KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mass. Hospital Sale Talks Seeking To Protect Employee Retirement Plans; Conn. Gov. Ask For Waiver In Preexisting Insurance Plan

The Boston Globe: "Representatives of Caritas Christi Health Care, the private equity firm seeking to buy it, and the attorney general's office are working on a tentative agreement to protect the retirement plans of 13,000 employees and keep the chain's hospitals open for at least five years. With state regulators preparing to rule soon on the proposed sale to Cerberus Capital Management, the parties have been locked in frantic negotiations in recent weeks. The talks intensified after Caritas discovered an additional $45 million shortfall in its unfunded pension liability and critics of the deal pressed for the New York firm to be held to stringent conditions, according to people familiar with the talks" (Weisman, 10/5).

Kansas Health Institute: "Sam Brownback today vowed to fight federal health reform, 'every step of the way,' if he is elected governor. But Native Americans, who are some of the Republican's staunchest supporters, are hoping that's an empty campaign promise. 'The health reform law is good for Indian Country,' said Jennifer Cooper, legislative director for the National Indian Health Board, in Washington, D.C. … Board members studied and discussed the health reform law for months before it was passed and agreed it was good legislation. So did other groups representing American Indians..., all of which supported the law" (Shields, 10/4).

Health News Florida: "The Florida Supreme Court has been asked to disqualify Attorney General Bill McCollum from involvement in determining the amount of civil damages that WellCare Health Plans Inc. must pay to settle accusations of fraud against the Florida Medicaid program. Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, who represents former WellCare accountant Sean Hellein in his whistleblower suit against the managed-care company, announced today that he filed a petition with the Supreme Court to block McCollum's participation in deciding the settlement because of his 'inherent conflict of interest'" because of political contributions that WellCare has given the state Republicans (Gentry, 10/4).

The Arizona Republic: "Supporters and opponents of Proposition 203, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, have argued their respective points for several months. Although legalizing medical marijuana isn't a new topic to Arizonans, the provisions in Prop. 203 are complicated. At 34 pages, Prop. 203 is the longest of the 10 propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot. The Arizona Republic answers some questions voters have about the measure" including how people would qualify for medical-marijuana prescriptions. "The initiative's language allows for patients to qualify for marijuana to treat or alleviate symptoms of debilitating diseases, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis." The symptoms include wasting syndrome, nausea, seizures, and severe and chronic pain. "Although 'severe and chronic pain' could create a loophole to this law, the state can regulate it" (Lee, 10/4).

The Associated Press/Peoria Journal Star: "Illinois has received more than 1,800 applications for a new program for uninsured people with medical problems. About one-third have been approved for coverage. Illinois Department of Insurance Director Michael McRaith said Monday 85 applicants have been denied - most because they failed to meet a requirement they be uninsured for six months. Many applicants must still send completed materials before coverage can begin. Others haven't made a required premium payment" (10/4).

The Connecticut Mirror: "Saying federal regulations have created a 'stone wall' preventing Connecticut residents from enrolling in a new state health insurance plan, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to consider relaxing the rule" that residents with preexisting conditions must have been uninsured for six months before applying to the state program.  (Becker, 10/4).

The Detroit News: "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on Monday announced it has launched new and more affordable health insurance plans for small-business customers. The insurer with 4.4 million members in Michigan said it has launched Simply Blue, a preferred provider option with several deductibles and co-payments available that also can be paired with a health reimbursement account or health savings account. Simply Blue plans will be 4 percent to 23 percent cheaper than Blue Cross' Community Blue PPO plan prices for 2011, depending on cost sharing between employer and employee, said John Dunn, vice president of middle and small group sales for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan" (Burden, 10/5). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.