KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Concerns Continue About Coakley-Partners Antitrust Settlement

A selection of health policy stories from Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin, Maine, New York and Texas.

The Boston Globe: Judge Grants Coakley’s Request For Delay In Partners Antitrust Settlement
Criticism of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s antitrust pact with the state’s largest health care system mounted Thursday as a watchdog panel warned a judge the proposed deal might not meet its goal of holding down medical expenses. But Coakley, a Democratic candidate for governor, signaled she was prepared to toughen the terms of her settlement with Partners HealthCare System. To allow more time to supplement the agreement with findings by the state Health Policy Commission that Partners’ takeover of Hallmark Health could drive up costs, Coakley sought to have a scheduled Aug. 5 hearing on the deal postponed. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet L. Sanders agreed and set it for Sept. 29 (Weisman, 7/18).

WBUR: New Concerns About Coakley-Partners Deal
There are new concerns about an agreement Attorney General Martha Coakley negotiated to try and control the prices and market power of Partners HealthCare. The implication, from a commission created to help reduce health spending, is that the deal does not go far enough. “Without lasting change to the market structures,” the Health Policy Commission (HPC) writes in comments to be filed in court, “price caps may not be effective in keeping costs down.” Price caps? The commission dug in on a portion of the deal Coakley reached with Partners — the part that says network prices could not rise faster than inflation for six and a half years (Bebinger, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Will Gilead’s Hepatitis C Drug Bust State Budgets?
A new analysis suggests many states may, in fact, be overwhelmed as they attempt to pay for the Solvaldi medication sold by Gilead Sciences, which costs $84,000 for each patient, and several forthcoming treatments that may be priced at a similar level. More than 750,000 Americans with chronic hepatitis C receive health care coverage through Medicaid or the prison system. And in its analysis, Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, consequently projects that states will collectively spend more than $55.2 billion to provide Sovaldi to all comers (Silverman, 7/17).

The Oregonian: Suspicions, Money Drive Multnomah County's Near Split With Oregon Health Reforms
Emergency rooms flooded with people mentally ill or on drugs. A mental health program poorly managed. Agencies and health systems dumping people's problems on each other to improve bottom lines. Oregon's health reform law, approved with much fanfare and hope in 2012, was supposed to solve problems like these. Instead, Multnomah County, the state's largest, has come to the verge of divorce with the main reform group set up to care for low-income residents in the region, documents and interviews show (Budnick, 7/17).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Mental Health Board Meets For First Time, Vows Better Care
The new Milwaukee Mental Health Board met for the first time Thursday, vowing to improve care for the more than 13,000 patients who seek help each year through the county's public psychiatric system. The board also indicated it would move to close the county's embattled Mental Health Complex by 2016. "I've been waiting to sit at this table in this situation for a long time," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who pushed to strip the County Board of oversight after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Chronic Crisis" investigation showed how patients continued to die of abuse and neglect as politicians ignored decades of calls for reform (Kissinger, 7/17).

Bangor Daily News: LePage Announces Extra $13.1 Million For Nursing Homes — No Legislature Required
Gov. Paul LePage announced Thursday his administration will use $4.6 million in Medicaid savings to make additional payments to Maine’s 106 nursing homes — and he’ll do it without involving the Legislature. The extra money will draw down federal matching funds of $8.5 million. Combined with state and federal money allocated by the Legislature this spring, Maine’s nursing homes will see a total of $25.4 million in extra revenue this fiscal year (Moretto, 7/17).

Buffalo News: BlueCross BlueShield Withdraws From Medicaid Managed Care Program
Some 53,000 Medicaid recipients in the region, including nearly 29,000 in Erie County, will have to look for new insurance coverage this fall because BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is withdrawing from the Medicaid managed care program. The insurer, which plans to publicly announce its withdrawal from the program today, informed government officials of the move Thursday in a memo that was obtained by The Buffalo News (Zremski, 7/17).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Half Of Texas Abortion Clinics Close Due To State Law
In just over the past year, the number of abortion clinics in Texas fell from 41 to 20, and watchdogs say that as few as six may be left by September. Many of those closed because of the requirement that doctors at those clinics obtain hospital admitting privileges within a certain radius of the clinic, and many doctors couldn’t comply. That requirement began November 1. This week marks the one-year anniversary of the law that started it all (Feibel, 7/17).

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