KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Mass. Hospitals Oppose State Penalties For Preventable Readmissions

Also in state news, a California news outlet reports on the difficult challenge hospitals face trying to recover overdue bill in a tough economy and another looks at efforts by a handful of hospitals to partner with churches to help reduce health care costs.

WBUR's CommonHealth blog: Hospitals Oppose Penalties For Preventable Readmissions
The Massachusetts Hospital Association is fretting that some of its members will soon get hit with a new state-sanctioned penalty for higher-than-expected patient readmissions. In a 9-page letter from the MHA to the state Medicaid Director Dr. Julian Harris, the association calls the new penalty — which is slated to take effect Oct. 1 — "inexplicable and inexcusable." It says those hospitals deemed to have readmissions numbers that are too high were given a 2.2% reduction to their ... Standard Payment Amount Per Discharge (Zimmerman, 9/20).

The California Report/KQED: Hospitals Face Challenges Collecting Rising Debt During A Recession
If you look closely, beyond the white coats and operating rooms, you'll find your hospital is a debt collector chasing millions in unpaid bills. At Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, on a floor most people will never see, Myranda Aguilar works as a billing specialist. ... Aguilar says since the recession, more patients can't pay off their bills. She said one-quarter of the patients she sees have lost their job and health care benefits (Weiss, 9/20).

California Watch: Attorney General Denies Sale To Controversial Hospital Chain
In a widely watched decision, the state attorney general's office today denied the sale of Victor Valley Community Hospital to Prime Healthcare Services' nonprofit foundation. ...  Prime accused the attorney general of siding with a labor union that "has been running a blatantly false smear campaign of vilification against hospitals operated by Prime Healthcare." Prime, which owns 14 hospitals, has come under increasing fire for its business practices and is under investigation for possibly exaggerating the severity of patient illnesses for profit (Jewett, 9/20).

(California) Press-Enterprise: Hospitals Partner With Faith Groups
In a quest for ways to reduce the cost of health care without lowering the quality, officials from Loma Linda University Medical Center and a handful of other hospitals around the country gathered Tuesday at the White House to compare notes on an emerging strategy: partnering with churches. Loma Linda, a Seventh-day Adventist faith-based institution, is coordinating efforts to improve health across Inland Southern California with a wide array other religious congregations, ranging from mega-churches to storefront houses of worship. The idea is to connect the medical center's 80 outreach programs, which range from childhood obesity prevention to drug and cancer treatment, to people before the problems grow in severity and cost (Goad, 9/20).

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