Catholic Officials Approve Caritas Sale In Mass., Boston And Milwaukee Hospitals Strengthen Their Financial Standing

The Boston Globe: "Catholic church officials have signed off on the sale of Caritas Christi Health Care to a private equity firm, according to a document filed with the Supreme Judicial Court. While the church's approval came in August, it was not made public until yesterday when Caritas, based in Boston, petitioned the state's highest court to allow the transfer of its six Catholic hospitals to Cerberus Capital Management of New York. The court is expected to rule on the petition this month. The acquisition was recommended to the court with conditions last week by Attorney General Martha Coakley. [But] under the Caritas bylaws — amended in 2008, when the system became an independent nonprofit — its longtime owner, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, retained the right to approve a sale" (Weisman, 10/15).

The Boston Globe: "Massachusetts General Hospital has raised $1 billion as part of a $1.5 billion fund-raising campaign — despite the tattered economy and turmoil in the hospital industry — putting it on track to set what is believed to be a New England record" (Kowalczyk, 10/15).

The (Milwaukee) Business Journal: "While the recession's impact on the health care industry is still being felt across the state, Milwaukee-area hospitals improved their financial stability in 2009 with fewer facilities reporting losses. However, industry experts said the improved balance sheets are not likely to decrease future health care costs for employers and private-pay patients. A tanking stock market and double-digit increases in bad debt and charity care in 2008 took a toll on Wisconsin hospitals, but cost reductions and the full implementation of the state hospital tax appear to have allowed most hospitals to rebound successfully, according to figures submitted to the Wisconsin Hospital Association for the group's annual fiscal survey" (10/15).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Nearly two-thirds of Milwaukee employers with at least 100 employees estimate that federal health care reform will add at least 2 percentage points to the cost of providing health benefits next year, according to an online survey done by HCTrends. The higher costs stem from eliminating lifetime caps on benefits, requiring health plans to cover preventive care and mandating coverage for children up to the age of 26. The estimates are in line with other employer surveys on the cost of health benefits next year. Approximately 140 employers providing health insurance for an estimated 90,000 people participated in the online survey done in September. The survey found that the average renewal rate for next year was up 8 percent to 10 percent" (Boulton, 10/14).

The Harford (Conn.) Courant: "The state's largest insurer has been approved to raise health premium rates by 41 percent to 47 percent for some of its policies sold to individual buyers, in the largest price hikes yet seen in Connecticut since the adoption of national health care reform. For all of its individual market plans, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has received approval to raise rates by at least 19 percent — including a range of 30 percent to 44 percent for the brand of plans in the individual market that was most popular in 2009, Century Preferred. The reason for the increases is the new federal health reform mandates, according to Anthem and the state Department of Insurance, which is defending its approval against charges by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Those reforms took effect Sept. 23" (Sturdevant, 10/14).

The Associated Press/ (Davenport, Iowa) Quad-City Times: "Illinois is one of nine states with complete hospital safety data on an online tool patients can use to compare quality. The website, WhyNotTheBest.org, lets users compare hospitals to the Illinois average and to the nation's best hospitals. Infection rates, death rates and rates of blood clots after surgery are among the newest measures reported. Other participating states are Arizona, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington" (10/14).

The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal: "Health insurers summoned to the state capital Wednesday to explain why they were curtailing the sale of child-only policies said they could resume selling those plans — if the state required all their competitors to do the same. … The insurers laid out their positions at a hearing before Kentucky Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark, saying they were curtailing sales of child-only plans in response to the new health reform law, which required insurers to begin accepting children with pre-existing medical conditions starting Sept. 23. Previously, insurers could refuse to cover sick children. Insurers around the nation — including Louisville-based Humana and Anthem, Kentucky's largest health insurer — responded by halting the sale of new child-only plans before the new provision took effect" (Howington, 10/13).

Health News Florida: "Doctors who work in Florida pain clinics should write no more than 150 prescriptions a day for potentially addictive and dangerous drugs, a state panel decided today. The proposed rule, aimed at curbing pill mills that make Florida a magnet for drug abusers, is based on an average of three prescriptions per patient for a physician seeing 50 patients per day. A part-timer's limit would be lower, pro-rated on the same formula. Some organizations had pushed for a higher limit of four or five prescriptions per patient. But doctors on the panel decided on three: two for painkillers — one for quick relief and one for the long term — plus one for the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, which goes by the trade name Xanax" (Gentry, 10/14).

The Wall Street Journal: "Council Speaker Christine Quinn scuttled an effort to require all employers in New York City to provide workers with paid sick leave, spurning her usual liberal allies to side with the business community. … The speaker promised to reevaluate the measure if the economy improves. But a person familiar with the matter said Ms. Quinn's decision effectively kills the bill for the foreseeable future because she won't schedule it for a vote" (Saul, 10/15).

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