about what he was injecting into their eyes.

For the record, my favorite sentence in the entire piece is “Medical boards don’t release statistics on how many active licensees are convicted felons.” It certainly would make things easier.

Earlier stories from Bernhard and Kohler document similar problems with a lack of openness of records and how disciplined doctors can still keep their records clean:

AHCJ members can read about how the pair have done much of the reporting on this ongoing project.

Rise, fall of two St. Louis pharma companies

Midwest Health Journalism Program fellow Jim Doyle, a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, tells the story of Forest Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of Forest Laboratories), which has been accused by federal regulators of sketchy marketing practices, primarily involving its antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro and unapproved pediatric use. The company has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges and agreed to pay $300 million in criminal and civil penalties, Doyle reports.

Armed with the breaking news, Dolye then goes deeper, finds the company’s local roots, charts its rise and tries to pinpoint where it went wrong. It’s the same formula he used for his story on another imploding local drug-maker, KV Pharmaceuticals, earlier this year.

Erdely wins for story of bone marrow donation

AHCJ member Sabrina Rubin Erdely won a 2010 Clarion Award [press release] from the Association for Women in Communications for her piece in Self magazine about bone marrow donation. The award also cites AHCJ member Sara Austin, who is the magazines features director, news and health.

The story, of a bone marrow donor meeting the young woman whose life she helped save, is an arresting one, but the piece’s real strength is its focus on the mechanics of such donations. From the unlikely match to the surprisingly non-invasive extraction, Erdely uses the women’s story to demystify an otherwise intimidating process.

The piece is filled with moments like this, which cause less informed readers (like myself), to read the paragraph again just to make sure we’re understanding it right.

Say the words bone marrow transplant to anyone and the first reaction is probably a wince. “People imagine drilling through bone and pain and a long recovery,” says Katharina Harf, executive vice president and cofounder of the donor-recruitment organization DKMS Americas in New York City. In fact, nearly three quarters of so-called bone marrow donations involve no removal whatsoever of bone marrow—they’re done by extracting blood stem cells intravenously from the arm, like giving plasma. (Some doctors now prefer the term “stem cell transplant,” because both marrow and blood house these vital cells.)

‘Main Street’ informed, skeptical on health reform

In her blog on CJR.org, AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman updates what is becoming an annual franchise: Her summer man-on-the-street column gauging popular opinion on health reform. Just like last year, Lieberman found her subjects on the streets of Columbia, Mo., a town that’s about as close to the (population) center of the United States as you can get.

The common thread? Missourians were pretty sure health care reform wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but still weren’t willing to vote “yes” in the state’s referendum on opting out of the individual mandate.

Lieberman added a concrete dimension to her main street opinions by prying details on income and expenses from her sources, numbers and ideas which she then used to link their stories to the larger themes surrounding reform implementation.

Keep an eye out for part two of the column, which should be coming soon.