- - Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Agency bundling insurance payments for savings

The agency that runs government health insurance is launching a program that would bundle insurance payments for multiple procedures in the hope of improving patient care while also saving money.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid invited providers Tuesday to help develop four models to bundle payments.

The program is meant to encourage hospitals, doctors and other specialists to coordinate in treating a patient’s specific condition during a single hospital stay and recovery.

The four models would give providers flexibility on how they get paid and for which services. The general aim is to try to do away with the current practice that reimburses doctors based on how much, not how well they do.


States may get second chance at exchange

HELENA — The Obama administration says states that have not adopted their own insurance exchanges may get a second chance to avoid one run by the U.S. government.

Only 11 states have fully embraced the idea of taking federal money to set up their own state-run insurance exchange, a key part of Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul designed to help uninsured people buy coverage from a choice of plans with federal tax credits.

But states that have been slow to accept the idea, or have rejected it in resistance to the law, will have another chance.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials told Montana legislators Tuesday that the agency is working on a new partnership model to let state agencies help run the exchange without the need to get legislative authorization.


Party hopes redistricting will shore up majority

The odds of getting re-elected have gotten a lot better for Rep. Renee L. Ellmers and other Republican freshmen in the House — thanks to GOP calculations in redrawing political maps.

The nurse who ousted seven-term Democrat Bob Etheridge by fewer than 1,500 votes last November will be running next year in a newly drawn North Carolina district that’s less swing oriented and more Republican.

While the GOP still has eyes on winning a few more House seats, its focus in the once-a-decade, census-based redrawing of congressional districts has been on securing the 63 seats it captured from Democrats in what was a wave election for Republicans in 2010.

Democrats are looking to new congressional maps in Illinois and California to take seats away from Republicans in 2012.


Bill seeks statewide rules on circumcision

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers will consider whether local jurisdictions have the right to ban male circumcision or whether the practice should be covered by statewide rules, a debate that evolved from a divisive ballot measure in San Francisco.

A bill by two Democratic lawmakers considered Tuesday would declare that circumcision — surgically removing the foreskin that covers the tip of the penis — has health, cultural and other benefits, and that uniform statewide rules are needed to govern it and a parent’s authority over whether their children receive it.

“It’s a medical procedure, and it has value,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Los Angeles Democrat, co-author of AB768.

The legislation comes against a national backdrop of efforts to limit male circumcision, which critics say is an unnecessary surgery to a healthy and defenseless child. They compare the practice to genital mutilation of female children, which is banned by federal and California law.


Court voids ex-state senator’s sentence

PHILADELPHIA — A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday threw out the 4 1/2-year corruption sentence of a long-powerful former Pennsylvania state senator.

The court agreed with prosecutors that U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter did not explain why he sentenced Vincent Fumo far below federal sentencing guidelines.

The court also upheld 68-year-old Fumo’s conviction and ordered a new sentencing of an aide convicted at trial with him.

A jury in 2009 convicted Fumo of defrauding the state Senate, a museum and a South Philadelphia nonprofit of millions. The Philadelphia Democrat had been a wealthy power broker during his 30-year state Senate career. He remains incarcerated at a federal prison in Kentucky.

Prosecutors had sought at least a 15-year term for Fumo, who was convicted of all 137 fraud and obstruction counts after a five-month trial, and put his guideline sentencing range at 21 to 27 years.

In their appeal, they said “breathtaking” corruption had been exposed in the case and that Fumo used his control of a Senate committee and the nonprofit to amass political power and live in grandeur.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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