KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Calif. Regulators Seek $9.9 Billion Fine From Insurer; Few Iowans Sign Up For High Risk Pool; N.D. Court Rejects Ballot Measure On Drug Store Ownership

Reuters: "California regulators are seeking fines of up to $9.9 billion from a unit of health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc, citing mismanaged medical claims, failure to pay doctors and other lapses. The California Department of Insurance alleges that PacifiCare violated state law nearly a million times from 2006 to 2008 after it was purchased by UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer by market value. Each violation is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, according to department spokesman Ioannis Kazani" (Beasley, 9/8).

Los Angeles Times: "Regulators said the companies broke promises to maintain smooth operations for 130,000 of PacifiCare's customers, resulting in what insurance officials nationwide believe is the largest fine ever sought against a U.S. health insurer. … PacifiCare and UnitedHealth Group have rejected the state's assertions, and they are fighting the proposed fines in a lengthy legal hearing that began 10 months ago in Oakland and could conclude as early as next month. The insurers maintain that the state's case largely involves administrative errors that did little harm to anyone" (Helfand, 9/7).

The Des Moines Register: "Few Iowans are showing interest in a new state health insurance program for people with medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure. Such high-risk pools are among the first programs to take effect under the federal health reform law. When the Iowa pool opened early last month, there was some concern that it would be unable to meet demand. Federal experts estimated that 34,500 Iowans would qualify, but the federal government provided enough money to cover only about 975 of them. However, the program has received just 32 applications so far" (Leys, 9/9).

The Southern Illinoisan: "A new partnership between Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Southern Illinois Healthcare will bring enhanced medical care to Southern Illinois residents battling cancer, officials announced Wednesday. The Simmons Cancer Institute at SIUC School of Medicine in Springfield is joining SIH's Cancer Institute to offer patients in need of advanced cancer care specialized surgeries or treatment. This is the first alliance the Simmons institute has made with a downstate health care group. Patients will now have access to specialist at the SIU medical campus but still receive treatments close to home, officials said" (Testa, 9/9).

Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune: "A state commission listened Tuesday to pleas about how Indiana's $1 billion revenue shortfall impacts some of its most vulnerable citizens -- mentally ill adults. … Last year, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration made hard financial decisions resulting from budget constraints, budget cuts and admissions moratoriums on state programs, including the Residential Community Assistance Program. The program funds residential homes across the state for about 1,300 mentally ill and disabled residents" (Taylor, 9/8).

The Bismarck Tribune: "The North Dakota Supreme Court issued a speedy rejection of a group's attempt to get the pharmacy measure placed on the November ballot after a hour-long hearing last week. The petitions were turned in by the sponsoring committee of North Dakotans for Lower Prescription Drug Prices in August, but they were rejected by Secretary of State Al Jaeger because the group did not include the names of those sponsoring the petition when it was circulated. The measure would have changed limits on pharmacy ownership laws to allow non-pharmacists the ability to operate pharmacies. Under this measure, big chain stores in North Dakota would've been able to house pharmacies" (Beitsch, 9/7). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.