State Roundup: Bankrupt Calif. City’s Retirees Sue
News outlets examine health issues in California, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and Oregon.
Los Angeles Times: Stockton Retirees Sue To Stop City From Cutting Health Benefits
A group of Stockton retirees has filed suit in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento asking for a restraining order against the city's moves to cut their health benefits. The city informed retirees by letter that they must pay their premiums by July 30 or "medical coverage will be canceled retroactive to July 1." The move is part of the city's "pendency plan" aimed at keeping it solvent while it seeks protections from creditors under federal bankruptcy law (Marcum, 7/12).
Boston Globe: State Officials Say New Law Has Saved More Than $175M In Health Insurance
Massachusetts officials said Wednesday that a new law designed to help municipalities and school districts reduce their health insurance costs has saved more than $175 million in premium costs for 127 municipalities and districts. Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said the law, which was intended to "modernize benefit plan design' at the municipal level, was the result of "all stakeholders acknowledging the fact that high costs were crushing municipalities at the expense of services and jobs and that we needed a solution" (Finucane, 7/11).
Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Doctors, Patient Challenge New Mexico Assisted Suicide Ban
The question before the court in New Mexico is absurdly simple and yet impossibly complex. What is the meaning of "assisting suicide"? … Two oncologists from the University of New Mexico Health Science Center and a patient with advanced cancer are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in New Mexico District Court designed to clarify the legal definition of assisting suicide. That decision, likely to come in the next year, could send reverberations through the medical establishment in the Rocky Mountain West and across the country. Morris v. New Mexico contends that the statute outlawing "assisting suicide" (NM Statute 30-2-4) never was intended to apply to physicians treating patients in the late stages of terminal illnesses (Carman, 7/11).
Medpage Today: Take Docs Out Of Assisted Suicide Equation?
A federal/state, highly regulated mechanism should be created so that terminal patients can obtain a lethal dose of medication with which to end their lives if they so choose, suggest Lisa Soleymani Lehmann, MD, PhD, and Julian Prokopetz, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. That would free doctors from direct involvement in such cases, they argued in a Perspective piece in the July 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In the U.S., assisted suicide is illegal in all states except Oregon, but there is a trend toward "greater social and legal acceptance," the authors wrote (Walker, 7/11).
Health News Florida: Contract Switch Brings More Delay
Florida Health Choices, which is building an insurance website for small employers, has switched contractors after accusing the first one of lax security and outsourcing some work to China. Created in 2008, the state-authorized non-profit was supposed to have the exchange in operation last summer. Now the board and staff hope it will be up by January 2013 (Jordan Sexton, 7/12).
CT Mirror: Health Exchange Panel Struggles To Balance Need Vs. Cost In 'Benchmark' Plan
The panel working to create the state's first health exchange received a crucial recommendation Wednesday: Don't make the insurance plans so affordable that they don't cover essential patient needs. A working group of the exchange's board of directors recommended unanimously Wednesday that it establish a health benefits "benchmark" -- the minimum levels of coverage plans in the exchange must provide -- based on ConnectiCare's HMO plan (Phaneuf, 7/11).
St. Louis Beacon: Highest Percentage Of Missouri's Uninsured Reside In Rural Counties
Most Missouri counties with the highest percentage of uninsured residents are concentrated in two congressional districts -- the 6th in the northern part of the state and the 8th in southeast Missouri, according to data in a new report. The study does not break down the number of uninsured Missourians by congressional districts. But that is one way to look at the issue as federal lawmakers decide whether to try to reverse all or parts of the health reform law that will give most people access to health insurance by 2014 (Joiner, 7/11).
The Lund Report: Providence Health Plans Asks For 15.7 Percent Increase
Providence Health Plans is seeking a 15.7 percent average increase for people who purchase their own coverage starting November 1. If approved, 12,162 Oregonians would be impacted. The actual rate increase depends upon a person’s age and whether their family members are on their insurance plan. …Providence contends this rate request is justified because of increased healthcare costs and increased utilization (Lund-Muzinkant, 7/11).
Kansas Health Institute News: KHIE Board Presented With Proposal To Dissolve The Organization By August
For seven years, members of the Kansas Health Information Exchange board have worked to form the public-private entity KHIE, Inc., which now regulates the exchange of digital health records in the state. Today, board members were presented with a proposal to dissolve KHIE, Inc., by August and hand over the board's regulatory authority to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The proposal comes on the cusp of digital health information exchange going live in Kansas, which officials have said would begin next week (Cauthon, 7/11).