States Struggle With Insurance Cost And Coverage In Ohio, Rhode Island And Nebraska

The Columbus Dispatch reports that a health-insurance co-operative founded by Tom Rose, a retired businessman from Marietta, Ohio, "hopes to give people who feel alone in the health-care market that power-in-numbers feeling. ... Benefits Unlimited Inc. started in 2007 and started accepting dues-paying members across the nation last month. ... Annual dues range from $25 for an individual or household to $1,500 for employers or associations with 500 or more people. Rose hopes to sign up 35,000 people nationally within a year, which would generate the money needed for the business to become a health-insurance company in Ohio" (Hoholik, 2/15). 

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: "Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts will testify before the Health Insurance Advisory Council in opposition to proposed rate hikes for large and small group employer health plans. The Council will be taking public comment at the hearing Tuesday at the Department of Labor and Training in Cranston" (2/15).

The Associated Press/CNBC: "A state lawmaker is pushing to keep Nebraskans with life-threatening or debilitating diseases from having to choose between paying for expensive medicine and feeding their families. And if Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue succeeds in getting her bill (LB1017) passed, Nebraska could achieve trailblazing status among states pushing for their own health care reform. The bill would restrict the co-payments insurance companies charge for the priciest prescription drugs, often those classified as Tier 4. Many insurance plans include a tiered formula for drug coverage that carries fixed copays. Generic drugs, for example, usually fall in the lowest tier and carry the lowest copay. But pricier drugs can carry co-payments of hundreds of dollars" (2/15).

The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star reports: "Mental health activists rallied at the General Assembly yesterday, urging lawmakers not to devote money to building a costly new institution but instead to put that money into caring for the disabled in their communities." Several Fredericksburg-area activists "came to Richmond for the ARC of Virginia's rally and lobbying of legislators. According to the ARC of Virginia, the state budget proposed by former Gov. Tim Kaine contains more than $270 million in cuts to community-based services, impacting more than 15,000 families in the state who receive services or are waiting for services, while allocating more money for institutions. The ARC thinks that money would be better spent on community-based services, keeping people near their families" (Davis, 2/16).

The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer: Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature are feuding about who was to blame for the "death of legislation intended to save millions of dollars in prisoners' health care" and at least one Republican is seeking to lodge an ethics complaint. "The provision that died was an effort to better control the cost of inmate health care -- overall prisoner health-related expenses were $231 million last year. The provision required reimbursing hospitals for treating inmates at the same rate as state employees. Instead, taxpayers continue to pay top dollar for inmate care, about five times the rate of government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, according to a recent state audit" (Johnson, 2/16).

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