KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Highlights: Abortion Curbs And Senate Fights; Vt.’s Single Payer March

A selection of health policy stories from Vermont, West Virginia, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

Politico: State Abortion Restrictions Fuel Fight For Senate
The 2014 campaign hasn’t had the equivalent of Todd Akin’s infamous rape comments driving the abortion debate. Instead, Democrats and Republicans are using a slew of new state abortion restrictions as weapons in the tight battle for control of the Senate. The fight this year centers on the dozen or so states that have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy under so-called fetal pain laws, as well as on the renewed push in a few states for personhood legislation, which confers full legal rights to an embryo from the moment of conception (Winfield Cunningham, 8/6).

Stateline: Vermont Is 'Single-Payer' Trailblazer
The outcome couldn’t be more consequential, not only for Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who put single-payer health care at the center of his first gubernatorial campaign in 2010, but for many others who have long cherished the idea of universal health care built on the foundation of a single-payer system. Some believe that if the Vermont experiment is successful, other states could follow. In Canada, they note, single-payer started in one province and then spread across the country (Ollove, 8/7).

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Creates 'Upheaval' At Free Clinics
Worried that patients like Milliken would leave their care and struggle to find doctors accepting new Medicaid patients, the clinic took a rather radical step: It became a Medicaid provider and started billing the state-federal health insurance program for the poor (Galewitz, 8/7).

Des Moines Register: Hospitals That Keep Iowans Healthy Get Refunds
Iowa’s leading health insurer says it’s starting to see results from a major effort to reward hospitals and clinics for keeping patients well instead of just treating them when they’re sick. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is announcing today that its Accountable Care Organizations have saved $12 million in the past two years. The organizations are arrangements that pay hospitals and clinics more if they reduce health care costs by preventing patients from becoming so ill that they need intense and expensive care (Leys, 8/6).

Baltimore Sun: State Works to Reduce Preventable Hospitalizations
Top Maryland officials highlighted a change in the way hospitals are charging patients for treatment – and a related push to prevent unnecessary admissions -- during a stop Wednesday in Western Maryland. Maryland has long regulated hospital rates under a unique agreement with federal officials, but has altered its waiver in a way that provides hospitals with a budget based on their projected patient population rather than a fee for every service performed (Cohn, 8/6).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: BJC Ends Relationship With Long-time Contractor
BJC HealthCare has hired Knoxville, Tenn.-based TeamHealth to operate nine of its emergency departments. ... Neither TeamHealth nor BJC would comment on the value or duration of the new contract. The move ends BJC’s long-term relationship with Emergency Consultants Inc., part of Traverse City, Mich.-based ECI Healthcare Partners. Hospital industry experts said that across the nation, health systems are taking a hard look at spending on purchased services, which includes contracting with third parties (Liss, 8/6). 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Six Wisconsin Health Care Systems Form Statewide Network
Aurora Health Care and five of the state's other largest health systems have created a partnership with the goal of working together to improve health care quality and lower costs. The partnership -- announced Wednesday and yet to be named -- also hopes to contract with health insurers to provide a statewide network of hospitals and clinics (Boulton, 8/6).

WBUR: A Bill Aimed To Attack State’s Opioid Epidemic Becomes Law
As Governor Patrick entered his outer office to sign a bill aimed to curb substance abuse Wednesday, applause erupted from the hundreds of people gathered to watch — many of them lawmakers and health care providers and those struggling with their own or a loved ones addiction (Becker, 8/7).

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