Health Care Reform News From Around the Nation: September 24
Thirty-three of 61 hospitals in Massachusetts have voluntarily adopted policies that waive fees for 28 "never events," such as wrong-site surgeries and harmful medication errors, according to a recent survey by The Leapfrog Group, the Boston Globe reports.
Other hospitals said they intend to adopt such policies in the future, the survey found.
According to the Globe, the fee waivers come "amid growing resistance from government and health insurers to paying for poor outcomes."
Consumer groups, health insurers, state lawmakers and employers "are pushing for more far-reaching and mandatory policies as ways to reduce errors, and hospital executives said they expect to forgo payments in an increasing number of cases," the Globe reports.
However, physicians and hospital executives say they cannot always agree on what constitutes a never event or what costs should be waived if one occurs (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 9/17).
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) on Tuesday announced that state hospitals have formally agreed to stop charging patients and insurers for 27 "never events," as well as for follow-up care required because of the errors, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The state is the first in the U.S. to adopt such a policy.
The policy includes:
- Leaving a needle or sponge in a body during surgery;
- Operating on the wrong body part or wrong patient;
- Serious medication errors; or
- Severe bedsores.
Many hospitals in the state stopped billing for such errors after a state law took effect in 2004 that requires hospitals to report incidences of never events, according to Bruce Rueben, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association.
CMS last month announced that Medicare no longer would reimburse hospitals for certain errors.
Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (R) on Tuesday announced a three-phase plan to help low-income workers obtain health insurance through government subsidies, the Kansas City Star reports.
The proposal aims to extend coverage within a year to 131,500 working adults with incomes up to 185% of the federal poverty level.
Under the plan, the state in October would seek bids from private insurers to provide coverage, according to Amy Blouin, executive director of the Missouri Budget Project.
In the first phase, the state would provide Medicaid coverage for custodial parents with incomes up to the poverty level. Families with incomes below the poverty level would not contribute premiums and would be charged copayments ranging from 50 cents to $3 per service.
In the second phase, Medicaid would pay for coverage of working adults with incomes up to 185% of the poverty level, who would pay higher copays and premiums.
Under the third phase, which is scheduled to be implemented by early 2009, the state would provide catastrophic coverage for employees of businesses with 25 or fewer workers. Eligibility would be limited to workers with incomes of no more than about 250% or 300% of the poverty level.
The plan requires approval from the state Legislature and the federal government.
The plan would be funded by a combination of state taxes, special Medicaid taxes, federal money hospitals receive for providing indigent care and federal matching funds (Wagar, Kansas City Star, 9/18).
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) on Sept. 17 issued an executive order creating a state advisory board that seeks to reduce health care costs by improving health information technology throughout the state, the Dayton Daily News reports.
The advisory board will bring together representatives from public and private sectors to work on health IT issues and coordinate with the Ohio Broadband Council.
According to the order, maintaining health care costs helps manage state expenditures and improve the economic environment.
The Information Partnership Advisory Board will be led by R. Steve Edmondson, the state's chief information officer, and Strickland will appoint a co-chair (Hershey, Dayton Daily News, 9/18).