KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Mass. Health System, Insurer Near Reimbursement Deal

News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.

The Boston Globe: Insurer In Deal To Curb Its Rates
Partners HealthCare System Inc. is close to reaching an agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts that could provide relief to tens of thousands of insurance customers by slowing the rate of their premium increases, potentially by nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. A preliminary understanding calls for Partners hospitals to accept $80 million less in reimbursements annually for the next three years under a new contract, according to business and government officials briefed on their plans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the plans. ... The contract would also shift the way Partners hospitals are reimbursed, giving them budgets for patient care rather than paying them for each visit and procedure (Weisman, 9/14).

The Boston Globe: Hospitals To Require Worker Flu Shots
Two of Boston's largest teaching hospitals will require all employees who have contact with patients to get a flu vaccine this fall or face suspension or possibly termination. The two, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Boston, are part of a 10-hospital coalition that pledged in July to adopt policies "as quickly as logistically feasible’" to mandate seasonal flu vaccines for all health care workers "as a condition of employment" (Lazar, 9/14).

New Hampshire Public Radio: Feds Agree to Work with Planned Parenthood
The federal government has reached an agreement with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to provide health services in the state. The deal effectively restores funding that the Executive Council had blocked earlier this year. For nearly 40 years, the state of New Hampshire has contracted Planned Parenthood to provide cancer screening, access to birth control and other services (Gorenstein, 9/13).

Concord Monitor: Planned Parenthood Gets Contract
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday it will contract directly with Planned Parenthood to provide family planning services in New Hampshire, effectively reversing an Executive Council decision earlier this year. The federal agency said it will award $1 million to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to restore family planning services, which include contraception and cancer screenings, in uncovered areas of New Hampshire through December 2012 (Langley, 9/14).

Des Moines Register: Calling 10 Towns: Join Together, Get Healthy
Iowa towns are being asked to set down their cheeseburgers, strap on their sneakers and sign up for the chance to show the rest of the state how to get healthy. Organizers of the new statewide "Blue Zones" effort announced details Tuesday of how towns could apply to become demonstration projects. Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which is Iowa's main health insurer, has pledged to spend up to $25 million over five years on the effort (Leys, 9/14).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Abele Aims To Cut County's $3 Million Paramedic Subsidy
Milwaukee County would end its $3 million annual payment toward local paramedic programs, under a cut County Executive Chris Abele says he'll include in his 2012 budget. Abele announced his intention to eliminate the payments to municipal fire departments as part of his plans to fill a projected county shortfall of up to $55 million during a meeting Monday with municipal leaders from the county (Schultze, 9/13).

Kansas Health Institute News: More Independent, Small-Town Pharmacies Closing
In the last five years, at least four Kansas communities lost their only pharmacy and another eight communities are now down to just one pharmacy, according to a report from the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis. The closures were part of a sharp decline in independent pharmacies nationwide between 2006 and 2010 (Cauthon, 9/13).

California Healthline: CalHIPSO Still Has ARRA Health IT Money To Spend
More and more primary care providers are ditching their file folders and moving into the era of electronic health records, a trend marked by a milestone achievement in California and highlighted this week in Washington. ... [The California Health Information Partnership and Services Organization] announced last week it has enrolled more than 6,187 health care providers, mainly community health centers and small medical practices, in programs designed to assist transition to EHRs (Rose, 9/13). 

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