KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Philadelphia Paramedics Plan To Sue Over Health Coverage; Healthcare Merger Seeks To Lower Costs In Wash.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The city's paramedics are planning to sue over Mayor Nutter's efforts to keep them out of the firefighters union. The dispute goes back to a ruling by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last month that gave the city the right to shift paramedics out of the firefighters union. That meant the medics would have to switch to the health plan that nonrepresented city employees get, which union representatives say is not as generous" (Hill, 10/8).

The Seattle Times: "Group Health Cooperative and The Everett Clinic have announced what both say is a mutually beneficial partnership to contain costs and improve care - not a takeover of the clinic by the much larger cooperative. To the outside world, it might seem odd that Group Health - a health maintenance organization that for most of its existence has avoided the fee-for-service world and charged patients per month, not per procedure - is joining hands with a prominent fee-for-service provider. But both say in light of skyrocketing health-care costs, as well as the likelihood the new federal health overhaul will force belt-tightening, they need to learn from one another" (Ostrom, 10/7).

The Los Angeles Times: "In the biggest private-sector labor election since 1941, the giant Service Employees International Union has decisively defeated an insurgent group to continue representing about 43,000 Kaiser healthcare workers in California. The SEIU received 18,290 votes to 11,364 for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which was launched last year by several former leaders of the larger organization. The mail ballots went out in mid-September and the count was completed late Thursday. The election was by far the largest and most significant showdown in the bitter feud between the 2-million-member SEIU and NUHW, which represents about 5,700 workers" (Pringle, 10/8).

The Los Angeles Times: "More than 140 nurses, pharmacists and others in a program for substance-abusing medical professionals tested positive on drug or alcohol screenings, but the results were disregarded because a state subcontractor was using the wrong standard, officials said. The problem continued for 10 months until the company that runs the program recently alerted the state. All the while, most of the medical workers were allowed to keep practicing, although state officials couldn't say how many were seeing patients" (Garrison, 10/8).

The News Service of Florida: "A year's worth of audit reports newly compiled for lawmakers paints a troubling portrait of Florida's Medicaid program but also sets a course for reform, a top state senator said Wednesday. Health Regulation Committee Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the findings by the Florida Auditor General's office 'are not a pretty sight.' But they bolster legislative leaders' attempts to steer more low-income Floridians into managed-care health coverage, he added. … The Auditor General's office has released what it describes as a 'legislative briefing' that summarizes two years' worth of audits of Medicaid, which is on track to exceed $20 billion next year, demanding an additional $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars. … Among the more glaring findings in the audits: The state's Agency for Health Care Administration paid $792 million in 6,692 emergency payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers 'not clearly authorized by law or supported by valid claims'" (Kennedy, 10/6).

The Florida Tribune: "Loranne Ausley, the Democratic candidate for chief financial officer, on Wednesday called for new job protections for state agency watchdogs. Ausley wants to make it harder to fire those who work as inspector general at state agencies. Inspector generals are responsible for audits, management reviews and investigating wrongdoing by agency employees. In recent years, several inspector generals have been ousted, including Linda Keen at the Agency for Health Care Administration" (10/7).

Dallas Morning News: "Parkland Memorial Hospital and its 11 neighborhood clinics could treat more patients but lose existing funds under the federal health care overhaul and several recent state proposals, the hospital's chief told a House panel Thursday. Ron Anderson, president and CEO of the Parkland Health & Hospital System, said he welcomes many features of the federal law, including an expected addition of 1.2 million poor adults to the state Medicaid program in 2014. Texas Medicaid, though, pays very low fees to doctors, and they may refuse to see the newly covered adults, he warned" (Garrett, 10/7).

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