State Roundup: California PPOs 'Low Marks'; Geriatric Nursing; Physician Shortages

News outlets covered a range of developments including workforce issues in Minnesota and California, and a Kentucky order for insurers to provide child-only policies.  

Californias PPO Health Insurers Get Low Marks For Customer Service
Most major health insurers in California do a poor job of paying claims and providing customer service for members in preferred provider organization plans, according to a new state survey (Helfand, Los Angeles Times, 11/19).

As Minn. Population Ages, Nursing Schools Focus On Geriatric Care
In Minnesota, the number of people 65 and older will increase by 40 percent in the next 10 years. And to help meet the expected need for new nurses statewide, 10 nursing schools in west central Minnesota want to focus more attention on the nursing shortage (Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio, 11/18).

Kentucky Orders Health Insurers To Provide Child-Only Policies
Kentucky Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark on Thursday ordered all individual health insurers selling in Kentucky to offer an open enrollment period in January for Kentuckians under 19 effectively ordering balky insurers to resume selling "child-only" policies. The state Public Protection Cabinet ordered the change as a result of an Oct. 13 hearing in which insurers were asked to explain why they stopped writing "child-only" policies on Sept. 23. That was the effective date the companies could no longer deny coverage because of a pre-existing health condition under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Truman, McClatchy/The Lexington Herald-Leader, 11/18).

High Court Hears Challenges To Attorney General's Authority
Did state Attorney General Rob McKenna overstep his authority when he signed up Washington as one of at least 20 states challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-care-reform law? And now that Gov. Chris Gregoire is preparing a brief defending the federal law in the same case, who really speaks for the state? Those were some of the questions the state Supreme Court grappled with Thursday as it heard oral arguments on Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes' request that the court order McKenna to withdraw from the federal case (Ervin, The Seattle Times, 11/18).

In California, Facing Down a Family Physician Shortage
Betty Ann Bowser reports from Northern California on the growing shortage of primary care doctors and one effort to fix that. ... One of the things driving the shortage is money. The average medical student graduates owing more than $200,000 in educational loans. So, having to pay all that back is usually a factor when med students pick a career. A new study just released here at U.C. Davis in Northern California of 6,000 doctors nationwide found that the specialists, the oncologists, the radiologists, the orthopedic surgeons, made up to 52 percent more money than the primary care physicians, even though the family doctors saw more patients. ... There's nothing U.C. Davis can do to increase the salaries of family doctors, but using a $1.9 million grant provided under the new health care reform law, the med school will be able to train 10 new primary care physicians (Bowser, PBS NewsHour, 11/18).

Blood Banks Talk Mega-Merger
Three blood banks in Florida that cover most of the state announced today they have begun merger talks in hopes of gaining the clout to negotiate with ever-larger hospital systems. If the merger proceeds, it would create the largest bank in Florida and one of the top three in the nation, according to a spokeswoman for the blood banks. ... The problems at Florida's Blood Centers created heavy scrutiny of the state's non-profit blood banks (Gentry, Health News Florida, 11/18). 

Health Insurance Plan's Bankruptcy Leaves Small Companies, Eastern Plains Governments In Lurch
A health insurance plan for small companies and Eastern Plains governments is going bankrupt, leaving some clients with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical claims and forcing them to scramble for new insurance before the new year. Benefits providers from Centennial Bank in the Denver suburbs to the town of Burlington, near the Kansas border, might need to replace the lost money themselves at a time of strict budget-cutting. State regulators, meanwhile, say they are not yet sure how much jurisdiction they have over the failing Rural Health Plans Initiative because its products appeared to be "self-funding" rather than true insurance. The Division of Insurance was trying to collect information from complaints and other sources to see how many groups were covered by the broke Centennial-based firm (Booth, Denver Post, 11/19).

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