State Roundup: Health Alliances Formed In Calif.
News outlets report on a variety of state health policy issues.
Los Angeles Times: Providence, Doctors Join To Study And Improve Care, Cut Costs
One of Southern California's largest hospital systems is teaming up with hundreds of doctors in a new alliance designed to better manage patient care, improve medical outcomes and reduce costs. Under the partnership with Providence Health & Services of Southern California, doctors will share and analyze data about diabetes, congestive heart failure and other conditions to identify effective practices and eliminate inefficiencies that drive up expenses (Helfand, 10/6).
The Seattle Times: Swedish, Providence To Join Forces
Citing economic challenges in the region and country, two of Western Washington's largest hospital systems announced a plan to combine forces, creating a new, nonprofit entity that would operate the largest health care system in the state. The new entity would include Swedish Health Services in Washington, which operates five hospitals and clinics in King, Snohomish and Kittitas counties, and Providence Health & Services operations in King, Snohomish, Thurston and Lewis counties. … In a conference call Wednesday, the CEOs of Swedish and Providence portrayed the affiliation as one born of economic necessity. Insurance reimbursements are shrinking, and unemployment is persisting, and fragmented, uncoordinated care consumes an ever-larger share of budgets (Ostrom, 10/6).
Detroit Free Press: Bill To Cut Back On Lawmaker Benefits
Retiree health care for state legislators would end under a bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday and expected to pass the House today, but the change protects many current lawmakers, especially in the Senate. The House is expected to take up the bill today that would prohibit retiree health care benefits for all future state legislators and end benefits for current House and Senate members who don't have six years of service in before Jan. 1, 2013. The House passed a bill that would have ended retiree health benefits for legislators who took office after Jan. 1, 2007. But the Senate version moved the date to Jan. 1, 2013 (Gray, 10/6).
WBUR: Blue Cross, Partners Finalize Deal To Slow Premium Hikes
Under pressure from state government, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Partners HealthCare have agreed to limit medical spending increases over the next three years. ... The insurance company and medical care provider have agreed to a so-called global payment system. They say it will reduce spending boosts over the next three years by $80 million annually (Nickisch, 10/5).
Boston Globe: Partners, Blue Cross Strike Deal on Rates
A new pact between the state's largest health insurer and its biggest hospital and doctors network could boost efforts to contain health care costs, both sides said yesterday. But for now, the three-year agreement between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Partners HealthCare System Inc. — owner of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals in Boston — will only slow the rate of premium increases for about 200,000 patients of Partners physicians covered by the managed care insurance plan known as HMO Blue (Weisman, 10/6).
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Christie Announces Immediate Savings From Reform Plan
(N.J. Gov. Chris) Christie announced that his pension benefit reform plan, which the Democratic Legislature approved in June, will save local governments $267 million in fiscal year 2012. That includes $224 million from the police and firefighters' pension fund and $43 million from the fund for other public employees. Over the next 30 years, Christie says, cuts in both health care and pension payments for public workers will save $120 billion for state and local governments (Katz, 10/6).
Boston Globe: Repeal Effort Percolating
While the sparring over universal health care continues in the courts and on the presidential campaign trial, a new front in the battle recently opened outside the Roche Bros. store in this tranquil suburb. "Will you sign our petition to repeal the individual mandate?’" Bridget Fay asked shoppers wheeling grocery carts past a stack of pumpkins in front of the supermarket. Fay, a young lawyer, is the spokeswoman for a new group called Massachusetts Against Individual Mandate. If she and other petitioners can collect 69,000 valid signatures of registered voters by Nov. 23, they will clear a major hurdle toward getting a question on the November 2012 state election ballot to repeal the part of the state health care law that requires Massachusetts residents to buy medical insurance (Weisman, 10/6).
San Francisco Chronicle: SF Task Force To Tackle Health Care Law Loophole
Mayor Ed Lee moved to avoid a showdown with the Board of Supervisors and other candidates in the mayor's race by convening a task force Wednesday to address closing a loophole in the city's landmark health care law. His move came one day after he threatened to veto legislation given preliminary approval by a split Board of Supervisors Tuesday that would affect the health care reimbursement accounts that employers set up for uninsured workers. Currently, participating employers contribute up to $4,252 a year for each worker. Employers get to take back any money that's not used within a year (Gordon, 10/6).
Health News Florida: Counselors Seek Patients' Help in BCBS Fight
Some mental health providers are embroiled in a battle with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida — and some are seeking patients' help. The fight follows an August announcement that the insurer will end contracts with mental health providers on Nov. 1 and turn those services over to the Kansas-based managed-care company New Directions Behavioral Health. Mental-health providers and groups, including the American Psychological Association, immediately branded the new contract —and its lower payments — as "ridiculous" and wrote angry letters to government leaders (Davis, 10/5).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Stable Medicare Drug Costs In Minnesota Likely In '12
The 700,000 Minnesotans with prescription drug coverage through Medicare can expect generally stable premiums for 2012, according to new data released by the federal government. But the averages mask big differences from one insurance plan to another — and with open enrollment starting Oct. 15, state officials are urging beneficiaries to shop carefully. In Minnesota, each of the 60 competing private insurance plans will change, some dramatically (Wolfe, 10/5).
Georgia Health News: Judges Hear Case Of Contested Hospital Sale
A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Atlanta heard arguments Wednesday on whether a proposed purchase of an Albany hospital would violate antitrust law or is exempt from such regulatory scrutiny. The proposed $195 million acquisition of Palmyra Medical Center by the Albany-Dougherty County Hospital Authority, originally announced in December, has drawn fierce opposition from the Federal Trade Commission (Miller, 10/5).