State Highlights: Md., Minn. See Small Business Health Insurance Rate Changes
A selection of health policy stories from Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, the District of Columbia, Virginia, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Maine.
Baltimore Sun: State Approves Rates For Small Business Health Insurance
Some small businesses in Maryland will see a small drop in health insurance premiums next year, while others will pay as much as 11 percent more to cover their workers, according to rates released by state regulators Friday. The rates, which go into effect in January, only apply to small firms with up to 50 employees, and not to large or self-insured firms or individuals buying coverage on the state's health insurance exchange. Evergreen Health Cooperative sought no rate increase, and Aetna Health Inc. will raise rates only slightly, according to the rate information released by the Maryland Insurance Administration. Some UnitedHealthcare premiums will drop by about 2.5 percent (Cohn, 10/10).
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Premium Spikes Catch Up With Small Businesses
Many small businesses in Minnesota are seeing big changes in their premiums this fall as they renew health insurance policies before the year’s end. Some face increases of 40 percent or more. But others are enjoying discounts of up to 30 percent, insurers say -- thanks to the adoption of new rules under the federal health law. The rules mean that small businesses will no longer benefit from premium discounts -- or suffer from premium surcharges -- based on the health of employees. With a move to what’s called “community rating,” groups that used to get discounts are seeing big premium increases, while those that were paying surcharges are seeing big savings (Snowbeck, 10/13).
The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot blog: Texas AG Lawsuit Claims AstraZeneca Improperly Marketed Seroquel
The Texas Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against AstraZeneca that alleges the drug maker illegally marketed its Seroquel antipsychotic pill for unapproved uses, paid kickbacks to physician and state health officials, and subsequently caused the state Medicaid program to overpay for the medicine (Silverman, 10/10).
The Washington Post/Kaiser Health News: Medicare Penalizes Washington-Area Hospitals For Readmissions
Every general hospital in the District of Columbia and its Virginia suburbs has been fined for having too many Medicare patients readmitted within a month for additional treatment, federal records show (Rau and Gillespie, 10/10).
The Associated Press: Colorado Health Officials Announce Privacy Breach
Colorado health officials say they accidentally violated the medical privacy of about 15,000 people in a recent postcard mailing. The postcards were mailed as part of a survey sent to people receiving behavioral health services through Medicaid or the Department of Human Services' Office of Behavioral Health. The breach was announced Friday. State officials say that no financial information or Social Security numbers were disclosed. Instead, the information was protected health information. Whether someone receives behavioral health care services is considered protected private medical information (10/10).
Arizona Central Republic: County Hospital At Heart Of Contentious Debate
The Maricopa Integrated Health System is a safety net for the county's poor and underserved residents. It primarily caters to those who have nowhere else to go. But it operates a burn center that treats some of the most desperate patients from across the Southwest. Its hospital is a Level 1 trauma center and a teaching institution for medical students and other health-care professionals. Maricopa County residents pay for these facilities through their secondary property taxes. The special health-care district also receives federal and state funds. Next month, county taxpayers will be asked in Proposition 480 to approve $935 million in bonds that would be spent to expand and renovate the aging system and increase capacity to serve the county's mentally ill (Lee, 10/10).
CBS News: A Harsh Financial Lesson For Philly Teachers
In a surprise move, the state-appointed body that oversees the Philadelphia School District decided last week unilaterally to void its contract with the teacher's union after failing to reach an agreement over whether teachers should pay more for their health care costs. It's the latest battle over the contentious national issue of health care costs (Berr, 10/13).
NPR: A Benefit For Rural Vets: Getting Health Care Close To Home
Army veteran Randy Michaud had to make a 200-mile trip to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Aroostook County, Maine, near the Canadian border, every time he had a medical appointment. Michaud, who was medically retired after a jeep accident in Germany 25 years ago, moved home to Maine in 1991. He was eligible for VA medical care, but the long drive was a problem (Lawrence, 10/13).