State Watch: Health Insurance Advocate Proposed in Penn., Calif. OKs Medical Parole For Incapacitated Inmates

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "A bill that would create a state office of health insurance consumer advocacy, representing 'consumers' interests on any insurance matter before the courts or any state department or agency,' has been introduced in the state House in hopes of passage before the end of the 2009-2010 legislative session." The bill is aimed at helping consumers navigate the new federal health law (Toland, 9/29).

Los Angeles Times: "State prisons can release comatose and physically incapacitated inmates on medical parole under a measure approved Tuesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that is expected to save California at least $46 million annually. … Schwarzenegger said the medical parole bill includes a screening process to make sure public safety is not jeopardized by the early release of inmates, many of whom are guarded 24 hours a day even though they are confined to hospital beds" (McGreevy and Dolan, 9/29).

The Oregonian: "More than 635,000 [in Oregon] depended on government-provided health care last year. Tens of thousands of seniors, children and people with disabilities counted on the state for help. Looking ahead to the next state budget, it's clear that Oregon cannot afford those same services for all who need them. Even if state government spent every dollar of new revenue on health and human services and none of that money on schools, police or prisons, it would still come up $200 million short" (Cole, 9/28).

The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union: Florida is also finding larger numbers of people depending on government help. "Thousands of people in northeast Florida are turning to public health insurance programs as job losses and health care costs continue to grow, new Census estimates show. Those with privately obtained health insurance dropped from 70.2 percent in 2008 to 67.7 percent in 2009 in the Jacksonville area. Meanwhile, the percentage of people on a government-run plan rose from 24.6 to 26.3" (Cox, 9/28).

Des Moines Register: Iowa will pay $14 million over three years to hire a company, called Ingenix, to help the state reduce Medicaid waste. "Iowa's Medicaid program, which is financed by federal and state taxpayers, spends $3 billion per year on health care, mainly for poor people. It has 450,000 beneficiaries and 38,000 care providers. Ingenix's contract calls for it to provide computer systems and to help monitor and manage spending on claims" (Leys, 9/28).

The Boston Globe: After Harvard Pilgrim Health Care pulled out of Rhode Island in 1999, "shuttering the company's three health centers there and forcing 1,200 physicians and other employees to search for new jobs," it left 128,000 subscribers without insurance.  Now the man responsible for the move, Charles Baker, is running for governor in Massachusetts, "and he often points to his decade at the helm of Harvard Pilgrim as an example of the leadership he would bring to Beacon Hill. He talks about how he rescued the insurance company from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999, in part by slashing the payroll, and transformed it into the top-ranked health plan in the country. The extent to which the state aided the company's turnaround, and the size of premium increases, have been the focus of sharp exchanges between Baker and his opponents, Governor Deval Patrick, Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, and Dr. Jill Stein, but the Rhode Island chapter has barely been mentioned" (Lazar, 9/29).

The Denver Post: "Aetna will stop selling new health insurance to small groups in Colorado and move companies that are existing clients off the plan in the next year, affecting 1,200 companies and 5,200 employees and their dependents. … Aetna would not say why it is leaving the Colorado business behind. The company announced over the summer that it would end similar group coverage in Michigan" (Booth, 9/29).

Health News Florida: Two million people in that state will qualify for tax credits from the new health law, according to a report from consumer advocacy group Families USA. "The tax credits for premiums take effect in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). While some of the ACA's consumer protections went into effect Sept. 23, the real guts of the bill — expansion of coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, including most of Florida's 4.1 million uninsured — were delayed until 2014 to allow time to set up exchanges and save some money to help pay for it" (9/28).

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