State Roundup: Aetna Suing Over Mich. BCBS Hospital Deals

A selection of health policy news from Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia and Florida.

The Detroit Free Press: Legal Challenges Mounting For Blue Cross Blue Shield Of Michigan
The latest challenge was a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Detroit's federal court by insurance giant Aetna, one of the nation's largest health plans, with 35 million members. The suit alleges a violation of federal antitrust laws, claiming the Blues raised rates for Michigan consumers over the last four years and used the money to reward hospitals with higher payments if they charged Blues' competitors the same or higher rates (Anstett, 12/7).

Boston Globe: Brigham And Women's Aims To Expand While Cutting Back
Brigham and Women's Hospital plans to expand its sprawling campus in Boston's Longwood Medical Area even as it moves to cut expenses by $160 million over three years to make health care more affordable ...  being a highly paid hospital has some drawbacks at a time when new "tiered" insurance plans are channeling patients toward lower-cost medical centers (Weisman, 12/7).

Houston Chronicle: County Retirees Protest Health Premium Hikes
In October, the court approved increases to all retirees' monthly health insurance premiums. Premiums also went up for active employees whose spouses are covered by the county's plan, said David Kester, director of human resources and risk management. ... Sgt. Robert Barber, secretary-treasurer of the HCDO, said his group was angered at how little notice had been given before the passage of the changes (Morris, 12/6).

Reuters: ACLU Says Will Sue If Ohio Abortion Bills Become Law
One of the bills, which already has been passed by the Ohio House, would ban abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. If it became law, this would be the toughest restriction on abortions in the nation. The other bill involves the new health care exchanges now being set up as part of the federal health care reform plan. Under this proposed law, Ohioans would not be allowed to purchase coverage for abortion (Ingles, 12/6).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  Hearing On Abortion Bill Set For Next Week
A hearing is slated for Dec. 13 on a bill that would prevent women from receiving drugs that induce abortions unless a doctor gives them a physical exam and is in the same room when they receive the drugs. Abortion opponents say the legislation is needed to ensure doctors aren't using web cameras to consult with women about the drugs. … Opponents of the legislation say it is intended to make it harder for women to access abortion services (Marley, 12/6).

New Hampshire Public Radio: Attorney General Denies State Violating Federal Law
The U.S. Department of Justice concluded in April that the state was violating federal law in the way it treats the mentally ill. ... [Attorney General Michael] Delaney says the median length of stay in the state psychiatric hospital in 2010 was seven days, compared to a national median of 55 days (Quinton, 12/6).

Minnesota Public Radio: Mayo Clinic lawyers will argue patent case to SCOTUS
Lawyers for Minnesota's Mayo Clinic will appear before the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday morning to argue that patents underlying a blood test are too broad and inhibit doctors from treating patients.  In a case that could have big implications for patent law, the high court will weigh whether the clinic infringed upon a patent held by Prometheus Labs San Diego (Neely, 12/7).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Phila. Jury Orders Pfizer To Pay 3 Women $72.6 Million In Damages Over Menopause Drugs
A Philadelphia jury Tuesday said pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. must pay three women $72.6 million in compensatory damages because the menopause drugs they took gave them breast cancer. The Common Pleas Court jury will begin the punitive phase Friday and could last two weeks, but it might mean even larger awards for the women, who live or had lived in Pennsylvania. Jury awards in such cases can be reduced by judges or changed by appeals courts (Sell, 12/7).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Feds Backing Minnesota Whistle-Blower’s Suit Against Kentucky-Based Rehabilitation Company
The complaint alleges RehabCare Group Inc. paid kickbacks to a contract rehabilitation services provider, Rehab Systems of Missouri, in order to gain access to a lucrative stream of referrals involving beneficiaries covered by Medicare and Medicaid, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the U.S. attorney's office. RehabCare has contracts to provide therapy with approximately 50 skilled nursing facilities in Minnesota (Snowbeck, 12/6).

Kaiser Health News: Florida Grappling With Questions About Taxes For Indigent Care
A special panel appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been meeting to figure out a way to scale back what taxpayers at the local level contribute to hospital costs in some parts of the state (Hatter, 12/6).

Georgia Health News: The Big Picture: Med Students Get Option Of Public Health Degree
GHSU/UGA Medical Partnership and the UGA College of Public Health have joined forces to create a new option for medical students who want to earn a master of public health degree along with their medical degree. ... Georgia appears to be part of a national trend, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. At least 75 U.S. medical schools now make public health education available to future doctors (Smith, 12/6).

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