KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Some Mass. Residents Fight Individual Mandate For Health Insurance, N.J. Delays Implementation Of Law Requiring Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

Health News Florida: "A former hospital executive has accused Naples-based Health Management Associates of offering money, free rent and private jet trips to entice doctors to refer Medicare patients to the company's hospitals. ... In a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Aug. 2 by a federal judge, former hospital CEO J. Michael Mastej also accused his former employer of filing fraudulent claims on services HMA's facilities provided the ill-gotten Medicare patients. ... HMA presently operates approximately 56 hospitals in 15 states..... HMA addressed the lawsuit last week in its quarterly report with the following statement: 'We continue to review this recently unsealed complaint and we intend to vigorously defend Health Management and its subsidiary against the allegations in this matter'" (Wells, 8/10).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The [N.J. Gov. Chris] Christie administration will delay the implementation of a law that would allow a judge to require a person to undergo outpatient mental-health treatment, officials announced Tuesday, citing a lack of funding. Officials from the state Department of Human Services said that the law, which was prompted in part by several slayings committed by individuals with mental illnesses who had refused treatment, could not be implemented because the state 'did not appropriate funds to the department to support its implementation.' The current budget, Christie's first since taking office, reduced appropriations for existing community mental-health programs by more than $11 million," which "followed previous years of cuts" (Lu, 8/11).

Star Tribune: "As cracks emerge in Minnesota's experimental new health care program for the poorest adults, about a dozen counties and hospitals have taken matters into their own hands -- organizing charity care networks or, in some cases, paying insurance premiums so their patients can get better coverage." General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), "serves about 30,000 childless adults who earn no more than 75 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Most have chronic illnesses, half are mentally ill and 25 percent are homeless. After much wrangling at the Legislature, a change in state law June 1 slashed the program's funding by two-thirds and transformed GAMC from a statewide managed care system into a hospital-based system -- with participating hospitals bearing much of the risk" (Wolfe, 8/10).

The Boston Herald reports that, last week, 29-year old Michael Merlina "filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority. The 29-year-old North Reading glazier is fighting the $2,000 state fine for not having health insurance. In 2009, the first year penalties were in place, Merlina paid a $400 fine for him and his wife. This time, he balked." He said he "can't afford $800 a month for health insurance, or the $2,000 penalty for not having it."… He's not one of the 184,000 Massachusetts residents poor enough to qualify for the state's mostly free health care. Nor is he lucky enough to work for a company that provides insurance. … Connector spokesman Dick Powers said Merlina is among the 2,500 people who appealed this year's fine" (McConville, 8/10).

Daytona Beach [Fla.] News-Journal: "There are three options when it comes to funding health care for Flagler County employees and dealing with increasing health care costs: Make employees pay more, make the county pay more or change the plan. In the end, Flagler County commissioners decided to share the increased costs between what employees pay and what the county pays" (Murphy, 8/11). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.