KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Roundup: Md. Blue Cross Probed; Mass. Nonprofit Hospitals May Be Sold

The Baltimore Sun: Blue Cross Investigation Is Expanded 
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Maryland's largest insurer, confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that it received a civil investigative demand from the Justice Department but declined to comment further (3/29).

The Boston Globe: Ranks Of For-Profit Hospitals May Grow
For-profit health care is expanding in Massachusetts, with community hospitals in Taunton and Lowell expected to soon disclose deals to be sold, probably to Steward Health Care System, while other struggling nonprofit hospitals around the state ponder similar bids. ... In Taunton and Lowell, and at a larger hospital system on Cape Ann, community hospitals in financial trouble have been torn between starkly different would-be buyers: neighboring institutions promising to maintain their nonprofit community missions, and investor-owned chains that can fund the clinical and technology investments they need to compete - while providing a return to their owners (Weisman and Kowalczyk, 3/30).

The Connecticut Mirror: Insurance Brokers Battle For Commissions Under Health Reform Law
In another flashpoint over implementation of federal health reform, insurance brokers are trying to undo a regulation that, they say, has already led to deep cuts in the commissions they earn from selling health care policies. The issue pits brokers against consumer groups, with state insurance commissioners split on the subject. Connecticut's new insurance commissioner, Thomas B. Leonardi, is among those resisting federal legislation to make sure agents' fees are protected under the health reform law (Shesgreen, 3/29).

Earlier, related KHN stories: Brokers Seek To Preserve Role In Health Insurance Marketplace (Rau and Appleby, 3/16)  and Health Insurance Brokers Fight For Their Future (Gold, 12/3).

The Texas Tribune: Zerwas: Texas Health Insurance Exchange May Be Dead
State Rep. John Zerwas, the Simonton Republican who has filed legislation to implement one of the key elements of federal health care reform, said his bill may be permanently stuck. Zerwas, who proposed establishing a Texas health insurance exchange not because he approves of federal health reform, but because he fears the feds will do it for Texas, said he's been told Gov. Rick Perry's office doesn't support the measure (Ramshaw, 3/29).

The Texas Tribune: Health Payment Reform Bills Get Warm Reception
Two sweeping bills to reward patient outcomes - as opposed to the current system that incentivizes overutilization - got a warm welcome in a Senate committee hearing this morning. From the major professional health care organizations to the think tanks, from Republicans to Democrats, almost everyone agreed the measures are necessary to improve care and contain costs. Their only hang-ups? Making sure doctors and hospitals can work together without violating anti-trust laws. Ensuring that cost savings are distributed equitably. And making sure that cost savings and changes don't limit access for patients (Ramshaw, 3/29).

The Miami Herald: Irate Doctor Resigns From Jackson Board
Physician-entrepreneur Mark Rogers resigned Tuesday from the governing board of the troubled Jackson Health System, fed up that the board has failed to make significant changes to the system, - which he predicted will "fail shortly." Rogers, former chief executive of Duke University Hospital, is the only member of the Public Health Trust with hospital administrative experience. He started on the board six months ago (Dorschner, 3/29).

Stateline: One State's Hospital Cost Solution: Regulated Prices
For more than 30 years, Maryland has regulated the rates hospitals can charge, while all 49 other states have relied on market mechanisms to keep prices in check. For the most part, it has worked. The urban hospitals that serve large numbers of uninsured Maryland patients are financially strong, instead of nearly bankrupt like most inner-city hospitals. And everyone - private insurers, the uninsured, and those on Medicaid and Medicare-is charged the same amount. Maryland has the lowest price in the country for average hospital cases (Vestal, 3/29). 

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