State Developments: Florida Hospitals Dodge Budget Bullet

A selection of state health policy news from around the U.S.

Health News Florida: Hospitals Dodge Budget Cuts
Spending cuts to health programs will be less than half as much as forecast in the Senate budget, that chamber’s health-spending chief announced today. Now, the Senate Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations will have to cut only $390 million from current spending levels, rather than the more-draconian $850 million that had originally been assigned, said Sen. Joe Negron, chair of the panel. … Negron said hospitals and nursing homes' Medicaid pay rates may be touched only lightly, if at all. Instead, Negron said, he intends to eliminate behavioral-health programs that are not performing up to expectations (Gentry, 2/2).

Arizona Republic: Southwest Valley Hospitals Expand To Keep Up With Patient Demand
An increasing number of patients are prompting health care leaders in the southwest Valley to expand and build medical clinics in underserved areas despite the economic doldrums. Goodyear's two hospitals plan to significantly increase their operations while eventually providing more jobs (Yantis, 2/2).

McClatchy/The State (Columbia, S.C.): S.C. Senate Panel OKs End Of Abortion Coverage For Rape, Incest Victims
The South Carolina state insurance plan — which covers state employees, and teachers and local government workers who opt to join — would not pay for abortions in cases of rape or incest if a state Senate panel has its way. The proposed change, if it becomes law, would mean the state would only pay for abortions if the life of the mother is in danger. It is a departure from the federal Hyde Amendment, which for 30 years has set the standard for limiting government funding of abortions to cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother (Beam, 2/2).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: Vt. House Approves Redesign For Mental Health
The Vermont House approved a sweeping overhaul of the state's mental health system yesterday, a move set in motion when Tropical Storm Irene flooded the government complex in Waterbury that included the Vermont State Hospital. The measure was approved 124 to 3 after key sponsors said it would alleviate the crisis created when the Waterbury facility closed and other hospitals not equipped or staffed to do so were forced to try to care for the most acutely mentally ill Vermonters. Sponsors said the bill will help build a better system of care in the long run (Gram, 2/3).

CBS/Associated Press: Vt. Employers Offer Range Of Views On Health Care
Vermont employers offered a range of views Wednesday to lawmakers on the future of the state's health care reform, but most of those testifying at a public hearing appeared to favor a go-slow approach. The House Health Care and Senate Health and Welfare committees took testimony Wednesday evening at a public hearing attended by about 80 people. Vermont last year passed legislation outlining a plan to move the state first to the health care marketplace — or "exchange" — called for under the federal health reform last passed two years ago, and then beyond that to something approaching a single-payer, government-backed plan by 2017 (2/2).

Boston Globe: Dueling Letters On $275 Million Medicare Windfall For Mass. Hospitals
A group of state hospital associations from around the country last month asked the Obama administration to take a closer look at a provision of the Affordable Care Act that will land Massachusetts hospitals an extra $275 million or more in yearly Medicare reimbursements. The letter prompted Senator John Kerry and others in the Massachusetts congressional delegation to respond Tuesday, calling claims that the elected officials have manipulated the Medicare budget "completely false" (Conaboy, 2/2).

Boston Globe: Donor Registry Settles With AG
UMass Memorial Health Care, which hired models in short skirts to lure potential bone marrow donors and then charged insurers high fees to test samples, will pay $520,000 as part of an agreement with Attorney General Martha Coakley's office. The attorney general, who filed a complaint and final judgment in Suffolk Superior Court today, said in a written statement that the Caitlin Raymond International Registry and UMass Memorial Health Ventures, Inc. — subsidiaries of the hospital network — jointly engaged in improper marketing by paying fashion models to recruit potential donors at malls, festivals, and sports venues including Foxboro Stadium (Kowalczyk, 2/2).

WBUR: UMass Memorial Settles Over Donor Recruitment Practices
UMass Memorial Health Care, and a bone marrow registry it operates, are paying more than $500,000 to settle state investigations into some of the methods used to recruit bone marrow donors. UMass Memorial denies breaking any laws but says it takes responsibility for bad judgement used in efforts to add more potential donors to the registry. The attorney general's complaint says UMass Memorial used models and other "inducements" in donor recruitment drives, failed to disclose total costs associated with registering as a donor, and charged health insurers unreasonable rates during marrow testing (2/2).

The Associated Press: Mass.: Bone Marrow Donor Recruiting Cases Settled
A bone marrow registry and medical laboratory company that used fashion models wearing high heels and short skirts to recruit potential donors will pay the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire $770,000 for engaging in an improper marketing practice, officials in both states said Thursday. The Caitlin Raymond International Registry and UMass Memorial Health Ventures Inc. paid models to help recruit potential registrants during donor drives at malls, festivals and sporting ventures, including Gillette Stadium and the Mall of New Hampshire (Lavoie, 2/2).

San Francisco Chronicle: Daly City Hospital Fined $100K For Patient Death
State regulators fined a Daly City hospital $100,000 after a patient in a vegetative state suffocated when a nurse failed to remove a cap on her breathing tube. Seton Medical Center must pay the maximum fine allowed by law for what the California Department of Public Health called inadequate medical care. The hospital said it would appeal the decision. The 81-year-old woman suffered a stroke in 2009 and depended on a breathing tube to stay alive, according to a state report (Kane, 2/3).

The Seattle Times: Consolidate Health Care System? Bill Splits School-Worker Unions
A bill working its way through the legislature has triggered something of a bizarro world in Olympia, with liberals lambasting a government takeover of health care and two of the state's most powerful unions fighting each other. The proposal seems mild enough, although complex: Senate Bill 6442 would repeal the current K-12 employee health-care system, in which each of the state's 295 school districts separately negotiate private insurance plans with individual unions. Instead, insurance for all would be controlled by a state board. Supporters say the consolidation would save money and enable the system to more fairly serve all by making it easier for school support personnel such as janitors, lunchroom workers and bus drivers to add dependents to their plans. But opponents contend costs would actually rise because the government would be less efficient than the private sector (Rosenthal, 2/2).

Kansas Health Institute: Selling Doctors On Rural Communities
Recruiting doctors to live and work in rural America is a chronic problem. Most health centers try to attract workers with big salaries, a home on a golf course or other cushy perks. Not so in Ashland, Kan., population 855, where the CEO of a tiny hospital is building a reverse recruitment model based on remote access and problems commonly found in third-world countries. Benjamin Anderson, Ashland Health Center's CEO, has created what he calls mission-focused medicine, offering up to eight weeks off for missionary work. He’s found that a doctor who is willing to sleep on a cot in the Amazon or treat earthquake victims in Haiti is ready to serve in rural Kansas (Lowe, 2/2).

Lund Report: Insurance Exchange's Request to Pursue Its Own Health Coverage Met With Skepticism
An unexpectedly heated debate transpired in the House Health Care Committee yesterday over whether the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange's 11 staff members should be able to seek their own health care coverage rather than be covered by the Public Employees' Benefit Board (PEBB), which provides benefits to state employees (Waldroupe, 2/2).

Lund Report: Medical Liability Reform Appears Likely to Come Before 2013 Legislative Session
Despite pressure by Republicans to include tort reform in legislation that will transform Oregon's health care system during the February legislative session under way, that issue will have to wait until 2013, predicted Sen. Alan Bates (D-Medford). ... Legislators are expected to approve an implementation plan this month that will lead to the creation of coordinated care organizations that will integrate physical, mental and dental care and lower costs by reducing hospital admissions and focusing on prevention (Lund-Muzikant, 2/2).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.