KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Gov. Christie’s Budget Plan Calls For Steep Cuts To State Hospitals’ Charity Care

The move reflects a drop in cases involving uninsured or underinsured patients, due to New Jersey's Medicaid expansion under the health law. But critics say the proposed funding is not enough to cover remaining patients. In other hospital news, Community Health Systems' weak earnings report drives shares lower.

The Wall Street Journal: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Proposes Hospital Cuts
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s seventh budget proposal, released on Tuesday, sticks to his pledge against raising taxes, but it assumes that public-sector unions agree to benefit cuts. The $34.8 billion plan also includes steep cuts to state hospitals to fund so-called charity-care cases, which involve treating uninsured or underinsured patients. (Haddon, 2/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Community Health Systems’ Shares Plunge After Weak Earnings
Community Health Systems Inc.’s share price plummeted Tuesday after a weak earnings report, the latest threat to U.S. hospital investors who have seen big gains of recent years from an improving economy and the 2010 federal health law largely erased in recent months. Community announced Monday that revenues in the last quarter of 2015 fell 2.4% compared with the final three months of 2014. The company added it was setting aside $169 million to cover unanticipated losses on unpaid bills. (Weaver, 2/16)

News outlets also report on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' upcoming hip-knee pilot program and the historical relevance of the hospital debate reverberating through 'Downton Abbey' in its final season —

CQ Roll Call: Ambitious CMS Hip-Knee Pilot Program On Track For April Start
Medicare appears on track to start in April a test program that will make about 800 hospitals financially responsible for how well people fare after knee and hip replacements, despite pleas from industry groups for more time to prepare for the major reimbursement change. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services seems unlikely to offer further concessions on its Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement program after having last year shifted away from the original January 2016 start date. The draft proposal for the CJR program was first unveiled in July 2015. (Young, 2/16)

Kaiser Health News: Health Reform Roils Downton Abbey
This season, Downton Abbey has a new plot line that has health wonks on the edge of their seats: a heated debate about hospital consolidation that closely parallels what’s going on in the U.S. health care system today. It’s 1925 for the lords and ladies at Downton Abbey. A big hospital in the nearby city of York is making a play to take over the Downton Cottage Hospital next to the posh estate. Or as Maggie Smith’s character sees it, “The royal Yorkshire county hospital wants to take over our little hospital, which is outrageous!” (Gold, 2/17)

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