Health Law Raises Questions About Future Of Florida's Agencies That Care For Uninsured

Health News Florida: Palm Beach County's Health Care District "hired contractors to move ahead with a $9-million purchase and renovation project for a new headquarters, even though the need that drove the district's creation in the first place -- providing health care to the indigent and uninsured -- could begin to dissolve in four years with implementation of the federal health law. Doctors and hospital administrators in Palm Beach County question the timing. ... But the Health District argues that the relocation will consolidate the district's services, save $1 million a year in its current office leasing agreement, and earn revenue by renting space in the refurbished four-story, 100,000-square-foot building. The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which President Barack Obama signed into law March 23, has started the debate about the future of the state's more than 35 county-run and independent agencies whose main task is paying for medical care for the majority of Florida's 3.8 million uninsured" (Fooksman, 5/14).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "A new annual report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council on the financial health of the state's hospitals found that total margins, which include investment income, fell from 4.7 percent in fiscal 2008 to 2.08 percent in fiscal 2009. The average operating margin, which reflects only what hospitals earn from and spend on patient care, fell less, from 3.99 percent in fiscal 2008 to 3.52 percent last fiscal year. Forty-four percent of the hospitals reporting to the state agency had negative total margins, up from 30 percent the previous year. Hospital consultants said margins likely were improving now as the stock market rises. Like many other entities, hospitals invest some assets in stocks. ... One thing that grew was the amount of uncompensated care, which includes unpaid bills and charity care. It rose 7.9 percent, from $748 million in fiscal 2008 to $807 million last fiscal year" (Burling, 5/13).

The New Mexico Independent: "The state Insurance Division may reverse last month's controversial approval of a Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico health insurance rate hike settlement, Public Regulation Commission (PRC) Chairman David King has told The Independent. Interim state Insurance Superintendent Tom Rushton has been asked to rescind his predecessor's approval of the 21.3 percent rate increase, King said. ... In an apparent sign of support for the move, Attorney General Gary King has asked that Rushton be recused from further involvement should the rate increase case be reopened, PRC Chairman David King said. Gary and David King are first cousins. ... Rushton, who served until last month as Deputy Insurance Superintendent, had helped negotiate a weekend rate hike settlement with the insurer just ahead of a scheduled public hearing, provoking outrage among policyholders and PRC commissioners" (Furlow, 5/13).

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