A selection of health policy stories from California, Virginia, Missouri, Vermont, Maryland, Georgia and New York.
Los Angeles Times: UnitedHealth Group Sues California Over Fine
Setting up a major legal fight, UnitedHealth Group Inc. has sued California's insurance commissioner to block his attempt to fine the insurer $173.6 million for violations during a botched 2005 acquisition. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court, is the latest twist in a long-running political drama. Four years ago, California sought a jaw-dropping fine of nearly $10 billion against UnitedHealth, the nation's largest health insurer. The penalty related to problems handling medical claims and policyholder applications after the insurer bought Cypress-based PacifiCare (Terhune, 7/10).
The Associated Press: Va. Changes Regs On Long-Term Care Insurance
Virginia regulators are encouraging long-term care insurance policyholders to take advantage of changes that strengthen protections against unintentional coverage lapses due to nonpayment. The Bureau of Insurance of the State Corporation Commission says insurers have long been required to provide policyholders with the option to designate a third party to receive notice of an impending policy lapse (7/10).
The Associated Press: Missouri Governor Signs Health Care Expansion
Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday expanding government-funded prenatal health coverage and allowing some newly trained doctors to go to work more quickly in areas of Missouri where there are physician shortages. The health care provisions are contained in a pair of wide-ranging bills, which also extend the life of a state prescription drug program for seniors. The new Show-Me Healthy Babies Program will provide insurance for pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but don't have affordable private-sector insurance. The program is projected to cover more than 1,800 people annually at an annual cost of $14 million, most of which would come from federal funds (Lieb, 7/10).
The Associated Press: Vermont Lawmakers Approve Health Care Rules
Vermont lawmakers on Thursday approved a lengthy set of provisions governing health care, despite an earlier objection from legal advocates. But work will continue to examine possible scenarios that might play out for Vermonters from the rules. The set of provisions on health benefits eligibility and enrollment are part of wider efforts for health care reform in the state, a major goal for Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislators (Garbitelli, 7/10).
Baltimore Sun: Disabled Foster Child Dies At Maryland Group Home
A 10-year-old disabled foster child died last week while under the care of a group home in Anne Arundel County that Maryland health regulators were in the process of closing down, state Health Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein confirmed Thursday. Regulators, he said, are conducting investigations into the July 2 death at the Laurel-area home operated by LifeLine Inc., a state contractor that had provided round-the-clock care for such children -- and that was recently warned it would lose its license for having inadequate staff to meet the "health and safety needs of each child" and other issues. In the meantime, 10 other youths have been moved from LifeLine's care. Sharfstein could not specify when the moves took place but said all were completed the day after the boy's death. He did not link the events and said the children were not moved sooner from LifeLine's care because it takes time to find other contractors to provide housing and the necessary medical care (Donovan, 7/10).
Georgia Health News: Medicaid Change On Long-Term Care Delayed
A state health agency Thursday delayed approval of a change in the Medicaid eligibility system for people in long-term care whose incomes are above the government program’s thresholds. The Department of Community Health’s board had been set to approve a switch for some lower-income Georgians -- who now use “Qualified Income Trusts” (QITs) to qualify for Medicaid -- to a “medically needy” eligibility program. These people make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for their health care needs (Miller, 7/10).
The Associated Press: Prosecutors: Northern NY Hospital To Pay $750,000
Federal prosecutors say a hospital in northern New York has agreed to pay $750,000 to settle allegations that it submitted 1,900 improper Medicare claims. According to the U.S. attorney's office, Carthage Area Hospital double billed the federal health care program for the elderly for operating room and ambulatory surgery services from 2006 through June 2010 (7/11).
Detroit News: Detroit's Maternal Death Rate Triple The Nation's
Detroit women are dying from pregnancy-related causes at a rate three times greater than for the nation. Experts blame the same combination of medical conditions and social toxins that kills Detroit babies at a frequency that is the worst of America’s big cities, and even some Third World countries (Boufford, 7/10).