Roundup: Mass. a template for controlling health care costs?; Fewer than expected use Minn. health care vouchers; Blue Shield in Calif.'s proposed rate hikes

A selection of health policy stories from California, Minnesota, Connecticut, Georgia and Florida.

Los Angeles Times: A Shift In How Health Care Is Paid For
This simple shift in how health care is paid for -- long seen as key to taming costs -- has been occurring in pockets of the country. But nowhere is it happening more systematically than in Massachusetts, the state that blazed a trail in 2006 by guaranteeing its residents health insurance. Now Massachusetts, a model for President Obama's 2010 national health care law, may offer another template for national leaders looking to control health spending (Levey, 12/12).

The Associated Press: Fewer Than Expected Use Minn. Health Care Vouchers
A plan to shift thousands of Minnesota residents from a state-subsidized health care coverage program to vouchers for private insurance isn't getting the traction that officials planned on. About 1,200 of the 4,200 people who lost their MinnesotaCare coverage are getting the vouchers, which is well below what the state's projections (12/12).

Los Angeles Times: Blue Shield Of California Seeks Rate Hikes Up To 20%
Health insurer Blue Shield of California wants to raise rates as much as 20 percent for some individual policyholders, prompting calls for the nonprofit to use some of its record-high reserve of $3.9 billion to hold down premiums (Terhune, 12/13).

The New York Times: Nursing Homes Told To Reinstate Workers
A federal judge in Hartford has ordered a Connecticut nursing home chain to reinstate nearly 600 workers who have been on strike since July 3, and to rescind the pension and health care cuts it had imposed (Greenhouse, 12/12).

Modern Healthcare: Ga. Hospitals Team Up Seeking Quality Gains, Lower Costs
Nine Georgia hospitals are working together as part of a statewide collaborative that will compare surgical outcomes and ultimately attempt to reduce health care costs. The initiative follows similar efforts in Tennessee and Michigan with some early evidence suggesting that these groups can be successful in saving hospitals money. Similar groups are also working on a national level, such as a multihospital collaborative that was formed in 2010 with the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. The Georgia collaborative-;which will grow to 14 hospitals next year-;will be led by the state chapter of the American College of Surgeons. The ACS unveiled the program today at its Surgical Health Care Quality Forum Georgia, an event that is part of a series focused on improving quality of care (Kutscher, 12/12).

CT Mirror: Part Show Biz, This New Effort Will Promote The State's Health Care Industry
The reason we're here, Robert Patricelli told the room full of health care industry leaders, is "to beat Nashville at its own game." He wasn't talking about country music. The home of the Grand Ole Opry has emerged in recent years as a major hub of the health care industry, home to more than 250 health care companies -- including national hospital chains -- that employ more than 100,000 people in the area. Nashville now describes itself as "the Silicon Valley of health care." Learning that, said Patricelli, the chairman and CEO of Women's Health USA, he and other Connecticut business leaders "got a serious case of cluster envy." They learned that Nashville's health-care sector had grown in part because of a health care council that had been boosting the industry, providing networking opportunities, mentoring and support. And so, they decided to copy it. The result: The Connecticut Health Council, which launched Wednesday to support and promote the industry (Becker, 12/12).

California Healthline: State Plans Retroactive Payment Rate Hikes
The good news for primary care physicians is the federal program to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates starts Jan. 1. The bad news is Medi-Cal providers in California may have to wait several months to retroactively receive the higher payment. … The first phase of the Healthy Families transition to Medi-Cal also starts on Jan. 1, with roughly 415,000 California children making the switch. The promised higher primary care rate payment for Medicaid was one of the factors that could help ensure a smoother transition by helping to address access concerns (Gorn, 12/13).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Mayo Puts Brakes On Its New Project At Megamall
Mayo Clinic said Wednesday it will not be part of the Mall of America's expansion scheduled to open next fall. Spokesman Bryan Anderson said the Rochester-based hospital system "is evaluating new ways to evolve our long-term presence" at the Bloomington megamall…. The economic downturn, implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, an aging population and rising costs of care were among the factors driving the decision to slow capital growth plans and to assess hiring, Anderson said (Crosby and Moore, 12/12).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Home Aides Seek Right To Join One Of Minn.'s Biggest Unions
One of the state's largest unions is seeking a change in the law that would allow it to bargain on behalf of thousands of people who provide home care to elderly or disabled Minnesotans, including their own family members. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and incoming DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen say they are open to the idea of allowing an estimated 15,000-20,000 people the chance to join the Service Employees International Union. The move would put Minnesota's new DFL-run government in the position of helping strengthen the SEIU at a time when Republican-dominated governments in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin have been limiting union influence with right-to-work laws or public-employee bargaining limits (Ragsdale, 12/12).

Minnesota Post: Gov. Dayton's Mid-Term Checklist Continues With Health Achievements
Gov. Mark Dayton says that improvements have been made in state health care policies in his first two years in office. ... The governor's office says the goal is to improve health in the state, and by "increasing access to high quality, affordable health insurance and promoting strong community health programs, we can improve our quality of life and help lower the cost of health care for all Minnesotans." Things accomplished so far: Expanding Health Coverage for Children and Adults. Provided coverage for 86,000 low-income Minnesotans and 16,000 children. Providing Quality, Affordable Coverage. Secured $70 million in federal funds to design a new online marketplace for health insurance that will help 1.2 million Minnesotans save $1 billion on health insurance (Kimball, 12/12).

The Miami Herald: Florida Vows To Stick Fewer Kids In Nursing Homes
Florida's top healthcare administrator is vowing to keep as many medically fragile children as possible at home with their parents -; and to improve the lives of those who remain in nursing homes -; amid an outcry over hundreds of children living in institutions designed for frail elders. Liz Dudek, who heads the state Agency for Health Care Administration, outlined a series of new policies on Wednesday to help the parents of severely disabled children care for their kids at home. The new policies also are contained in a memo written Tuesday by Justin Senior, AHCA's deputy secretary for Medicaid, the insurance program for needy and disabled people (Miller, 12/12).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.




The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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