KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Roundup: Ohio Lawmakers Consider Abortion Bill; Aetna Sues Mich. Blues

News outlets cover a variety of state health policy issues.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Associated Press: Ohio Senators Hear 'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill
An Ohio lawmaker on Wednesday touted the importance of the fetal heartbeat as an indicator of life as he urged a legislative panel to support a bill that would impose the nation's most stringent abortion limit. The measure would outlaw abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That's sometimes as early as six weeks into pregnancy (Sanner, 12/8).

Modern Healthcare: Michigan Blues Faces Lawsuit From Rival Aetna
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan was hit with yet another antitrust lawsuit challenging its "most favored nation" pricing contracts with hospitals — but this time, the lawsuit came from a competitor. Aetna, based in Hartford, Conn., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit alleging that the Michigan Blues responded to new competition in the state by convincing hospitals to sign anti-competitive pricing contracts (Carlson, 12/7).

The Baltimore Sun: State Made Medicaid Payments For Dead People
The state may have erroneously paid up to $2.5 million on health care through the Medicaid program for more than 300 low-income residents after they died, according to a state legislative audit released Wednesday. The payments were discovered after auditors checked the names of Medicaid recipients from January 2008 through August of this year against Social Security records to capture those who died out of state. The program had relied on state vital statistics to track deaths (Cohn, 12/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Paid $426,000 In Medicaid Payments To 10 Dead People
A state legislative audit says Maryland paid $426,000 in Medicaid to 10 people who were dead. The audit, released Wednesday, also found that between January 2008 and August 2011, $2.5 million in erroneous payments were made for 323 people who may have already been dead (12/7).

Boston Globe: Blue Cross And Tufts Medical Set Contract
Three weeks after breaking off contract negotiations, Tufts Medical Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said yesterday they had struck a three-year health insurance agreement that will allow tens of thousands of Blue Cross members to keep their Tufts doctors and keep using the Boston hospital. The deal, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, will give Tufts and its New England Quality Care Alliance doctors group an average increase of 3 percent across their network (Weisman, 12/8).

Boston Globe: Steward Enlarges Its Footprint In Mass.
Escalating its competition with other Boston-area hospital chains, for-profit company Steward Health Care System has again lured away a major doctors group from a rival, this time grabbing a large South Shore practice from Partners HealthCare. Deep-pocketed newcomer Steward said yesterday that Compass Medical will join its network, a move that could shake up patient and provider relationships in communities south of Boston (Kowalczyk and Weisman, 12/8).

Health News Florida: 800,000 To Lose FL Medicaid?
About 800,000 people may be forced out of the state's Medicaid program if they must pay the $10 per month premium proposed by the Florida Legislature last spring, according to a report released today. More than 660,000 of those who lose coverage are likely to be children, says the study, a part of a series from Georgetown University and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. (Disclosure: The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is an underwriter of Health News Florida.) (Davis, 12/7).

The Connecticut Mirror: Looking For Data, Transparency In Health Care
You're in the market for arthroscopic knee surgery. Like most patients, you might decide where to get it done based on word of mouth, or a hospital preference. If you live in Maine, you can use another tool: Price. With an Internet connection and few clicks of a mouse, you can find out how much you and your insurance plan will likely pay for the procedure at each hospital in the state. ... The cost comparison is the result of a data collection effort being eyed and emulated across the country, including by Connecticut officials (Levin Becker, 12/7).

California Healthline: New Evidence of Seniors' Vulnerability
Kathryn Kietzman and other researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research conducted a series of interviews with California seniors and their families over a one-year period. Their ongoing monitoring yielded worrisome results, Kietzman said — particularly seeing the effect on those seniors of a number of seemingly small budget cuts. "Even those seniors with low-level needs were strongly affected by these cuts," Kietzman said, referring primarily to a 3.6 percent reduction in In-Home Supportive Services (Gorn, 12/8).

The Lund Report (An Oregon news service): Public Health Division Takes a Serious Look at Budget Reductions
With budget reductions looming as the February legislative session draws closer, Dr. Mel Kohn, director of the state's Public Health Division, is being forced to take a hard look at making cuts. …  In October, fees for medical marijuana cards were doubled, to $200, to generate $7 million for programs such as emergency medical care and school health centers. Kohn said his department is just starting to see the data (McCurdy, 12/7).

The Sacramento Bee: CHW, Sutter Pay $2.3 Million To Settle Medicare Double-Billing Case
Two of Sacramento's biggest health care players paid a combined $2.3 million to the federal government to settle allegations that 61 of their hospitals double-billed Medicare for therapies and services, U.S. Department of Justice officials announced Wednesday. Catholic Healthcare West paid more than $875,000 and Sutter Health nearly twice that – more than $1.43 million – for alleged duplicate charges for infusion therapies and treatments to break up kidney and bladder stones, in what Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman in the Sacramento U.S. attorney's office, called "a significant settlement” (Smith, 12/8).

The Miami Herald: Nineteen Florida Hospitals Agree To Union Contracts
SEIU announced Wednesday that its health care workers at 19 HCA-owned hospitals in Florida have approved "landmark agreements" — the latest development in a recent surge of union activity that has included the organizing of two South Florida hospitals. … All the facilities are owned by the national for-profit chains HCA and Tenet Healthcare. … In recent weeks, workers at Good Samaritan Medical Center, a Tenet hospital in West Palm Beach, voted to be represented by SEIU, while workers at Palmetto General in Hialeah voted to be represented by SEIU and another union, the National Nurses Organizing Committee (Dorschner, 12/7).

AP/MSNBC:  Va. Launches Health Care Registry
Virginia on Wednesday launched a registry for residents to let friends and families know their health care wishes if they are unable to make their own decisions. The state Department of Health's Advance Health Care Directive Registry will securely store important documents on the Internet to protect legal rights and ensure medical wishes are honored if residents are incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves. The registry allows people to store their advanced health care directive, power of attorney, organ donation information and other documents in order to let medical providers, emergency responders, family members, and anyone else they give access honor their desires (Felberbaum, 12/7).

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