KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Penn. Official Urges Bill To Prohibit ‘Health Profiling’ And Limit Rate Hikes; Nev., Ariz. Wrestle With Rising Costs For Public Employees’ Benefits; McCollum Releases Health Plan

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: "Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner is urging state legislators to pass a bill that would prohibit 'health profiling' and limit rate increases in advance of the 2014 enactment of the main provisions of the federal health-care reform law. Testifying before the House Insurance Committee, ... Joel Ario said he arrived at those recommendations following the department's investigation on the rating practices and premium increases of the top nine health insurance companies operating in Pennsylvania" (Toland, 7/21).

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Health insurance giant Highmark Inc. this summer moved small-business customers to a for-profit subsidiary to evade regulatory scrutiny, then substantially raised premiums up to 79 percent, the state's top insurance regulator charged Tuesday. Highmark countered that 70 percent of its small-group members in Pennsylvania received rate increases of 10 percent or less and that the moves were defensive." A Highmark executive said the action was necessary to continue to be able to provide coverage for small businesses because the for-profit competition has "virtually no rate regulations."

"Highmark's actions come as small businesses nationwide prepare to take advantage of a new federal tax credit, effective this tax year, extended to companies who offer employees health insurance" (Stouffer, 7/21).

Las Vegas Sun: "There's a gaping $100 million hole in the health insurance plan that covers state workers, retirees and their dependents. And the 74,000 enrollees are facing major cutbacks in benefits. … Kateri Cavin, operations officer of the Public Employees Health Program, said budget officials project the amount the state will contribute the next two fiscal years will be flat. Cavin said medical inflation is expected to rise 11 to 12 percent per year and that puts the shortfall at $90 million to $100 million for the biennium" (Ryan, 7/21).

Arizona Republic: "State and university employees with families can expect to see their monthly health-insurance costs rise as much as 37 percent next year, depending on the type of plan they choose. Figures provided by the Arizona Department of Administration show that health plans for families and single adults with children will shoulder the most-expensive monthly premium increases beginning Jan. 1, while individuals will pay modest increases. The Department of Administration cited federal health reform" as the cause of the increases. Specifically, it pointed to the "requirement that insurance plans provide coverage for dependent children up to age 26. The other is the federal legislation's ban on lifetime limits" (Alltucker, 7/21).

Las Vegas Sun: Iowa officials have proposed regulations that would require hospitals to report "never events," which the newspaper defines as "preventable incidents such as broken bones, advanced-stage pressure sores or certain infections that should never happen in a health care setting." Nevada officials are also looking into such regulations following a report in the Las Vegas Sun about such abuses (Allen, 7/21).

Florida Tribune: "Attorney General Bill McCollum, who filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block federal health care reform, released his own detailed health care proposal on Monday that calls for reviewing health insurance mandates, lowering caps on lawsuits against doctors and increasing the number of medical residency programs in Florida. But McCollum, who unveiled the proposal at a campaign stop in Naples, also says he will support moving away from the changes in Florida's massive Medicaid program that have been proposed by other Republican leaders the last several years. McCollum instead is touting the 'medical home' concept pushed the last two years by Rep. Ed Homan" (Sexton, 7/20).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state must repay a medical malpractice fund more than $200 million it took to balance the budget three years ago, potentially throwing the current budget into disarray. In its 5-2 decision, the court agreed with the Wisconsin Medical Society that taking the money from the fund used to help pay malpractice claims was unconstitutional. It sent the case back to a lower court with directions that it order the state to pay back the money with interest and lost earnings" (Bauer, 7/20). 

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