Thursday, November 29, 2012

Health Care Reform Articles - November 29, 2012

Obama faces huge challenge in setting up health insurance exchanges

By Elise Viebeck 11/25/12 02:45 PM ET
The Obama administration faces major logistical and financial challenges in creating health insurance exchanges for states that have declined to set up their own systems.
The exchanges were designed as the centerpiece of President Obama’s signature law, and are intended to make buying health insurance comparable to booking a flight or finding a compatible partner on

Sixteen states — most of them governed by Republicans — have said they will not set up their own systems, forcing the federal government to come up with one instead.
Another five states said they want a federal-state partnership, while four others are considering partnerships.
It's a situation no one anticipated when the Affordable Care Act was written. The law assumed states would create and operate their own exchanges, and set aside billions in grants for that purpose.

State posts a job, sparks a mystery

Yesterday at 11:49 PM 

It's to coordinate a health insurance exchange, which Gov. LePage has previously sworn not to implement.

A job posting on Maine's state government website is mystifying some officials who are concerned about the planned expansion of health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Two weeks after Gov. Paul LePage announced that he wouldn't implement an online exchange to help eligible Mainers find federally subsidized insurance plans, the state's human resources website has a posting for a management position to create and oversee such an exchange.
The posting for a "health exchange coordinator" confused several state officials who have long expected that Mainers would have to use the federal exchange, known as the Health Plan Finder, which is scheduled to go online before Oct. 1, 2013.
"I thought (the job posting) was a joke when I first saw it," said state Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, ranking minority member of the Legislature's Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

Group ranks Maine among best states in hospital safety

Posted Nov. 28, 2012, at 7:01 p.m.
Maine hospitals scored second-highest in the nation for patient safety in a new report card from a nationally recognized nonprofit organization.
Eighty percent of hospitals in the state earned an “A” in the Hospital Safety Score ratings released Wednesday by the Leapfrog Group, a national patient safety group. Only Massachusetts, where 83 percent of hospitals earned an “A,” scored higher.
The letter grades reflect the risk that a patient could be harmed by a preventable medical error while hospitalized. At least 180,000 patients are killed every year from errors, accidents, injuries and infections in American hospitals, according to Leapfrog.
The grades are based on 26 measures of patient safety. Leapfrog assesses public data on measures including falls, bed sores and how consistently hospitals follow recommended treatment protocols, such as administering antibiotics to patients within an hour before surgery.
Leapfrog’s scores are part of a growing effort nationally to help consumers become better informed health care shoppers. The federal government also is looking more closely at patient safety data, making a push through Medicare and Medicaid to pay health care providers based on the quality of care they offer.
“Maine hospitals have worked hard to improve hospital safety for a number of years and their high ranking shows the results of their work,” Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of the Maine Health Management Coalition, an employer-led group that includes hospitals and insurers, said in a press release.
In Maine, 16 hospitals won an “A” grade, including both Bangor hospitals and rural hospitals such as Cary Medical Center in Caribou and Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta.
Three hospitals — Maine Medical Center in Portland, Franklin Memorial in Farmington and the Augusta campus of MaineGeneral — earned a “B.” The Waterville campus of MaineGeneral scored an “A.”
York Hospital earned the lowest grade, a “C” rating. A spokeswoman for the hospital said it since has confirmed with Leapfrog that it has a “B” grade, which Leapfrog disputed.

Maine DHHS facing $100 million shortfall

Lawmakers expected a $10 million-plus shortfall, but the number given by DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew sent shock waves through the capitol.

AUGUSTA – As lawmakers brace for a potential order from Gov. Paul LePage to cut millions in state spending, the Department of Health and Human Services delivered more bad news Thursday. 
On Thursday, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, seen last year with Gov. LePage, announced that her department is facing a $100 million shortfall.
2011 Staff File Photo

Related headlines

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew told the Legislature's budget-writing committee that her department is facing a $100 million shortfall in the budget year ending June 30, 2013. Nearly all of the spending overage stems from MaineCare, the state version of the Medicaidprogram providing health care for low-income residents.
The incoming Legislature will likely confront the DHHS budget gap with a supplemental budget when the session begins sometime in January. 
The shortfall was a shock to lawmakers, who are already bracing for an order from LePage to address a $35.5 million revenue gap. That problem could be dealt with a curtailment that makes equitable across-the-board cuts to state spending.
The MaineCare shortfall is more difficult, in part because it will be lawmakers who will have to make tough decisions.

Blue Hill hospital to discuss concerns with Stonington branch at community meeting

Posted Nov. 29, 2012, at 3:25 p.m.
STONINGTON, Maine — Island residents will hear what Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has to say about local concerns with its Stonington branch at a community meeting scheduled for Dec. 5.
The hospital held a series of “focus groups” in May to listen to what Deer Isle and Stonington residents had to say about Island Family Medicine, the hospital’s primary care clinic in Stonington, according to hospital spokeswoman Kelley Columber.
At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, the hospital will hold a meeting to review the results of the focus groups and give an outline of how the hospital plans to address patient concerns. The meeting will be held at the Reach Performing Arts Center at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.
Blue Hill Memorial Hospital leases the space for the clinic from Island Medical Center. Columber said the focus groups were the hospital’s response to complaints heard by directors on the Island Medical Center board.
“The board [members] had come to [the hospital] and expressed that they were hearing concerns from the community about access,” Columber said.
Columber declined to discuss details about residents’ concerns, or about how the hospital will address them, before the meeting.
One Deer Isle resident who participated in the focus groups said he was surprised when his wife was turned away from Island Family Medicine when she needed stitches. He said it’s part of a general criticism that Island Family Medicine is inflexible with scheduling.
“They’re not structured to accept appointments ahead of time,” the man said. He asked not to be named for fear of alienating acquaintances at IFM. “You have to call the morning you want something. People complained they had to have the clinic on speed dial to get an appointment.”
Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has been engaging in a series of goodwill events with the community, including a public meeting in September to quell the furor from some in Blue Hill upset by the hospital’s recent purchase of nearby residential properties.
At that meeting, Chief Medical Officer Cathy Ober acknowledged that the hospital has only a 50 percent market share on the Blue Hill Peninsula, meaning about half of peninsula residents choose other medical facilities.

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