The combined cost of two common surgeries — knee and hip replacement — is twice as high in northeast Colorado as in Denver and Colorado Springs, according to a new study that puts numbers to the state’s rural health cost problem. The Center for Improving Value in Health Care used data supplied by health insurance providers on the two procedures and found stunning variations by region of the state. (Olinger, 2/15) Under a law expected to go into effect by April, women in California will be able to stop by their neighborhood pharmacy and buy birth control pills without a prescription. Proponents argue that easing women’s access to birth control will reduce unintended pregnancies, which make up as many as half of all pregnancies nationwide. (Karlamangla, 2/14) The Connecticut Insurance Department has blocked UnitedHealthcare’s plan to stop paying broker commissions for plans sold through the state’s health insurance exchange, but will let them pay a lower rate. (Levin Becker, 2/12) North Carolina Health News: Child Health Report Card Highlights Old and New Concerns Chicago Tribune: Can Telehealth Keep Nursing-Home Patients Out Of Hospitals? With exterior walls still carrying the bullet scars of a Nov. 27 shooting that killed three, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic reopened for business Monday. Leaders say the clinic has a full docket of appointments this week for services including abortions, which accused shooter Robert Lewis Dear has said motivated his rampage. (Roeder, 2/15) On many counts, the health of children in North Carolina improved in recent years, but even with gains, some areas such as infant mortality and suicide rates continue to be a concern. That’s according to the 2016 North Carolina Child Health Report Card released Tuesday by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) and NC Child. For 20 years, the report has tracked health concerns from prenatal care and breastfeeding to teenage risk factors such as alcohol and substance abuse. (Schlemmer, 2/16) For the smallest marijuana possession cases – involving less than a half ounce – police can write a citation or make an arrest. CMPD doesn’t have a policy on what officers should do. Over the past several years, police have been writing more citations and making fewer pot arrests. That trend has affected all racial groups, including African-Americans. But in cases involving only marijuana possession, African-Americans are far more likely to be arrested than whites. (Harrison, 2/15) The Florida Department of Corrections’ attempt to restore normalcy to its troubled prison healthcare system is now tangled in a legal dispute over the agency’s decision to award up to $31 million in fees to a politically well-connected company as part of a $268 million no-bid contract. (Klas, 2/12) The Philadelphia Inquirer: Married Doctors Turn Personal Tragedy Into Patient-Safety Crusade State Highlights: Conn. Regulators Block Insurer’s Idea To Stop Paying Broker Fees For Some Marketplace Plans; Mo. Tests New Mental Health Program News outlets report on health issues in Connecticut, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, California and Illinois. Los Angeles Times: Birth Control Pills Without Prescriptions, Coming Soon To California Under New Law Big changes are in store for emergency medical care in central Ohio, but there’s debate over whether they will be of greater benefit to patients or the corporate bottom line. (Sutherly, 2/14) The Denver Post: Planned Parenthood Clinic In Colorado Springs Reopens Months After Shooting NJ Spotlight: Creativity A Must For Rural Health Care Chicago startup is working with nursing homes using Google Glass, texts and live video chats to keep residents from making unnecessary trips to the hospital. Traditionally, if a patient needed medical attention, nurses have paged a physician, who might send a patient to the hospital if unsure of the patient’s condition. With Third Eye Health, a nurse could be at a patient’s bedside running software and connecting the physician with information to determine whether the patient had a medical emergency or something less serious, CEO Dan Herbstman said. (Graham, 2/15) The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Mayor ‘Deeply Troubled’ Over Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests Miami Herald: Agency Comes Under Fire For No-Bid Prison Healthcare Contract The Columbus Dispatch: Emergency Care Changing In Central Ohio The family’s struggle is one that many in the autism community face: The best treatments often don’t have insurance coverage. That will change on July 1 when a new state law will require all state-regulated insurance plans to cover Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, and other treatments. (2/12) The Denver Post: Surgery Study Finds Costs Vary Greatly By Region In Colorado Missouri could be one of the first states in the nation to test a new mental health care program designed to expand access to treatment. The pilot program was created by the Excellence in Mental Health Care Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and signed into law in 2014 as part of a broader Medicare reform measure. It sets quality standards for community mental health centers in participating states and more fully funds treatment for Medicaid patients. (Phillips, 2/13) The Centers for Disease Control has released a report into how an adult film actor in California infected two sexual partners with HIV in the weeks after he contracted the virus but before it was detected by lab tests. The report bolsters an already heated push for porn actors to wear condoms on set. (Tozzi, 2/12) Urgently, yet methodically, they are experimenting with immune therapies to try to save [Amy] Reed from leiomyosarcoma, a ferocious uterine cancer that has spread through her body despite repeated surgeries and chemotherapy. … At the same time, they continue to push the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to outlaw the gynecological surgical device that likely worsened her prognosis by spreading her cancer. (McCullough, 2/15) St. Louis Public Radio: Missouri Looks To Improve Access To Mental Health Care There are two New Jerseys, particularly when it comes to public health. There are the urban hubs, older cities in the north and central Jersey with their mix of poverty and prosperity, often sitting side by side with affluent suburbs. And there are the vast rural stretches, including much of the state’s south, with its farming communities and former waterfront factory towns. (Stainton, 2/15) Bloomberg: Testing Porn Stars Isn’t Stopping HIV The Connecticut Mirror: State Says UnitedHealthcare Can’t Ax Broker Commissions The Charlotte Observer: New Insurance Mandate For Autism Treatment Lifts Families’ Financial Burden This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.