Court Upholds Maine's Ruling To Cut Insurance Premium Hikes; Florida Voters To Decide Whether To Amend Constitution To Fight Federal Mandate

The Wall Street Journal: "A state court upheld a Maine official's decision to deny a profit margin for a WellPoint Inc. unit in a health-insurance rate request—a ruling that may resonate in other states where regulators are battling premium hikes. Thomas E. Humphrey, chief justice of the Maine superior court, wrote that the approved 2009 rate for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's individual health-insurance product line met the state's legal standard and wasn't 'inadequate'" (Matthews, 4/23).

The Associated Press/The Boston Globe: "Maine Superior Court has affirmed state regulators' decision to reduce Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine's proposed rate increase for individual health plans from 18.1 percent to 10.9 percent. … Anthem had contended that the 10.9 percent hike allowed by Maine's insurance superintendent wasn't enough to provide profit for the company. The 10.9 percent average increase became effective on July 1, 2009. The judge also said it was not improper for the superintendent to consider the state of the economy and profits from Anthem's other lines of insurance in making her decision on the proposed increase. ... Anthem's proposed 22.9 percent increase this year for two individual coverage plans is still pending" (Adams, 4/22). 

Baltimore Business Journal: "What started as legislation designed to protect patients in Maryland and was later scored a victory for doctors seeking higher pay is evolving into a debate over whether the state is embracing the nationwide health care overhaul by helping to ease mounting costs. And the argument, which pits health insurers against physicians in another contentious battle for money and bargaining power, is not about to end soon. That's because health insurance companies that do business in Maryland — chief among them, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield — still oppose the so-called assignment of benefits bill, which passed on the final day of the legislative session, April 12. The legislation tries to take patients out of the health care billing equation by allowing them to have payment sent directly from their health insurer to out-of-network doctors who treat them" (Graham, 4/23).

The New York Times: Voters in Florida "will decide this fall whether to ban health insurance mandates, including those required by the federal health care overhaul. The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature voted on Thursday to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban any laws that compel someone to 'participate in any health care system'" (Fineout, 4/22).

St. Augustine Record: "As a proposed constitutional amendment, the measure does not need to be approved by the governor. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the amendment would insulate the state from federal mandates if federal courts rule in the state's favor in a lawsuit filed in March by Florida and 12 other states challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. Supporters say that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, which says that federal law takes precedence over conflicting state laws, wouldn't be applicable if the new federal law is found to be unconstitutional" (Peltier, 4/23). 

Seattle Post Intelligencer: "The City of Seattle asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to require Attorney General Rob McKenna to withdraw Washington from a multistate challenge to the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation Congress passed last month. 'Mr. McKenna would not have used the name of Washington State if he didn't think it would further the cause of health care reform opponents,' City Attorney Peter Holmes told seattlepi.com Friday. Holmes said he'd spoken to Mayor Mike McGinn, who supported his decision. He also conferred with seven of nine city councilmembers -- Sally Bagshaw and Sally Clark outstanding. Those seven support his actions. ..." (McNerthney, 4/22).

Tampa Tribune: In Florida, "[t]he House Medicaid program, co-written by State Rep. Denise Grimsley, goes too far, too fast, according to the governor and the Senate's budget chief. Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said concern is rising about Medicaid reforms. He wants to slow down. Medicaid costs Florida $19 billion a year, but Alexander said it is one of the items that 'will have limited effect on next year's $69 billion state budget, so that tends to make me take a little bit slower approach to it and get it right, rather than hurry through it.' The Senate, he told the News Service of Florida, has not ruled out either the House or Senate plan. … HB 7223, co-sponsored by Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, cleared the Florida House on Monday. Florida's 2.7 million Medicaid participants would be moved into private managed care plans" (Pinnell, 4/23).

Health News Florida: "With the annual legislative session ending next Friday, Florida lawmakers could be running out of time to pass a major overhaul of the Medicaid system. … House and Senate leaders have relatively little time to negotiate a deal and build support on an issue as complex as the $19 billion Medicaid program. Also, Gov. Charlie Crist said this week he has 'concerns' about a sweeping House proposal, fueling fears he would veto major changes in Medicaid" (Saunders, 4/23).

The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle: "Texas' uninsured population will drop from 6.5 million this year to 2.3 million once the federal health care overhaul is fully implemented, and about a third of the remaining uninsured will likely be illegal immigrants, a state official said Thursday. A panel of House lawmakers charged with sorting through the 10-year, $938 billion federal plan met for the first time Thursday, with state agencies offering estimates of how the new law could affect them" (Castro, 4/22).

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