KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Roundup: Concerns About Pay For Mass. Health Executives, Board Members

The Boston Globe: Two More Boards Rethink Own Pay
Health insurers Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan said yesterday that their board members will meet later this month to discuss whether to bow to state Attorney General Martha Coakley's wishes and stop taking five-figure annual payments. The planned meetings of the Tufts board and the Harvard Pilgrim board's governance committee were disclosed a day after the state's largest nonprofit health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said it will suspend payments to its board of directors at least through this year, and consider changing its legal structure (Weisman, 3/10).

WBUR: Healthy Bonuses For Health Care Executives 
In the past three years, executives at the state's three largest health insurers - all nonprofits - have received bonuses that range from 14 to 245 percent of their salaries. The payments are generally less than bonuses paid by for-profit insurance companies. But amid an outcry about paying nonprofit insurance board members, these bonuses are raising more questions about what it means to be a nonprofit health insurance company in Massachusetts (Bebinger, 3/10).

Health News Florida: Senate Approves Anti-Health-Law Amendment
Senate Republicans today approved a proposed constitutional amendment that attacks a key part of the federal health overhaul, brushing aside Democratic arguments about the roughly 4 million uninsured Floridians. Senators voted 29-10 to approve the proposal, which is aimed at allowing people to opt out of a future requirement in the law that they buy health insurance or face financial penalties. … The House has not started moving its version of the proposed amendment. But the measure also likely will sail through that Republican-dominated chamber. If approved by the Legislature, the proposed amendment would go before voters during the 2012 elections (Saunders, 3/9).

Georgia Health News: Smart Cards Pushed To Reduce Medicaid Fraud
A [state] Senate panel Wednesday approved a bill authorizing a pilot program that would use smart card technology to verify patients' identity, in an effort to reduce fraud in Georgia's Medicaid program. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, though, dropped a requirement for fingerprint identification of Medicaid patients at a doctor's office or hospital. The anti-fraud pilot program, if ultimately approved by the Legislature, would last three to six months and take place in three different areas of the state, yet to be identified (Miller, 3/9).

The Texas Tribune: Budget Rider Would Emphasize Primary Care
A controversial budget proposal would concentrate the money the state spends on graduate medical residencies into the doctors' first three years of training - regardless of how long their residencies take to complete. That means it would fully fund family physicians and internists, whose training takes three years - but not specialists like cardiologists and radiologists, who take four to seven years to train. Proponents say the budget rider would give residency programs an incentive to produce the primary care doctors Texas desperately needs. ... [Opponents] say cutting off funding for years four through seven would have a devastating effect on surgical specialties and those that lose the most residents to other states, from neurology to urology (Ramshaw, 3/10).

The Texas Tribune: Planned Parenthood Faces Major Funding Cuts (Video)
Hundreds rallied this week to preserve funds for Planned Parenthood's family planning services, but their pleas did not sway conservative lawmakers. "They can expect less or even zero funding for their organization this session," says state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville (Dehn and Tan, 3/10).

MinnPost: Here's What The GOP's State Budget-Balancing Plan Could Look Like
Both Senate and House leaders are expected to hand spending "targets" to the legislative committees. ... there's still at least a $2 billion problem and only one place to turn: human services. ... that depth of cutting, DFLers believe, will create outrage across the state. Only a small portion of the Human Services budget goes to the classic welfare family. The aging population across the state is responsible for much of the rapid rise. Payments to nursing homes, caregivers for those with disabilities, medical assistance to the working poor, and payments to clinics and hospitals account for most of the department's spending (Grow and Nord, 3/9).

McClatchy/The (Raleigh) News & Observer: N.C. Unlikely To Join Health Care Law Challenge
An aggressive campaign by Republicans and their allies to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a bill that would have the Tar Heel state join the legal challenge to the federal health care law appears to have fallen short of its goal. The battle, perhaps North Carolina's first full-fledged veto fight, has been marked by pressure from the state Republican Party, robocalls from conservative outfits, lobbying by business groups and private meetings with lawmakers in the Executive Mansion. But the indications are that Republican legislative leaders may have failed to round up enough conservative Democrats to override a veto by the Democratic governor (Christensen and Bonner, 3/9).

MinnPost: Hospitals Worry As Medtronic Moves To Negotiate With Health Providers
Hospital systems across the country join the nonprofit associations as a way to band together and collectively boost their negotiating power as they seek better prices for medical devices and other supplies. But Medtronic has argued in recent weeks that it could save money for the health care system if it went around the purchasing associations and negotiated with health providers directly (Newmarker, 3/9).

Des Moines Register: Aiming For 'Ideal' Patient Visits
An improvement project at Iowa Health Systems is advancing the concept of ideal care by eliminating waste and allowing staff members more time at the bedside. For patients, that means safer, more efficient care. … With the help of consultants, Iowa Health began using Adaptive Design two years ago to achieve the organization's vision of the "best outcome for every patient every time," Nielsen said. The improvement process has been used by Toyota and had only been applied in health care for eight to nine years (Villanueva-Whitman, 3/9).

Des Moines Register: Public Employees Could Negotiate Health Insurance, Amendment Will Allow
Iowa House Republicans are expected to approve an amendment to a fiercely-contested public employee union bill to allow the continuance of health insurance negotiations, a GOP staffer said today. As currently written, House File 525 would prohibit unions from negotiating for changes to health insurance plans, leaving the decisions to government managers and the terms of public employee insurance policies (Clayworth, 3/9).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.