KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State News: Texas Pharmacies Fear Lower Medicaid Fees

News outlets report on health policy stories around the country.

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Lower Medicaid Dispensing Fees May Pressure Pharmacies
In Rio Grande City, Rene Martinez's Starr Pharmacy has one line for Medicaid patients and another for non-Medicaid patients. On some days, most of his clients can be found waiting on the Medicaid line, a testament to the importance of that federal-state health insurance program in this poor city along the Texas-Mexico border — and to Mr. Martinez's bottom line (Cardona, 10/14).

Denver Post: Colorado Attorney General Clears HCA's Purchase of State's Largest Hospital System
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced late this afternoon he has approved HCA Holdings Inc.'s acquisition of Colorado Health Foundation's interest in the state's largest hospital system. Suthers' office determined that HCA/HealthONE's $1.45 billion buyout of the foundation's 40-percent interest in Swedish, Rose, Sky Ridge and other Denver-area hospitals — is in the public's interest. Suthers said the sales price is the fair market value. The for-profit HCA/HealthONE chain already was the system's largest partner and operated the hospitals (Draper, 10/13).

Los Angeles Times: Brown Vetoes Bill To Extend California Nursing Board
The authority of the California Board of Registered Nursing to license and discipline the state's nearly 400,000 registered nurses will expire Jan. 1. The powers would have been extended another four years under a seemingly routine "sunset bill" passed by the Legislature. But Brown vetoed the bill over the weekend, saying he objected to a provision that would have added to the state's pension costs (Sewell, 10/14).

Boston Globe: Protest of Massachusetts Hospital Association Stance on Medicare Postponed
A group of activists and seniors cancelled plans to stage a protest today at the Massachusetts Hospital Association after the organization agreed to meet with them to discuss their concerns about raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. The association has expressed support for the change, and the American Hospital Association has been organizing lobbying efforts in Washington to push it as a way for the congressional supercommittee hunting for $1.5 trillion in savings to cut health care costs without cutting hospital payments. President Lynn Nicholas called the proposal a “no brainer” (Conaboy, 10/13).

California Healthline: Health Industry Workers Contribute Millions To Candidates, Campaigns
During the last two election cycles, employees at California's hospitals, health plans and medical groups contributed millions of dollars to political action committees and candidates for federal office, Payers & Providers reports. Payers & Providers reviewed campaign disclosure reports from more than 300 health systems, health plans, hospitals and medical groups around the state. The findings are part of a white paper titled, "Follow the Money: The Healthcare Industry and Campaign Finance in California" (10/13).

The Sacramento Bee: Mental Health Agency Taps Anti-Bias Team
A team led by Sacramento public relations firm Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn Inc. has been selected by the California Mental Health Services Authority to conduct an $11.2 million social marketing campaign to reduce discrimination against those with mental health issues and combat the stigma associated with their condition. The team working on the campaign is composed of researchers, communicators, youth specialists, social service organizations, advocates and medical professionals (Glover, 10/13).

San Jose Mercury News: El Camino Hospital Workers May Call On Voters To Cap CEO's Pay
Just a little more than a week after Tomi Ryba started as the new CEO of El Camino Hospital, her employees are threatening to go to the polls in an effort to cap her pay. Upset at seeing executives draw big salaries while their own contract negotiations stall, a group of El Camino Hospital workers say they intend to put an initiative on the November 2012 ballot (Marschall, 10/14).

California Healthline: WIC Program May Drop 110,000 In California
The federal government is preparing to cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years from its budget. Under some proposals or in the event automatic reductions are triggered if no compromise solution is reached, cuts could affect health care services for low-income individuals. Reductions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Women, Infants and Children program would mean fewer services for California kids, according to Laurie True, executive director of the California WIC Association. If proposed cuts are enacted, True estimates about 110,000 Californians will have to be taken off the program. ... Another estimate by the California Budget Project puts the number at about 135,000 (Gorn, 10/14).

Stateline: Should States Lead Medicaid-Medicare Cost-Cutting Effort?
The 2010 federal health law calls on states to find better ways to coordinate care for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid — two separate programs that together account for more than $730 billion in federal and state spending. The aim is to iron out inefficiencies and gaps between the two programs, ... But a new report argues that Washington, not the states, should take the cost-reduction reins. In Refocusing Responsibility for Dual Eligibles: Why Medicare Should Take the Lead, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute say the federal government is “relying far too heavily on states to find a solution” (Vestal, 10/13).

Kansas Health Institute: First Kansas Hospitals Begin Receiving HIT Incentive Payments
At least three Kansas hospitals have received the first available incentive payments for implementing electronic health records systems. Morton County Health System in Elkhart received $1.4 million in Medicare-based incentives on Sept. 30, said the hospital's financial officer Jeff Weaver. Mercy Health Center in Fort Scott and Mercy Hospital in Independence also received incentive payments, but officials there did not know yet how much was received by their parent organization, Sisters of Mercy Health System. This is the first year hospitals and providers could apply for incentive payments for adopting EHRs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Cauthon, 10/13).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Clinic Is A First For Dental Trainees
This month, a $1.2 million dental clinic will open in Maplewood, offering dental exams and filling cavities for patients who have little or no money. While dentists will be on hand to supervise, they won't be the ones providing care. It's a teaching clinic, built by Metropolitan State University (with donated money). It's the first clinic in the nation built especially for a new type of health professional, Advanced Dental Therapists (Lerner, 10/13).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.