KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Calif. Schedules Health Care Special Session; Fla. To Boost Medicaid Payment Rates

California Healthline: Health Care Special Session Slated For January
California's legislative special session on health care won't take place until January, according to officials at the California Health and Human Services agency. ... The session was expected to be convened in December. The special session will be held concurrently with the regular legislative session that begins Jan. 7 (Gorn, 11/21).

The Miami Herald: Florida Will Pay Medicaid Docs At New Obamacare Rate
Starting Jan. 1, Florida will start paying Medicaid primary care doctors at new, higher rates required by the federal Affordable Care Act, a state spokeswoman said Tuesday. Shelisha Coleman, spokeswoman for the state Agency for Health Care Administration, said some budgetary details need to be worked out with the Legislature and the governor's office, but there was no question that payments will be made. "We are still working with our partners to determine how to expand our budget authority for the current fiscal year," Coleman said in an email. "However, we will be implementing the increase per federal law" (Dorschner, 11/20).

Stateline: To Raise Revenue, Raise Tobacco Taxes, Kentucky Commission Says
Kentucky may soon tell its smokers to cough up some extra cash. The state's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform says the state should raise taxes on tobacco. The governor-appointed panel Monday (November 19) recommended the state increase its cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 per pack, along with a proportional hike on other forms of tobacco, The Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The move would raise an estimated $120 million in revenue and presumably help the state address its high smoking rate, cutting down on long-run health care costs (Malewitz, 11/20).

Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: Texas Medicaid Recipients Call For Full Funding
A coalition of people who depend on Medicaid for their health care and jobs called on the Texas Legislature Tuesday to fully fund the program when they meet next year. People with disabilities, parents with ill children, the elderly poor and the health care providers who work with them held a pre-Thanksgiving meeting to demonstrate who depends on Medicaid and how important the program is for them.... Lawmakers cut Medicaid programs last year and underfunded the program by $4.8 billion (Tomlinson, 11/20).

The Texas Tribune: Bill Renews Debate Over Rural Access To Abortion
Before Texas' abortion sonogram law passed last legislative session, some women in rural communities seeking to end their pregnancies relied on telemedicine, with physicians — working in partnership with medical technicians or nurses — administering prescription drugs via videoconference to induce early-stage abortions. If new legislation filed by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, passes in 2013, women in remote corners of the state may have even fewer options to get the procedure (Aaronson, 11/20).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Fairview Patients Getting Money From Accretive Billing Statement
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson's investigation of collection tactics at Fairview Health Services reached a milestone Tuesday, Nov. 20, with the distribution of $364,000 in awards among 90 people who claimed they were wrongly pressured for payments while receiving care. The money comes from a July settlement in which a Fairview vendor called Accretive Health paid $2.49 million to resolve allegations that the company broke state debt collection and consumer protection laws. Swanson alleged that the Chicago-based firm instituted overly aggressive collection tactics at Fairview such as harassing patients on gurneys and a "baby prison" scenario in which a mother had to pay $800 to take her newborn home (Snowbeck, 11/20).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Harassed Minnesota Hospital Patients Get Checks From Accretive
Minnesota hospital patients who endured abusive billing tactics linked to Accretive Health Inc. have begun receiving restitution payments averaging $4,000 apiece, Attorney General Lori Swanson said Tuesday. Some 90 patients will share $364,000 -- part of a $2.5 million pool funded by Accretive to settle a lawsuit filed by Swanson in January. The remainder of the restitution fund -- more than $2.1 million -- will go to the state's general fund under terms approved in July by a federal judge. The settlement also bars Accretive from operating in Minnesota for two to six years (Kennedy, 11/20).

WBUR: Report: High Priced Providers Get 80 Percent Of All Payments To Hospitals
As Massachusetts tries to become the first state to keep health care spending in line with the gross state product, a new report offers some startling insights about what it might take to do that. A report by the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) finds that higher priced hospitals and doctors take in 80 percent of all the money health insurers spend on hospitals and doctors. These hospitals and physicians are paid more, they see more patients, and they have more patients with complicated ailments. "That means that in order to save a lot of money, you really have to go after those high priced hospitals, because trying to squeeze dollars out of the low priced hospitals, there’s just not a lot of payments there," said Aron Boros, director of the CHIA (Bebinger, 11/20).

Denver Post: Suit Sets Up Clash Between Day-Surgery Centers and Hospitals, Insurers
Four Colorado day-surgery centers have filed a lawsuit alleging a conspiracy by the state's largest hospital chains and insurers to drive them out of business, while the defendants allege the surgery centers may violate insurance and kickback laws, bringing a battle of health titans into the open. Four Colorado day-surgery centers have filed a lawsuit alleging a conspiracy by the state's largest hospital chains and insurers to drive them out of business, while the defendants allege the surgery centers may violate insurance and kickback laws, bringing a battle of health titans into the open (Booth, 11/20).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Senator, Doctor, Champion For The Vulnerable
[State Sen. Irene] Aguilar enters the 2013 session as one of the legislature's most powerful voices on health issues, respected on both sides of the aisle and a leading Latina in the state. She plans to join Democratic colleagues in fighting to expand Medicaid to a greater share of the poor as planned in the Affordable Care Act, but undercut by the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed states to opt out of expansion. Now governors and state lawmakers must decide how to handle Medicaid. Ultimately, Aguilar wants to ignite an even broader health revolution by bringing universal care to people throughout Colorado (Kerwin McCrimmon, 11/20).

The Lund Report: Salaries On The Rise Among Salem Hospital's Top Executives
President Norman Gruber made $877,502 in the hospital's 2011 fiscal year, up 10 percent from the previous year. Chief Medical (Officer) William Holloway’s compensation climbed 11.4 percent, to $576,945. Neither man has fully recovered from pay cuts experienced in 2010, when salaries of the hospital’s top paid employees fell 15 percent. But the trend is clear, with paid officers at the nonprofit hospital getting an average raise of 12.4 percent last year. Executives are not the only ones to see their checks bounce down then up in recent years, but a Lund Report review of tax filings suggests that rank-and-file employees of Salem Hospital saw deeper salary reductions than their bosses, and now have experienced more modest pay hikes (Sherwood, 11/21).

The Lund Report: Tension Mounts In Klamath County Over CCO
The movement to create coordinated care organizations throughout Oregon is riddled with tension in Klamath County where its commissioners are embroiled in a dispute with Cascade Health Alliance over who should be responsible for mental health services. "Right now we’re the only county in the state that doesn’t have a CCO fully functioning at this point," said Amanda Bunger, the county’s mental health director. Currently 14 CCOs are operational in the state. The Oregon Health Authority is attempting to resolve the dispute, by calling in another mediator, and intends to continue working with Cascade and the community "as they work through the process," said Kimberly Mounts, spokesperson (Lund-Muzikant, 11/21).

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