KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Some Minn. Insurers Will End Certain Medicare Plans; Utah Issues Rule On Child-Only Plans; Fla. Law On Pain Clinics Takes Effect

[St. Paul] Pioneer Press: "Five insurance companies including Minnetonka-based Medica next year will stop providing a particular type of Medicare health plan in much of Minnesota, a state official said Thursday. That means some 44,000 beneficiaries will need to shop for new coverage in the coming months. The insurers compete in the market for Medicare Advantage health plans - where some 350,000 state residents buy their coverage - and the companies are dropping a type of Medicare insurance provided through 'private fee-for-service' plans. Beginning next year, private fee-for-service plans must offer care through defined networks of doctors and hospitals. Previously, the plans lacked such networks, and some insurance companies across the country are discontinuing the plans rather than create the networks" (Snowbeck, 9/30).

Salt Lake Tribune: "Utah health insurance companies must offer open enrollment to children twice a year under a new state rule intended to clear up confusion about guaranteed coverage for youngsters. Last month, just as new federal health reform safeguards barred health plans from rejecting children because they're sick, Utah's largest insurers stopped selling child-only plans. Intermountain HealthCare's SelectHealth is accepting children as long as all insurable members of the family are on the same plan. But Regence BlueCross BlueShield and other insurers are refusing to do that. Their reasoning: They're waiting for the state or federal government to define an enrollment period" (Stewart, 9/30).

(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union: "A Florida law intended to reform pain management clinics and take aim at disreputable 'pill mills' takes effect today amid questions about its effectiveness and potential loopholes that problem pain clinics could slip through. The new law is intended to set standards for the kind of care chronic pain patients can expect when visiting a pain management clinic in the state. The reforms were supposed to be paired in short order with a prescription drug monitoring database, slated by law to begin on Dec. 1, but a bid dispute has put a halt to implementation. The problem is pronounced through Florida, including the Jacksonville area, where 56 pain clinics are registered with the state" (Howard, 10/1).

Medscape: "A long-simmering turf war between anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) across the country erupted this week into a legal battle in Colorado. As it is with healthcare in general, the conflict centers on matters of quality and quantity - quality of care for patients, quantity of dollars for providers. The Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists yesterday sued Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. over his decision, announced earlier in the week, to opt out of a Medicare requirement that a CRNA must work under physician supervision for his or her work to be reimbursed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave states this option in 2001, and Colorado is the sixteenth state to exercise it. Most are Western and Great Plains states, where remote rural hospitals may lack an anesthesiologist to supply the supervision" (Lowes, 9/30).

Kansas Health Institute: "Veterans in rural areas have different health care needs than their urban counterparts and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working to improve services to them, a Utah doctor said during a conference of the National Rural Health Association. For example, the VA is collaborating with rural, critical access hospitals on the exchange of electronic medical records so that patient records from the VA can be shared with the hospitals closer to veterans' homes and vice versa" (Karash, 9/30).

Florida Tribune: "Gov. Charlie Crist's Cover Florida program was supposed to provide options to uninsured residents seeking health care coverage at an affordable price. But the number of insurance carriers offering the plans is diminishing. United HealthCare stopped selling new Cover Florida policies earlier this month, at least temporarily, said Mary Beth Senkewicz, Office of Insurance Regulation Deputy Commissioner of Life and Health. United Healthcare spokesperson Tracey Lempner said the company stopped selling new plans amid concerns that the low-cost health insurance program conflicts with the insurance reforms contained in the federal health care overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act" (Sexton, 9/30).

The Washington Post: "The red-robed judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals had tough questions Wednesday for Kevin Karpinski, the lawyer representing Montgomery County's Board of Elections, peppering him with openly skeptical queries and comments about why thousands of residents who sought to challenge a county law imposing ambulance fees saw their signatures scratched by elections officials. More than 52,000 people signed a petition to put the ambulance fee before voters Nov. 2, but elections officials, and later a Montgomery Circuit Court judge, blocked the referendum, citing problems with the way people signed their names. Thousands of signatures were junked, for example, because they were illegible" (Laris, 9/30).

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