3.5 Million Calif. Residents Eligible For Tax Credits In Future Exchange; N.Y. Prescription Drug Aid For Seniors Cut Back; Idaho Trims Dental Providers In Medicaid

The Los Angeles Times: "An estimated 3.5 million Californians would be eligible for federal tax credits to slash the cost of their health coverage when they begin buying policies through a new statewide insurance marketplace in 2014, a study released Tuesday found." Under the new law, "tax credits will be available to low- and middle-income people once insurers begin selling policies through state-based insurance exchanges like the one being set up in California. … The credits that help pay insurance costs will go directly to insurers, lowering premiums for those who are uninsured or do not have coverage through jobs. In California, working families stand to gain most from the tax credits, analysts from the consumer group Families USA concluded. The researchers said that 94% of those who qualify would come from families that have at least one employed person" (Helfand, 10/5).

The Providence (R.I.) Journal: "The state Department of Elderly Affairs has won two federal grants totaling $380,286, to help elderly and disabled people understand care options and navigate the health system. The money is part of $68 million made possible by the Affordable Care Act, the federal health-care overhaul. Rhode Island received $183,297 to provide outreach and assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries about programs that can help pay health-care premiums, deductibles, co-payments and prescription drug costs" (Freyer, 10/6).

The (Syracuse, N.Y.) Post-Standard: "Seniors enrolled in New York's popular EPIC prescription program, including more than 15,000 in Central New York, will have to jump through extra hoops to get their drugs covered under changes that took effect Oct. 1. EPIC — short for Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program — is no longer automatically covering a drug when an EPIC member's Medicare Part D prescription plan denies coverage. EPIC will only cover the prescription if the EPIC member and his or her doctor appeal the Part D plan's denial. The change, approved by state lawmakers, is designed to save the state money. There are more than 320,000 state residents enrolled in EPIC" (Mulder, 10/6).  

Idaho Statesman: About 150 dentists have been "terminated from the Idaho Smiles network" that provides services to Medicaid patients. "The Idaho State Dental Association said DentaQuest, the subcontractor which now administers the provider network, is trying to control costs by cutting the biggest providers of Medicaid dental services. 'What they're doing is that they're creating such obstacles to the Medicaid patients so they won't use services,' said Quinn Dufurrena, executive director of the Dental Association. The state said the subcontractor is only trying to provide the required care with less funding. 'They're looking for providers who will give them the most value,' said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for Idaho Health and Welfare" (Forester, 10/5).

CNN: "Residents of the nation's capital can now get a driver's license and free HIV testing -- at the same time. A Department of Motor Vehicles branch in southeast Washington is offering testing for the disease under a pilot program aimed at educating residents and reducing stigma. … Results of the free oral test are available in 20 minutes. Test takers will get $15 to go toward DMV costs, but Wood emphasizes that knowing one's status is the primary incentive" (Karimi, 10/6).

The News Service of Florida: "While health and property insurance get most of the attention, the medical malpractice insurance market – hugely controversial just a few years ago – has quietly returned to health and stability with new companies entering the state. Benefiting from changes made by lawmakers beginning in 2003, malpractice insurers operating in Florida posted an average return on surplus of 6.6 percent – the sixth consecutive year of profitability, the Office of Insurance Regulation reported Monday in its 2010 report on the industry. Meanwhile, the average approved premium for primary medical malpractice in 2009, the year upon which the most recent survey is based, fell 10.8 percent" (Peltier, 10/4).

The Sacramento Bee: "California's push to be the first in the nation to establish a health benefits exchange is being closely watched by other states as they act on implementing key elements of the national health care overhaul law. Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will establish a state-run health insurance exchange, which will open for business by 2014 and help millions of Californians obtain medical coverage under the federal law. The debate in California is hardly over as the governor and Legislature soon begin considering appointments to the five-member oversight board that will be responsible for running the exchange – and as the board begins its task of defining how the new exchange will operate" (Calvan, 10/5).

The Peoria (Ill.)  Journal Star: "From predictions of shortages of nurses and family physicians to antiquated statutes, a state panel on health care reform heard an earful from professionals at a public forum Tuesday." The event was attended by "a cross-section of professionals who will be affected by national health care reform. ... The council was created by Gov. Pat Quinn, under executive order to help implement the federal Affordable Care Act, which became effective last month. It will make recommendations to help the state establish a health insurance exchange; reform Medicaid; assure high quality care; identify federal grants and other funding sources; and encourage the use of electronic medical records" (Schaidle, 10/5).

Chicago Daily Herald: "Following weeks of speculation, Delnor Health System and Central DuPage Health today announced plans to merge. Officials from Geneva-based Delnor and CDH, in Winfield, said in a joint news release that they have a signed a 'memorandum of understanding' that expresses their desire 'to come together and create a single, integrated health system.' If the merger becomes a reality, officials said the goal would be to expand health care to the West suburbs. … Officials said they will work over the next several months to further define their vision and the agreement, which will be subject to governmental review and approval" (Sanchez, 10/5).

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