KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

State Watch: N.Y. Approves Rate Hikes; Arizona Referendum On Health Insurance Mandate; Md. Insurer Cuts Broker Fees

The Sacramento Bee: "A Sacramento federal judge has ordered the state to keep providing adult dental, podiatric and chiropractic services to poor people in underserved rural areas until it gets permission from federal health authorities to discontinue the benefits. U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ruled Wednesday that, while the services are not mandatory under the federal Medicaid program (Medi-Cal in California), the Legislature's decision to end them last year as a cost-saving measure was unlawful without federal approval. Damrell issued an injunction barring further implementation of the change in the Medi-Cal plan until the state gets federal approval" (Walsh, 10/22).

KTAR in Phoenix: "Supporters of Proposition 106 say allowing Arizonans to opt out of any federal or state health care mandate [to buy insurance] would preserve the right of individuals to make their own decisions. Opponents, however, say the measure could derail the benefits of federal health care reform here if the state can defend it in court. But they say that since a federal plan would trump anything at the state level Proposition 106 would most likely set Arizona up for a costly and unsuccessful legal battle." (Johnson, 10/21).

The Buffalo News: "New York state insurance regulators on Thursday approved health insurance rate hikes for eight insurers in the state including Independent Health Association and the parent of Univera Healthcare but reduced several of them from what were requested. Locally, the state will allow Williamsville-based Independent Health to raise its rates for large employer groups by 7.5 percent to 9.3 percent, and for small groups by 6.5 percent to 8.3 percent. That matches the range that the insurer had requested. It also allowed Independent Health to charge 2.9 percent more for Healthy New York, also matching the request. But it turned down the insurer's request to raise individual 'direct-pay' premiums by 15.9 percent, instead allowing only a 9.6 percent increase" (Epstein, 10/21).

Baltimore Business Journal: "CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is cutting fees it pays to health insurance brokers who help the region's largest insurer manage group accounts. In a letter sent to thousands of brokers in Maryland this week, CareFirst said it plans to lower commissions for its brokers who work with small employers - those with two to 50 workers - by 15 percent, starting next year. The insurer's fee decrease for all other employer groups could add up to about 30 percent for many brokers" (Graham, 10/21).

The Detroit News: "As pharmacies pump up their efforts to administer flu vaccinations, busy Metro Detroit customers are praising the convenience. But doctors around Michigan are complaining they are being treated like second-class citizens when drugstores receive the vaccine before them. The Michigan State Medical Society consequently plans to propose a resolution at November's American Medical Association meeting, advocating the national group lobby for a federal requirement that vaccine makers deliver flu and other vaccines to doctors first before drugstores and urgent care clinics. Medical sites provide 70 percent of the shots nationwide, according to a 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease Control" (Devaney, 10/22).

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