A selection of health policy stories from Ohio, Oklahoma, California, Idaho, Tennessee, Nebraska, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Georgia and Washington state.
The Wall Street Journal: Court Strikes Down Ohio Hospital Merger
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered a major health system in northwest Ohio to unwind its merger with a local hospital on antitrust grounds. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati comes amid growing concerns about hospital mergers and their effect on prices against the backdrop of America's health care upheaval (Gershman, 4/22).
Modern Healthcare: FTC Wins Appeal In Hospital Merger Case
The Federal Trade Commission extended its recent winning streak in health care cases Tuesday when a federal appeals court agreed that a 2010 hospital acquisition by Ohio's ProMedica system was illegal. In a 22-page opinion, a unanimous panel of judges at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati wrote that the FTC correctly decided that Toledo-based ProMedica was extremely likely to illegally increase prices after buying the suburban St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee, a well-to-do corner of Lucas County, Ohio (Carlson, 4/22).
The Associated Press: Oklahoma Limits Abortion Drug Use
Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill on Tuesday to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma, despite objections from opponents who say it will force more women to have surgical abortions. The bill was written in response to a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar bill signed by Ms. Fallin in 2011 was unconstitutional (4/22).
Los Angeles Times: Measure Barring Covered California From Hiring Certain Felons Fails
A bill barring the state's health insurance exchange from hiring individuals convicted of certain felonies failed to advance Tuesday. Under the proposal by Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare), Covered California would not be able to hire people who have been convicted of certain crimes--felonies concerning breach of trust or dishonesty -- for jobs where enrollees' financial or medical data could be accessed (Mason, 4/22).
Kaiser Health News: Is Bigger Better? Idaho Hospital Battle A Microcosm Of Debate Over Industry Consolidation
When Idaho's largest hospital system bought the state's largest doctor practice in 2012, the groups expressed hope that the deal would spark a revolution in delivering better-quality care. Instead, it ignited a costly legal battle with state and federal regulators and rival hospital systems. Officials at Boise-based St. Luke's Health System thought they had the Obama administration on their side because the federal health law encourages hospitals to collaborate with doctors to improve quality and lower costs (Galewitz, 4/22).
Los Angeles Times: UC OKs Paying Surgeon $10 Million In Whistleblower-Retaliation Case
University of California regents agreed to pay $10 million to the former chairman of UCLA's orthopedic surgery department, who had alleged that the well-known medical school allowed doctors to take industry payments that may have compromised patient care (Terhune, 4/22).
Tennessean/USA Today: Change In Tennessee Law Lets Hospitals Drop Patients
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Farmer after he was approached by various hospitals, was added to a bill designed to protect those who are placed in the care of conservators. The amendment gave hospitals a way to petition for court approval to discharge patients they say no longer need the costly care of a major health facility. In Nashville the add-on provision has been used a dozen times to try to discharge people, more than half of them listed on court documents as currently or formerly homeless. In nine of the cases, including Gordon's, the petitions were approved by Davidson Probate Judge David "Randy" Kennedy (Roche Jr., 4/22).
The Associated Press: Nebraska Gov Vetoes Nurse Practitioner Regulation Bill
Nurse practitioners will still need to collaborate with physicians to practice in Nebraska, after the governor vetoed a bill that would have changed state regulations. Gov. Dave Heineman on Tuesday vetoed the bill, which removed the requirement that nurses have an integrated practice agreement with a collaborating physician in order to practice in Nebraska. In the final vote, legislators had approved the measure unanimously (4/22).
The Associated Press: Minnesota Clinics Offering Food, Seeing Health Gains
Some Minnesota clinics operate their own food banks or offer food deliveries, but programs that use food to try to improve patient health are relatively new. This summer, Lakewood Heath System in Staples will offer free community supported agriculture shares to low-income families with children. Dr. Diana Cutts, a pediatrician at Hennepin County Medical Center who studies the ties between food and health, told Minnesota Public Radio that at any given time at least a quarter of her patients don't have enough food (4/22).
WBUR: Report: Disabled Mass. Residents Face Major Health Disparities
A new report highlights the many ways in which Massachusetts residents with disabilities “fare worse” than those without disabilities when it comes to their own physical and mental health as well as access to quality medical care from doctors sensitive to their needs. This phenomenon isn’t new. Previous research found that many barriers still exist that prevent disabled patients from accessing specialty medical care. And for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, sometimes finding a doctor willing to treat even common medical conditions can be difficult (Zimmerman, 4/22).
Georgia Health News: ‘Medical Homes’ Appeal To Many Doctors, Patients
Ronald Whitten, a licensed clinical social worker, is excited about the idea of being a patient in a “medical home.’’ A medical home, in this context, is not a residential institution. It’s a physician practice that aims to provide more comprehensive, patient-friendly treatment while also curbing health costs (Miller, 4/22).
Krebs On Security: States: Spike In Tax Fraud Against Doctors
An apparent spike in tax fraud cases against medical professionals is fueling speculation that the crimes may have been prompted by a data breach at some type of national organization that certifies or provides credentials for physicians. … In this increasingly common crime, thieves steal or purchase Social Security numbers and other data on consumers, and then electronically fraudulently file tax returns claiming a large refund. The thieves instruct the IRS to send the refund to a bank account that is tied to a prepaid debit card, which the fraudster can then use to withdraw cash at an ATM (Krebs, 4/22).
The Seattle Times: Insurers, Hospitals Complain To Kreidler About New Rules
Health insurers and hospitals, usually on opposite sides, lined up together Tuesday to give Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler an earful about his proposed new rule for insurance-provider networks. Kreidler proposed the rule after complaints that consumers have been taken by surprise about narrower networks in insurance plans offered in the Affordable Care Act. Those networks exclude some of the region’s prominent hospitals and medical centers, meaning some consumers don’t have access to providers they expected to us (Ostrom, 4/22).