A selection of health policy stories from California, Iowa, Florida, Oregon, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas.
Modern Healthcare: Massachusetts Legislation Would Limit Annual State Health Care Spending
As Massachusetts launches an aggressive effort to contain health care spending, the rest of the country will be watching. On July 31, lawmakers passed first-in-the-nation legislation pegging healthcare expenditures at or below the state's overall rate of economic growth, a strategy officials estimate could save Massachusetts as much as $200 billion over the next 15 years. The bill's passage comes six years after the state enacted a landmark law expanding healthcare access, widely seen as the blueprint for the insurance provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (McKinney, 8/4).
WBUR: What To Know About Massachusetts' First-In-Nation Health Cost Law
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat and pal of President Obama, hasn't signed the sweeping, 350-page health care cost-cutting bill yet — but he says he will soon. ... When the new bill does become law, the Bay state will be the first in the country to attempt to slow rising health care costs through numerous strategies including tethering the growth in health care spending to the state's overall economy, moving away from fee-for-service payments to doctors and more heavily managing and coordinating medical care (Zimmerman, 8/3).
Des Moines Register: House GOP Members Denied Abortion Demand
Iowa's human services director has denied a petition from House Republicans demanding that the state Medicaid program stop paying for abortions of pregnancies involving severe fetal abnormalities or caused by rape or incest. Chuck Palmer wrote in a letter Friday that banning state payment for such abortions would violate federal requirements. Breaking those rules, he wrote, "would jeopardize all federal Medicaid funding Iowa receives, approximately $2.1 billion annually. This funding is important to the delivery of vital care to vulnerable Iowans" (Leys, 8/3).
Health News Florida: Hospital Tried To Block Dept. Of Health Probe, Records Show
When a sponge gets left in a patient's body in an operation, the Department of Health files charges against the surgeon, and sometimes the nurse. But what if the hospital itself was partly responsible? DOH can't do a thing. A different agency regulates hospitals. In frustration, the Board of Medicine today dismissed charges against Miami obstetrician-gynecologist Laurel Anne King, who was the surgeon in a forgotten-sponge case (Gentry, 8/3).
The Associated Press: Study: Some Ore. Insurance Premiums Will Rise
The federal health care overhaul will cause insurance premiums to rise, in some cases substantially, for Oregonians who buy their own insurance or get their coverage from a small employer, according to the findings of new study. For many, the increases will be offset by new federal subsidies or decreases in other out-of-pocket health care costs (Cooper, 8/3).
California Watch: Administrators Ordered To Stop Making Patient Care Decisions
California managed care regulators are ordering a doctors' group to stop letting business administrators make decisions about granting requested medical care. The order targets Accountable Health Care IPA, where regulators say the chief executive's son and another manager made calls on patient care that, by law, should be made by a doctor (Jewett, 8/6).
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Doctors Team Up For Patient Quality Care Initiative
Local doctors hope to improve patient care in the Richmond area by opening up their medical decisions and practices to the scrutiny of other doctors. The doctors are part of an HCA Virginia-backed initiative called Virginia Quality Care Partners. "It's doctors getting together, deciding what are the important things to measure and do to improve quality, and holding ourselves accountable for meeting those standards," said Dr. Glenn Giessel, a lung specialist, of Pulmonary Associates of Richmond and chairman of the newly formed organization. "We think that will be something that appeals to both patients and the people who pay the bills, the insurers, often the large self-insured companies," he said (Smith, 8/6).
Baltimore Sun: Hopkins, Harbor Hospital Malpractice Awards Concern Medical Community
Maryland's medical community is concerned about the potential fallout from two multimillion-dollar malpractice judgments awarded by Baltimore juries to families who blamed local hospitals where their babies were delivered for their children's disabilities. Doctors and hospital officials worry that juries, particularly in Baltimore City, are making decisions out of sympathy for sick patients rather than science. In the process, physicians said, these decisions may create an unrealistic benchmark (Walker, 8/4).
(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Patients, Fairview See Lessons From Accretive Collections Furor
The lawsuit has been settled, but patients say there are lessons that shouldn't be forgotten from the furor over collection practices at Fairview Health Services. … All three patients submitted signed affidavits about their experiences as part of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson's lawsuit against Accretive Health, the Chicago-based company that advised Fairview on collection practices that Swanson deemed too aggressive. Officials with Minneapolis-based Fairview would not comment on the specific patient stories, but said they've heard the message loud and clear (Snowbeck, 8/4).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Ruling Prevents Most Insurers From Denying Benefits To Surrogates
Two Wisconsin surrogate mothers -- with help from the state Commissioner of Insurance and state Supreme Court -- have made Wisconsin the most surrogacy-friendly state in the nation when it comes to health insurance. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling, handed down after the two women were denied benefits, makes it illegal for most health insurers to refuse to cover a surrogate's pregnancy (Barton, 8/4).
Fort Worth Star Telegram: Texas Leads The Nation In Suspect Medicare Billings For Home Health Care
Fishy billing practices at 1,000 of Texas' home health care agencies have the nation's top federal health care watchdog urging a freeze of enrolling new providers here. Texas was the nation's largest source of suspect claims, producing nearly 40 percent of all questionable billings. And of Texas' 2,212 home health agencies, 45 percent filed questionable claims for Medicare dollars -- five times the national average, according to a report by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Barbee, 8/3).