KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Mass. Considers New Health Payment System

Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Is Negotiating Pharmacy Contract With Firm Being Sued For Defrauding It
The California Public Employees' Retirement System is negotiating a lucrative pharmacy benefits management contract with Caremark Rx Inc., a company being sued for defrauding the pension fund of tens of millions of dollars (Lifsher, 4/16).

The Washington Post: Massachusetts, Pioneer Of Universal Health Care, Now May Try New Approach To Costs
Five years ago this week, Massachusetts became the first state to move toward universal health insurance, foreshadowing the 2010 federal health-care overhaul. Now, the commonwealth is debating whether to become a role model again - by replacing the fee-for-service system that has long defined U.S. medicine (Goldstein, 4/15).

The Associated Press/Minnesota Public Radio: Minn. GOP: Let Parents Know When Kids Seek Care
A GOP proposal in Minnesota would require parental consent before minors could seek treatment for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or drug and alcohol abuse, undoing a 40-year-old law that lets minors see doctors without letting a parent know. Such a change would set Minnesota apart from most other states (Bannow, 4/18). 

The Sacramento Bee: Nurses At Two Sutter Hospitals Ratify Deals
Registered nurses at Sutter Health hospitals in Roseville and Auburn have voted to ratify new three-year agreements, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United announced Friday. The collective bargaining agreement calls for an immediate 5 percent increase and an additional 14 percent over three years for about 850 nurses at Sutter Roseville. At Auburn Faith, about 250 nurses get a 3 percent immediate increase, plus 14 percent over three years (Glover, 4/17). 

The Connecticut Mirror: New Database Provides Information On 'Hospital-Acquired Conditions'
According to controversial new data released by the federal government, foreign objects were left in Medicare patients after surgery four times at one Connecticut hospital from October 2008 through June 2010. ... The data on hospital-acquired conditions is the latest in a growing list of health care quality measures being reported publicly. Later this month, it will be added to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Hospital Compare website (Levin Becker, 4/15).

California Healthline: Cash, Credits, Peer Support Incentives To Alter Bad Health Habits
Wellness incentives have become a major push in California. The variety of incentives is almost unlimited. [Ellen Wu, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network] hopes efforts by her not-for-profit can help turn the tide toward a healthier society. "I think there is tremendous evidence of the effectiveness of wellness programs," Wu said. "I'd like us to make sure we include health wellness in all of our [government policy] discussions, and in all employer plans" (Gorn, 4/14).

Seattle Times: State Plan To Limit Medicaid Could Backfire On Kids
Few objected when the state said it needed to prevent Medicaid patients from running up pricey emergency-room bills for such nonemergency conditions as sunburn, acne and diaper rash. But when doctors, hospitals and parents got wind that the state's plan also would limit visits for such potentially serious conditions as abdominal pain, breathing trouble and some types of hemorrhage, the proposal unleashed a torrent of criticism. The plan would cap ER visits to three per year for such so-called nonemergency conditions. As lawmakers and state agencies struggle to close a $5 billion shortfall, this is one of many attempts to pare medical assistance to low-income residents - from adult dental care to support for community clinics. The proposal, state officials calculate, could save $72 million to $76 million over two years (Ostrom, 4/17).

The Statesman Journal: Oregon Bill Would Allow Health Care 'Exchanges'
Oregon soon may join the ranks of states with electronic marketplaces, known as "exchanges," that will make it easier for individuals and small businesses to shop for health insurance coverage and compare benefits. Senate Bill 99 was cleared last week by the Senate Health Care Committee for a vote of the full Senate. It would set up a public corporation with a seven-member board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate to decide standards for commercial plans. ... Then about 150,000 individuals and 65,000 small businesses - for an overall total of 350,000 Oregonians - can choose to enroll and find out if they qualify for federal tax credits made available under the health-care overhaul passed by Congress last year (Wong, 4/17). 

The Lund Report (Oregon): Senate Committee Passes Exchange Bill Without Consumer Amendments
(A provision) that allow insurance brokers into the exchange, loosens the restrictions on conflicts of interest for board members and limits the board's ability to negotiate for lower insurance prices led a coalition of healthcare consumer advocates to oppose the bill. The coalition includes more than a dozen organizations from Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, AARP of Oregon, SEIU and the Oregon Nurses Association (Rosenfeld, 4/15).

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