KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Roundup: Fraying Safety Nets; Calif. Mental Health Clinics; Texas Obesity Costs Rising

WBUR: State Will Stop Paying For Some Hospital Re-Admissions
Medicaid is one of the fastest growing parts of the state budget. To tackle rising health care costs, Gov. Deval Patrick's administration plans to stop paying hospitals with high rates of re-admissions when low-income patients return within 30 days. [The office of Dr. Judy Ann Bigby, secretary for Health and Human Services in Massachusetts] is sending hospitals their re-admission scores. Later this year, the state plans to stop paying hospitals where the re-admission rate is higher than the statewide average (Bebinger, 2/8).

Houston Chronicle: Tomball Center, Other Hospitals Brace For Cuts
In an era of overcrowded emergency departments, Tomball Regional Medical Center's emergency room has become an efficiency leader, a model of how to quickly stabilize patients, move them to hospital beds and keep the waiting room manageable. Hospital officials are worried that the good times are about to end. The officials fear the ER will be the recipient of a crush of Medicaid patients suddenly seeking primary care or preventable emergency care, the result of the 2011 Texas Legislature slashing reimbursement rates (Ackerman, 2/8).

Star Tribune: Minnesota's Fraying Safety Net
More than a million needy Minnesotans rely on the state's taxpayer-supported safety net, most of them low-income seniors, disabled persons and children who need health care and other services. But the crushing combination of a bad economy and the growing needs of an aging population are stretching the system like never before. There's no way to fix the state's $6.2 billion financial hole without affecting that safety net (Schrade and Wolfe, 2/8).

California Healthline: Mental Health Advocates See Promise, Problems in Budget Plan
Mental health advocates and county officials say Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) proposal to shift authority and funding for mental health services from Sacramento to the 58 counties could be a good thing -- as long as the new responsibilities come with enough money to keep programs afloat. There appears to be some doubt about that (Lauer, 2/7).

Minnesota Public Radio: Pawlenty Touts Success, But Health Care Savings Are Slim
As he prepares for a possible run for the presidency, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been touting the success of Minnesota's home-grown health reforms during his national book tour. ... While it's true that Minnesota has been experimenting with new ways of paying for care, some health care observers believe it's a stretch to say that Minnesota's experiments have had much of an effect on costs. MPR News picked out two of Pawlenty's Minnesota reform claims and examined them. ... Bundling care into baskets or packages gives providers an incentive to get their patients healthy as soon as possible. If they do, they'll make more money. If they don't, they're on the hook for any costs that exceed the bundled payment. But so far, Minnesota's baskets-of-care experiment hasn't really lived up to its potential (Benson, 2/8).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Sen. Hughes Plans To 'Fix Holes' In Abortion Clinic Rules
No amount of political hand-wringing will ever undo all the alleged botched abortions and murders of living, breathing infants that allegedly occurred for decades inside the walls of Kermit Gosnell's West Philly medical practice. ... state Sen. Vincent Hughes yesterday said that he plans to introduce a package of legislation that will, among other things, require abortion clinics to be inspected annually and make it easier for people to file complaints against crummy clinics (Gambacorta, 2/8).

The Texas Tribune: Report: Cost of Obesity Rising 
Obesity cost Texas businesses $9.5 billion in 2009, according to a report, "Gaining Costs, Losing Time," released today by State Comptroller Susan Combs. It could cost them $32.5 billion annually by 2030. ... The report calculates the cost of obesity in terms of health insurance payments by employers, the indirect costs of poor productivity and absence from the workplace due to obesity, and directly attributable disability health care costs. ... The old, poor and less educated are more likely to be obese, according to the report. And Hispanics, who have the highest obesity rate and are the fastest-growing population, "are expected to drive obesity rates higher in future years," the report says (Aaronson, 2/7).

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