KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Illinois Medicaid Digital Shift Delayed; N.C. Hospitals Fight Cuts; Heroin In New England

A selection of health policy stories from Illinois, North Carolina, New York, California, Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Utah, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Modern Healthcare: Digital Woes Hamper Illinois System’s Shift To New Medicaid Program
Alexian Brothers Health System is suspending its effort to launch a new Medicaid program, blaming the difficulty of connecting physicians using different electronic records systems. The Arlington Heights, Ill.-based health system was spearheading a so-called accountable care entity (ACE) to coordinate the care of about 46,000 patients on Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled. The ACEs are a form of managed care, one of Gov. Pat Quinn's initiatives to focus on preventative treatment to keep patients healthy and reduce health care costs (Schorsch, 6/17).

North Carolina Health News: Hospital Executives Fight For No Health Care Cuts, Come Away Pessimistic
Executives from Carteret General Hospital said they worried about the future of rural hospitals if the Senate budget becomes law. The budgets presented by the House and the Senate are far apart on how the state will reimburse for services provided to Medicaid recipients. Senate budget writers raise the assessment on hospitals to 28.5 percent of what they get reimbursed for providing Medicaid services. The Senate also imposes a single base rate statewide for inpatient services, which hospital officials say would be a cut for many of them (Hoban, 6/18).

The New York Times: Governors Unite To Fight Heroin In New England
Facing a heroin crisis that they say has reached epidemic proportions, the governors of five New England states met here on Tuesday to devise a regional strategy to combat the rise in overdoses and deaths from opioid abuse (Seelye, 6/17).

Los Angeles Times: Bill Requiring Health Labels On Sugary Drinks Fails In Assembly Panel 
A proposal to affix health warning labels to sugary drinks, including sodas and sports drinks, failed to win sufficient support in a key Assembly panel Tuesday. The measure would have required sugary drinks sold in California to be labeled with a warning that sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay (Mason, 6/17).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Insurer Begins Huge Palliative Care Program
Cambia Health Solutions, which includes Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, will offer training to providers and additional benefits for policyholders: more than 2.2 million members in Cambia’s family of health plan companies in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah. Palliative care improves the quality of life by managing pain and other problems for people who have serious life-threatening medical conditions, such as cancer, heart and kidney failure. It differs from hospice care, especially because patients do not necessarily have less than six months to live (Evans, 6/17).

Houston Chronicle: Coalition Wants To 'Recapture The Energy' Of Abortion Law Protests
Nearly a year after thousands of abortion-rights activists brought the Texas Legislature to a standstill, a coalition of liberal groups announced a campaign Tuesday to “recapture the energy” of the movement. #FightBackTX, unveiled in a morning conference call by the Texas Research Institute, Texas Freedom Network, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, Whole Women’s Health and the ACLU of Texas, is centered on a documentary-style website ( about last summer’s protests, which aimed to stop the anti-abortion House Bill 2 from making it through the state Senate (Rosenthal, 6/17).

The Chicago Sun-Times: Alexian, Adventist: Partnership Means Lower Patient Costs Are Possible
Alexian Brothers Health System and Adventist Midwest Health have signed a letter of intent to form a partnership with their nine total hospitals. But the CEOs stressed that it is not a merger. The two systems would maintain separate ownership of their assets and finances. Yet, they are looking to create an umbrella company to handle long-term planning and strategy for the nine hospitals in suburban Chicago, said Mark A. Frey, president and CEO of Alexian Brothers Health System (Thomas, 6/17).

North Carolina Health News: Charlotte Will Get One Nurse In Every School
After two years of emails, speeches and bake sales, a group of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools parents will finally get their wish: one nurse in every school. In a vote Tuesday evening, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved a $1.5 billion budget, which included $1.8 million in funding for 33 new CMS public-health school nurses, bringing the total number up to 161 for the 2014-15 academic year. The money will also cover another three school-nurse supervisors.Teri Saurer, founder of N. C. Parents Advocating for School Health, the group that pushed for the increased school-nurse presence, said she couldn’t be happier (Porter-Rockwell, 6/18).

Miami Herald:  Project Boosts Chances For Black Babies 
Across the country, black infants are more than twice as likely than white infants to die before their first birthday -- a gap at least half a century old that maternal and infant health experts say no quick fix can close. Enter the Jasmine Project, a joint University of Miami Department of Pediatrics perinatal care program and Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade initiative. The Jasmine Project works with Florida Healthy Start to serve some of the most high-risk black women in the county, providing case management, childbirth and parenting education, breastfeeding support and risk-reduction counseling services for women during their pregnancy up until their child’s second birthday (Duffort, 6/17).

Detroit Free Press:  Michigan Pays Convicted Felons As Caregivers, Audit Shows 
The State of Michigan improperly paid $160 million in a 29-month period for services provided to vulnerable, low-income adults in a program designed to keep them out of more expensive, long-term care, according to a report released earlier today by the state’s Auditor General. Among those on the payroll: convicted criminals -- including those convicted of crimes ranging from financial fraud to homicide, auditors found (Erb, 6/17).

The Sacramento Bee: CalPERS Health Premiums For 2015 A Mix Of Hikes, Cuts
CalPERS’ health care premiums are going up again for hundreds of thousands of public employees and their families, although 40 percent of CalPERS members will see their rates decline. The 2015 CalPERS premiums, closely watched in the health care industry because of the pension fund’s size and clout, will be a decidedly mixed bag. Blue Shield of California HMO subscribers will be hit with rate hikes of 9.6 percent to 16.4 percent, depending on the specific plan. But Kaiser HMO members’ rates will fall 4.3 percent (Kasler, 6/17).

The CT Mirror: Panel Recommends Mental Health Changes For CT’s Young Adults
The task force established after the Newtown shootings to examine mental health issues among young adults released 47 recommendations Tuesday in what a key legislative leader described as a “blueprint” for future legislative action on behavioral health. The task force concluded that the state’s overall system of providing mental health and substance abuse treatment for young people does not function well in meeting the needs of individuals and their families, although it cited some pockets of excellence (Becker, 6/17).

The California Health Report: Innovation Programs Aim To Improve Care For Seniors And The Poor, But Are The Results Reliable?
Donald Vidal has had both of his knees replaced, but the 85-year-old Novato resident experienced different levels of care with each procedure. Although the same surgeon performed both operations, during the second one Vidal was part of a federal pilot program that aims to improve care and save money. More patients across California are finding themselves involved in similar pilot projects, which began in 2011 and are funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, based in Washington, D.C. The Innovation Center was created as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to test new and creative ways of providing better, cheaper care for patients who are poor, elderly or have disabilities (Bookwalter, 6/17).

WBUR: A New Way To Shop For A Primary Care Doctor In Mass.
Massachusetts Health Quality Partners is launching what it hopes will be a more user friendly way for the public to use information it has gathered on primary care doctors’ offices for years. MHQP has been publishing reports for almost a decade that compare physician groups based on the experience of their patients as well as how well they treat depression, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and screen for cancer. But the reports, which gather information from 65,000 patients and commercial insurance records, did not get a lot of attention from patients. On Healthcare Compass, MHQP’s new website, patients can search for a primary care doctor by zip code or a physician’s name (Bebinger, 6/18).

WBUR: No Court Filing Yet In Partners Deal To Expand
WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports that a negotiated agreement that would have let Partners HealthCare expand to include South Shore and three other hospitals is on hold. Partners and Attorney General Martha Coakley had planned to file a deal in court Monday that the AG said would curb Partners’ market clout. But a spokesman for the AG says “both sides are continuing to negotiate based on the agreement in principle announced last month” (Bebinger, 6/17). 

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