KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Financial Issues Threaten N.Y.’s Brookdale Hospital

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

The Wall Street Journal: Hospital Faces Scrutiny
On two separate occasions this year, Brookdale Hospital Medical Center—a once-venerable institution that serves some of the city's most impoverished patients—has been threatened with expulsion from public-health insurance programs after flunking multiple government safety inspections. The hospital relies heavily on Medicaid and Medicare for financial support (Gershman, 12/19).

Houston Chronicle: Millions For Indigent Care Unspent
About $8 million in a special fund to provide hospital or specialized medical care for Galveston County's poorest residents will go unused this year, perplexing social service agencies that say the need is great. Commissioners imposed a special tax in 2009 that raised about $11 million, part of a deal with the Legislature to save the University of Texas Medical Branch in the wake of Hurricane Ike. The county has spent less than $4 million over the two years since the fund was created, despite a convergence of factors that has increased the need for its services (Rice, 12/17).

The Baltimore Sun: University Of Maryland Medical System Among Suitors For St. Joseph
The University of Maryland Medical System and LifeBridge Health are among five suitors vying for a partnership with St. Joseph Medical Center, though a deal will likely be complicated by the Towson hospital's poor financial situation. St. Joseph has had a sharp drop in revenue and patient admissions since 2009, when allegations of unnecessary coronary procedures and a separate kickback scheme were made public (Walker and Bishop, 12/16).

The Sacramento Bee: Company Providing Prescription Drugs To CalPERS Member Settles Big Lawsuit
The company hired to deliver prescription drugs to CalPERS members is paying $19.9 million to settle claims that it cheated the California pension fund and other customers on a previous contract. CVS Caremark was hired in June to run a massive drug-benefit contract covering 350,000 members of CalPERS' PPO plan. CalPERS board members knew Caremark was facing a lawsuit claiming the company had defrauded the fund the last time it had the PPO drug contract, from 2003 to 2006. But the board went ahead with the new pact, saying the pension fund had instituted safeguards to prevent new problems (Kasler, 12/17).

The Seattle Times: Emergency-Providers Fee Assailed As Unfair Idea
Times are tough, no doubt about it, and state agencies are being asked to slash budgets. But a proposal to require emergency-services workers — including unpaid volunteers — to pay the state for certifying and disciplining them is bound to backfire, local fire departments and emergency-services leaders have told a House committee…. In most rural areas, all or most emergency responders are volunteers (Ostrom, 12/18).

The Lund Report: Majority Of State Employees Have Chosen To Participate In Health Engagement Model
Close to 85% of state employees [in Oregon] have chosen to participate in the Public Employees' Benefit Board's new health engagement model despite concern that the wellness program would tell people how to manage their health and invade their medical privacy. Many people thought – among them union leaders – that employees would have preferred to pay an additional $20 to $35 a month rather than participate (Waldroupe, 12/16).

Louisville Courier-Journal/Stateline: Voters Uneasy With University Hospital Merger, Poll Finds
Registered voters in Jefferson County are split on whether to allow the merger of University Hospital with a Catholic health system, but they become increasingly opposed when given information about it, according to a poll commissioned by a group of activists who oppose the merger (Gerth, 12/17).

(St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press: Over Three Decades, Tom Garrett Helped Build St. Jude Medical
Sometime soon, Tom Garrett expects to surrender his keys to the boardroom. The Mendota Heights resident has held a seat on the board of directors at St. Jude Medical for 32 years, helping transform the medical device maker from startup to Fortune 500 status. It's an unusually long tenure for a board member. ... An eight-year battle with a form of cancer called multiple myeloma took a turn for the worse this year. While Garrett was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last week to receive an experimental treatment, he says the time is coming when he'll likely need to step down (Snowbeck, 12/16).

HealthyCal: Nonprofit Provides Funding For End-Of-Life Care
Medicare is the major source of funding for hospice patients. But reimbursements from the federal program don’t cover the full cost of care for facilities that help people in the last stage of terminal illnesses or offer palliative treatment for patients undergoing substantial medical treatment. "They have to find alternative sources of revenue," said Jennifer Pettley, the director of communications for Hospice Foundation, a Central Coast organization (Flores, 12/15).

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