KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State News: 2 ACOs Take Shape In Calif.; Md. Hospitals Report Problems

Reuters: Massachusetts Health Reform Didn't Cut ER Visits
Health care reform in Massachusetts only had a small impact on the number of trips residents took to the emergency room, according to a new study. Contrary to expectations that easier access to primary care would reduce ER use, the total number of ER visits at 11 hospitals increased slightly after reform was implemented -- a pattern similar to that seen in other states. "There was perhaps a perception that if we could just get people insurance they won't need the ER anymore," said Dr. Peter Smulowitz, the study's lead author from Harvard Medical School in Boston. But, "you cannot ever redirect every visitor, perhaps even the majority of visitors, away from the ER," he told Reuters Health (Pittman, 6/2). 

The Boston Globe: Patrick Names Physician To Lead Medicaid Office, Serving 1 Million
Governor Deval Patrick plans this summer to bring onboard a practicing primary care physician to run state government's largest health care program. Patrick yesterday named Dr. Julian Harris, a former Rhodes scholar who practices at the Southern Jamaica Plain Community Health Center and works with Cambridge Health Alliance, as director of the Office of Medicaid, which provides insurance for more than 1 million children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities (Norton, 6/2). 

California Healthline: New ACOs Emerging In Northern California
Two new accountable care organizations taking shape in Northern California may help determine what works and what doesn't in the new world of health care reform. After a successful launch of a two-year ACO pilot with 41,000 CalPERS members in Sacramento, Blue Shield of California, Catholic Healthcare West and Hill Physicians Medical Group will parlay their experience into a new ACO targeting 5,000 members of the San Francisco Health Service System. ... Another ACO -- partnering Brown & Toland Physicians, Blue Shield and California Pacific Medical Center -- will offer integrated care to 21,000 members of the members of the S.F. Health Service system. Both ACOs are due to launch in July (Edlin, 6/2). 

Kaiser Health News: The Other Health Care Lawsuit: California Medicaid Case Headed To Supreme Court
Memorial, a 278-bed hospital in (Santa Rosa, Calif.), sued California to try to stop the payment reductions. Now it is part of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could redefine states' responsibilities on Medicaid services and ultimately determine whether Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown can go forward with cuts he says are vital to closing the state's budget gap. The court is likely to hear arguments in the fall and render a decision by next spring (Chase, 6/2).

Modern Healthcare: Calif. Hospitals Fined For Safety Violations
Twelve California hospitals have been fined a total of $650,000 by the state for violations that caused or were likely to cause serious injury or death to patients (Vesely, 6/2). 

Georgia Health News: Legal Battles Spotlight Hospital Authorities' Role
In December, a former CEO of a South Georgia hospital system was convicted in a Medicaid fraud case of falsifying records. ... Four months later ... [the FTC challenged] an Albany hospital on a proposed acquisition of a rival facility. ... The two episodes, though somewhat different, both point to gray areas around Georgia hospital authorities, which are government entities created by cities or counties, or both, to build, equip and fund hospitals across the state (Miller, 6/2). 

Minnesota Public Radio: No Budget Deal Could Result In The State's Largest Layoff
If Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature fail to agree on a state budget by June 30, it could lead to what would arguably be the largest single layoff in state history. ... State government is the largest single employer in Minnesota. There are about 35,000 employees working for various state agencies under the executive branch. ... Three state agencies -- human services, transportation and corrections -- employ nearly half the state's workforce (Moylan, 6/3).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Hospitals Report More Problems To State
There was a significant uptick in the number of serious problems reported by Maryland hospitals in fiscal 2010, according to the annual report on patient care and safety released by state health officials. There were 265 top level adverse events reported in 2010, compared with 190 the year before. Health officials attributed the rise to better identification and reporting rather than more problems – particularly when it came to pressure ulcers (Cohn, 6/2). 

The Connecticut Mirror: Shift To Value-Based Health Plan Can Cause Worker Anxiety
With health care costs fast outpacing company earnings and workers' wages, Michelin North America assigned a team to find a new way to handle its health benefits. The result was a plan that gave workers a greater stake in taking care of their health and paid them for taking risk assessments and addressing problems the tests identified. ... Connecticut doesn't have that option. The concession agreement between state employee unions and the Malloy administration depends in part on the establishment of a new health plan with a focus on prevention and wellness, and that won't happen unless workers agree to it this month (Levin Becker, 6/2). 

The Lund Report (Oregon): Hospital Association Raises Objections To New Provider Tax
Starting in July, the state's 26 largest hospitals will start paying a 4 percent provider tax on their net revenue, which represents a 1.68 percent increase from the current tax. Those dollars, matched with federal matching funds, are expected to generate another $660 million over the next two years, and decrease the proposed cuts to hospitals and other healthcare providers from 19 percent to 11.5 percent (Lund-Muzikant, 6/2). 

Kansas Health Institute News: Federal Auditors Want Kansas To Return $2.4 Million
According to a federal audit, the Kansas Health Policy Authority owes the federal government at least $2.4 million because it improperly billed for some birthing and newborn services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. The audit, made public last week, found that the incorrect billings, which occurred between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2009, had caused the federal government to pay 90 percent of the costs for the deliveries and newborn care of some Medicaid beneficiaries, instead of the 59 percent to 68 percent of costs allowed by federal regulations (6/2). 

The Miami Herald: Mike Haridopolos Stands Out In Senate Race For Bucking GOP Medicare Plan
Florida's crowded Republican Senate race has two types of major candidates: The three who support their party's controversial Medicare revamp and Mike Haridopolos. Haridopolos, the Florida Senate's president, said he can't support the Republican plan because it doesn't protect seniors enough and doesn't cut enough of the deficit. In bucking his party's plan, Haridopolos inevitably puts a target on his back in the Republican primary. But it also makes him stand out in a crowded field and could pay dividends in a general election matchup against Democrat Bill Nelson (Caputo, 6/2).

Burlington Free Press: Vermont Panel Picked To Nominate Health Board
Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders have named the nine-member nominating committee charged with vetting candidates for the Green Mountain Care Board. The Green Mountain Care Board will design and administer components of the state's health care reform plan. The governor, House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, and Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Windsor, each appointed three people to the nominating panel (Remsen, 6/2). 

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