KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Highlights: Va. Senate Panel Backs Mental Health Bill

Health care news from Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming.

Modern Healthcare: CMS Blocking Some Home Health Agencies, Ambulance Suppliers From Reimbursements
The CMS, hoping to stop fraudulent repayment claims before they occur, is temporarily blocking several home health agencies and ground ambulance suppliers located around the country from enrolling in and receiving reimbursement from the Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance (CHIP) programs. The affected entities are located in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla, Miami, Detroit, Dallas, Houston and the Greater Philadelphia area. The freezes are allowed under a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that aims to move the CMS beyond a “pay and chase” fraud model to one that's focused on prevention, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement (Dickson, 1/30).

Miami Herald: Feds Continue Ban On New Home Health Agencies In Miami-Dade, Extend It To Broward
Seeking to root out and deter fraud among agencies that provide nurses and therapists to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in their homes, federal officials Thursday said they will lengthen a temporary moratorium on new home health agencies in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. They also extended the ban to Broward for the first time (Chang, 1/30).

The New York Times: State Health Dept. Defers Action On Troubled Agency
The New York State Department of Health on Thursday abruptly withdrew its recommendation that a home health care agency with a checkered past be granted an expanded license, saying that new information had come to its attention and that officials needed more time to evaluate it before a vote on the license. That decision came hours after an article in The New York Times was published documenting a long history of Medicaid fraud investigations of the agency (Bernstein, 1/30).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Senate Panel Backs Deeds' Mental Health Bill
A Senate committee voted Thursday to impose a 24-hour time limit on emergency custody orders, which would quadruple the time a person can be held involuntarily for mental health evaluation. Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, proposed the 24-hour limit. He has led the move in the General Assembly to reform state mental health laws since the suicide of his son, Austin C. "Gus" Deeds, on Nov. 19. Gus Deeds stabbed his father repeatedly and killed himself at their Millboro home, just 13 hours after being released from an emergency custody order that expired after six hours (Martz, 1/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Mississippi Governor Signs Youth Concussion Law
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed a bill into law requiring public and private schools to evaluate student athletes for concussions if they've been especially shaken up or taken a hard hit during practice or competition. A player with a concussion would be banned from play until fully recovered (1/30). 

The Associated Press: Bill Would Force Health Insurers To Use Providers
Insurers would have to accept any medical provider who meets contract terms into their network under a bill moving forward in the Mississippi House. The House Insurance Committee voted 7-6 Thursday to approve House Bill 553, with four members present but not voting (1/30).

The CT Mirror: Democrats Want More Oversight On Hospital Ownership Changes
The future of Bristol Hospital is as part of a large network, CEO Kurt Barwis believes. The small community hospital is in talks to be acquired by Tenet Healthcare, a national for-profit hospital chain partnered with the Yale New Haven Health System, a move that Barwis says would help Bristol Hospital adapt to the rapidly changing demands of health care. But that vision of the hospital's future relies in part on the legislature: With the strong encouragement of organized labor, legislators will make expanding the regulatory oversight needed for changes in hospital ownership a top priority this year (Becker and Pazniokas, 1/31).

North Carolina Health News: Lawmakers Study Nurse-Midwife Licensure
Lawmakers are taking another look at a proposal to loosen the practice restrictions on nurse-midwives. A bill proposed in committee would allow nurse-midwives to practice without contractual supervisory arrangements with physicians, instead mandating that they "collaborate, consult with or refer to other providers … if indicated by the health status of the patient" (Hoban, 1/30).

Stateline: Maryland Tries To Curb Hospital Costs
Instead of drumming up more business with big-name doctors, stand-alone emergency departments and high-tech equipment, Maryland hospitals this year will do the unthinkable: strive to admit fewer patients. The federal government earlier this month approved a first-of-its-kind regulatory scheme in Maryland that aims to reduce spending on hospital services, which are the most expensive form of health care. The plan uses financial incentives to push hospitals to work with doctors outside their buildings to keep people healthier. In approving Maryland's Medicare waiver, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the plan could be a model for other states (Vestal, 1/31).

Related KHN coverage: Maryland’s Bold Hospital Spending Plan Gets Federal Blessing (Hancock, 1/10).

The Associated Press: Wyoming Catholic Groups Challenge Feds On Obamacare Contraception Mandate
Catholic organizations in Wyoming filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the birth-control coverage requirement in federal government's health care overhaul. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, which covers the entire state, together with a number of Catholic schools and charities, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Cheyenne (1/31).

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