KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: N.H. Hospital In Hepatitis Oubreak Must Allow Access To Patient Records

News outlets report on health care developments in  Colorado, Florida, Illinios, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: NH Hospital In Hepatitis C Outbreak Ordered To Give State Broad Access To Patient Records
A New Hampshire judge says a hospital tied to a hepatitis C outbreak must grant public health officials broad access to patient records. Exeter Hospital had argued it would be violating state and federal law if it provided unfettered access to its records system. But a Merrimack County Superior Court judge on Thursday sided with the state (11/1).

Chicago Sun-Times: Whistleblower Suit Accuses Northwestern University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital Of Defrauding Government
A whistleblower lawsuit recently unveiled in U.S. District Court accuses Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital of defrauding the federal government by double-billing for patient care. Filed in November 2010, the suit had remained sealed until July, when federal prosecutors who had been reviewing its claims declined to add the U.S. government as a plaintiff. Former employee Audra Soulias, 36, alleges in the suit that the university and hospital violated the False Claims Act by collecting reimbursement from both Medicare and the National Institutes of Health for the same patients (Ihejirika, 11/1).

The Associated Press: Maine Governor Sees 'Games' Over Medicaid Cuts
Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday the federal government is playing "political games" over cutbacks his administration is seeking in the state's Medicaid program, or MaineCare. LePage said the federal Department of Health and Human Services has once again extended its time frame to decide whether to approve waivers for MaineCare reductions that were approved by the Legislature earlier this year (11/1).

The Associated Press: CO Budget Plan Focuses On Investments, Not Cuts
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's budget proposal released Thursday includes more funding for education, more Medicaid spending, and pay increases for state employees for the first time in five years. The Democratic governor's budget plan represents something the state hasn't seen in years: no major cuts (Moreno, 11/1).

The Denver Post: Harsh New Spotlight On Colorado Health Prices Promises Change
The actual price tag for an MRI on your knee could be only $297 if you and your insurance company do enough bargain-hunting. But the bill for the same service is as high as $1,261, more than four times as much, at another top metro-area MRI provider, according to a powerful new database meant to shine a harsh spotlight on health-care price differences that can't be justified (Booth, 11/1).

Kaiser Health News: The Price Is Right There In Front Of You, In Colorado At Least
The price of a knee MRI in Colorado varies from $350 to $2,336. It’s a huge gap, but it’s also remarkable that the prices themselves are known at all. Prices for health care aren’t public in most states, making shopping for the best deal nearly impossible. Different patients pay different prices for the same procedures based on their insurance coverage, and even the doctors who order the tests are often unaware of the price variations (Whitney, 11/2).

The Boston Globe: Harvard Wary Of Health Care Costs
Harvard University's top financial officials are sounding an alarm about the rising cost of medical benefits for its employees, saying costs are growing at a rate "unsupportable" relative to revenues. In Harvard's annual report, being released Friday, officials said that while they want to keep offering generous benefits, the school "cannot simply continue with the status quo." It is the first time the nation's richest university has addressed employee health care so directly (Healy and Weisman, 11/2).

Florida Health News: Humana Gold Plus HMO Leads In FL Medicare Ratings
Twenty years ago, Humana's Gold Plus Plan was a mess. Patients went blind and lame, waiting for cataract and knee-joint surgery. Many doctors who contracted with Humana and tried to help those patients went deeply into debt. But today, Humana's Gold Plus HMO is the only statewide Medicare plan to achieve a near-perfect rating in the new 1-to-5-star rating scale, receiving 4 ½ out of 5 stars (Gentry, 11/1).

California Healthline: New Name, New Website for Exchange
California consumers will be able to get a strong picture of California Covered, the newly named package of health insurance offerings from the Health Benefit Exchange when the state launches a new website next month, according to exchange officials (Gorn, 11/2).

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