A tax that would have allowed Minnesota to tax out-of-state healthcare providers was struck down last week by a Minnesota state court. The ruling means healthcare providers from Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota don't have to pay a 2% tax on their gross revenues to help fund MinnesotaCare, a healthcare reform measure designed to pay for coverage of the state's 400,000 uninsured and indigent residents. As part of MinnesotaCare, providers who care for 20 or more Minnesotans a year would have been taxed. Supporters of MinnesotaCare said last week the ruling would likely be appealed, although they said out-of-state providers would generate only a small portion of the $70 million expected from all providers.
Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles last week told the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel that he is in "active" discussions with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. to move the company's headquarters from Louisville, Ky., to Florida. Columbia/HCA officials denied that the $11 billion company has plans to move. In July, Columbia/HCA executives signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the state of Kentucky to keep the corporate headquarters in Louisville. In exchange, Columbia/HCA received a 25-year lease to operate the 404-bed University of Louisville Hospital (July 11, p. 30). Columbia/HCA operates nearly one-fourth of Florida's 195 hospitals. Mr. Chiles told the Sentinel that he discussed relocation plans with Columbia/HCA President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Scott at an Aug. 31 meeting in Tarpon Springs, Fla.
Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., and San Ramon, Calif.-based Hill Physicians Medical Group have agreed to establish an alliance, with 460-bed Summit as the alliance's anchor hospital in northern Alameda County. Other East Bay hospitals are expected to join. Hill Physicians, the largest independent HMO provider in Northern California, includes about 2,000 physicians in the East Bay, Sacramento and San Francisco areas serving more than 200,000 HMO enrollees.
Santa Monica (Calif.) Hospital Medical Center has begun reopening its nine-story acute-care tower, which was damaged during the Southern California earthquake on Jan. 17 and underwent a $4.5 million restoration. The first phase of the reopening began with the building's 47-bed medical/surgical inpatient unit on the sixth floor, increasing the medical center's capacity to 164 beds. All floors slated for immediate occupancy should be completed by Oct. 1, bringing the hospital's capacity to 260 beds. Meanwhile, St. John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, which was heavily damaged and closed after the quake, is scheduled to reopen Oct. 1. Talks on a merger or affiliation of the two hospitals continue, sources said.
In another example of a federal crackdown on drug marketing schemes, the Hoffman-LaRoche pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle civil charges that it paid grants to physicians to boost sales of an antibiotic. In the terms of its settlement with HHS and the U.S. Justice Department, the Nutley, N.J.-based company denied any liability. HHS said that from 1986 to 1991, Hoffman-LaRoche awarded research grants of $500 to $2,500 to several physicians who performed minimal work of no scientific value. Often, the physicians selected were in positions to recommend Hoffman-LaRoche drugs to other physicians or for inclusion on hospital formularies, HHS said. Last month, HHS issued a "fraud alert" describing drug marketing programs that might violate Medicare and Medicaid fraud-and-abuse statutes (Aug. 29, p. 26).
Alliant Health System and Baptist Healthcare System in Louisville, Ky., last week announced plans for an integrated healthcare system, the first step in developing a statewide healthcare network. Services will be grouped in four components: affiliated physician groups, hospital services, an ambulatory-care network and a health plan division that will develop managed-care plans. The system has not yet been named. Alliant and Baptist will remain autonomous organizations, and their assets and finances remain separate. For months, physicians, board members and staff from Baptist and Alliant have been discussing ways both organizations can work together (Jan. 3, p. 8).-Associated Press