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Indiana University Health is in talks to form a partnership with Tennessee-based Community Health Systems for its two hospitals in northwest Indiana. According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, IU Health has entered a nonbinding agreement to form a limited liability company that would include its hospitals in LaPorte and Knox as well as their physician practices, and would also include Porter Regional Hospital near Valparaiso, which is owed by Community, a for-profit hospital chain. IU Health announced it was seeking a partner for its two hospitals in September. “After months of research and exploration, it is clear that CHS meets and exceeds the criteria we set forth in our search,” said Scott Siefker, chairperson of the IU Health LaPorte Hospital board of directors. Those criteria were high-quality patient care and long-term financial stability.

Health insurers selling coverage on the Obamacare exchange are not providing all the coverage they should to help people quit smoking under the Affordable Care Act, according to the American Lung Association. The group's Indiana director, Tanya Hussain, says none of the state's nine health plans is in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, which requires them to cover the full cost of drugs proven to help smokers quit. “Evidence suggests that smoking rates of people enrolled in marketplace plans are high, which means that we are missing the chance to offer full cessation benefits to those who may need it the most,” she said, adding that smoking rates are high among people enrolled in marketplace health plans.

One of the leaders of the effort to unionize nurses at Indiana University Health’s downtown hospitals was fired March 30, according to IU Health employees. Lacie Little, 29, was one of two nurses quoted in an IBJ story that broke the news of the attempt to organize a nurse union. That story was published Saturday, two days before Little’s dismissal. The day after Little’s firing, the United Steelworkers, the union working with the IU Health nurses, filed an unfair labor practices charge, according to a spokeswoman at the National Labor Relations Board. The charge alleges that IU Health has interfered with its employees' rights to organize a union and has discriminated against its employees in an effort to discourage the formation of a union. Whitney Ertel, a spokeswoman for IU Health, would not confirm Little’s firing, saying, “IU Health does not discuss employee discipline cases.” “I can confirm,” Ertel added, “that we have not, and will not, discipline any team member for exercising his or her rights under the National Labor Relations Act. As a condition of employment, team members are required to adhere to IU Health policies and procedures at all times.” Little was part a 70-nurse organizing committee at IU Health, which is passing out petition cards for nurses’ signatures. If it gains enough support, it could hold a vote in the second half of April or in May. IU Health officials have characterized the union as unnecessary.

A three-year moratorium on construction of most new nursing homes around Indiana was approved by state lawmakers March 31. The Senate voted 36-12, sending it to Gov. Mike Pence. House members voted earlier this month to support the proposal. Supporters say the moratorium is needed because Indiana has thousands of unused nursing home beds, which are costing the state millions in annual Medicaid costs based on a payment formula that includes construction costs. Those against the measure say it violates free-market principles and will cost jobs. A similar proposal failed in 2014 after private lobbying by then-House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner. Turner resigned from the Legislature in November.

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