State Roundup: HCA Fined For Kickbacks; Minn. Rural Health Care Investigation

A roundup of health policy news from Tennessee, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington state, Minnesota and Tennessee.

Politico Pro: HCA To Pay $16.5 Million In Kickback Case
The Hospital Corporation of America will pay $16.5 million to settle claims that its subsidiaries had paid a diagnostics firm for referrals, violating federal anti-kickback rules, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. HCA subsidiary Parkridge Medical Center and HCA Physician Services, both provided "financial benefits" to a physician group, Diagnostic Associates of Chattanooga, for referrals to the HCA facilities (Norman, 9/19).

The Boston Globe: Ban Is Lifted On Free Meals For Massachusetts Doctors
Drug and medical device makers once again can treat Massachusetts doctors to meals and drinks in restaurants, ­under new regulations that weaken the state's strict ban on gifts to health care providers. The change drew strong criticism from the state's major consumer advocacy group, but was applauded by the pharmaceutical industry's national trade organization (Kowalczyk, 9/19).

The Lund Report: Providence Severs Contract With Health Net Just As Employers Consider Option For 2013
The leading healthcare systems in Portland -- Legacy and Providence -- are embroiled in a competitive battle, and the victor could end up controlling a much larger slice of the market. ... Right now Providence Health & Services appears to be in command (Lund-Muzikant, 9/20).

The CT Mirror: Helping Children With Substance Issues: Are Insurance Companies Not Covering Treatment?
Kelli Belardi wishes her son had just been diagnosed with cancer. "At least then he would receive treatment," the Rocky Hill resident said of her year-long battle with her insurance company to cover in-patient treatment to treat her son's drug abuse problems. ... although mental illness and substance abuse parity laws are on the books, the Office of the Healthcare Advocate reports that hundreds of parents have approached the office seeking help to appeal insurance denials (Thomas, 9/19).

Minnesota Public Radio has a special project on rural health care:

Minnesota Public Radio: Rural Minnesota Retools Health Care In Wave Of Hospital Mergers
The Queen of Peace hospital in New Prague wasn't in financial trouble when it sold to Mayo Clinic Health System just over a year ago. ... But the healthcare field is changing dramatically, partly because the federal Affordable Care Act requires expensive electronic medical record systems and seeks to impose a new reimbursement model based on a cooperative approach to care. ... Hospitals in Minnesota are experiencing a new wave of consolidation (Vogel, 9/20). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Let’s Make A Deal: Lessons Learned From Hospital Mergers
Ron Osladil, chair of the North Pine Area Hospital District board in Sandstone, said he woke up one day and realized the hospital in his community, long run by Essentia, had been left behind. ... It's a pressing issue right now because increasingly, independent hospitals in rural Minnesota are joining bigger systems--Sanford Health, Essentia Health, Mayo Clinic Health System and others. According to the Minnesota Hospital Association, 16 hospitals have joined systems since 2005. Of 148 hospitals in the state, only 42 remain independent (Vogel, 9/20). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Trying To Go It Alone In Rural Healthcare
"I strongly still believe in being totally independent," said Tim Rice, president of Lakewood Health System in Staples. "We want to maintain our culture and our ability to make our decisions ourselves about what we want for our community and our patients. That is the key thing that we do not want to give up."  Rice's determination stands out in a climate where more rural hospitals are joining larger health system just to survive (Vogel, 9/20).

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