Archive for June, 2011

Judge Says Indiana CANNOT Defund Planned Parenthood

June 29th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in health care reform, health insurance, women and insurance

Last Friday, June 24th, a federal judge ruled that the state of Indiana may not block state and federal public funding of Planned Parenthood only because the medical organization provides abortions. The ruling also granted Planned Parenthood an injunction on the state’s attempt at defunding.

The decision, made by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, in Indianapolis, agreed with the federal viewpoint that individual states may not disqualify Medicaid providers just because they also happen to be abortion providers, nor may the states do anything to restrict the freedom of Medicaid patients to select their own health care providers.

Bryan Corbin, the spokesperson for the Indiana attorney general’s office, said that the state will probably appeal this ruling.

The law, which went into effect last month, made Indiana the first state in the country to refuse to disburse Medicaid funds meant to be used for breast exams and Pap smears to Planned Parenthood. The organization, which provides health care to about 9.300 Indiana clients who receive state-federal health insurance for low-income and disabled Medicaid recipients, lost about $1.4 million because of that legislation.

The state’s argument was that federal law disallows Medicaid-covered abortions in most circumstances, and that such procedures are indirectly funded because financial statements from Planned Parenthood show that Medicaid funds are comingled with revenue from other sources. The state believes that this means the state-federal health insurance plan for low-income and disabled people might therefore be subsidizing some of the overhead costs for space where abortions are performed.

Pratt’s ruling said that Planned Parenthood would feel “dire financial effects” because of the law, and that the defunding meant basic health care would be denied to Medicaid patients who use the facility.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana has actually been running without Medicaid funding since Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed the law into force on May 10th, but wasn’t forced to stop seeing Medicaid patients until last week, when the donations from private sources, used to cover those patients’ bills, ran out.

Nationally, less than 3% of the medical services Planned Parenthood provides are abortions, or abortion-related.

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NC Residents Advised to Evacuate

June 27th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance, homeowners insurance

On Friday, North Carolina residents with homes near the Pender and Onslow county line have been advised to participate in a voluntary evacuation to avoid a spreading wildfire, which, as of Thursday, had burned about 20,000 acres.

Fire officials said that the wildfire began over the weekend of June 18th, in the Holly Shelter Game Land in Pender County, and was probably sparked by a strike of lightning.

The evacuation advisory applies to the residents of roughly forty homes in the area north of Holly Ridge and along the west side of U.S. 17 heading into Pender County. There are emergency shelters open at both Southwest Middle and Topsail Elementary Schools.

Those who are evacuating should be cautious that some roads have been closed because of limited visibility and smoke, while everyone should be warned that the area has poor air quality because of smoke, and those with lung problems should avoid any exertion while out-of doors.

If you must evacuate, be sure to bring vital documents, including a copy of your fire insurance policy.

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Friday Filmstrip: Supplemental Dental Insurance

June 24th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in dental insurance, friday filmstrips

If you’re very lucky, the dental plan that comes with your corporate insurance benefits actually covers most of your dental needs, but what if it doesn’t. You need supplemental dental insurance, and that’s what this week’s video discusses.

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VA County to Charge for Ambulance Service

June 22nd, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in health insurance, insurance news

In an effort to improve their emergency equipment and provide better training to emergency first responders, Prince William County, Virginia has made the decision to begin charging health insurers for ambulance services.

Effective July 1, whenever a patient is transported to the hospital via an emergency medical service, the county will bill the patient’s insurance company. This includes both Medicaid and Medicare, but county officials stress that individuals will not be charged.

The fee schedule for ambulance fees is:
– $400 for basic life support services
– $500-$700 for any advanced life support services, depending on the extent of care.

According to the Prince William County fire chief, these fees should generate about $3.1 million each year for the county.

Prince William County is not the only county in Virginia that has imposed such emergency service fees.

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Missouri Hospitals Just Say No to Hiring Smokers

June 20th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in health insurance, life insurance

It’s long been known that having a smoking habit can affect what you pay for life insurance or health insurance, but starting next month, it will also mean you can’t get a job at seven of the hospitals in and around St. Louis, Missouri.

Beginning in July, 2011, applicants to work at SSM Health Care will be asked if they have used tobacco products in the last six months, and those who answer yes will be removed from consideration, a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said.

Chris Sutton, a spokesperson with SSM explained, “As an organization that provides health care, we want to encourage our employees to take better care of themselves and set good examples for our patients.” Sutton said that since having, “…healthier employees does mean lower health care costs…” hospitals will save money.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every smoker costs a corporation about $3,400 a year in lost productivity and health care costs.

SSM facilities have all been smoke-free since 2004, and current employees who smoke won’t be required to adhere to the non-smoking policy when they’re off duty.

While this new policy only applies to the SSM hospitals in Missouri, there are about 6,000 companies around the country that have also stopped hiring smokers, says the New Jersey-based National Workrights Institute, and organization dedicated to workers’ rights issues. While this practice seems discriminatory, it’s allowed under Missouri state law for certain employers, including health care providers. Officials of SSM plan to lobby for similar legislation in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, where they operate other facilities.

Workers’ rights groups maintain that the shift to a smoke-free work force could lead to similar bans on other unhealthy-but-still-legal behaviors like eating fast food and drinking alcohol. Some are also concerned that anti-smoking policies such as the one espoused by SSM could be punishing for low-paid employees like cafeteria workers and janitors who are addicted to nicotine.

Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health put it this way: “If enough of these companies adopt these policies and it really becomes difficult for smokers to find jobs, there are going to be consequences. Unemployment is also bad for health.”

Health care providers are at the front of the trend away from employing people who smoke. The Cleveland Clinic stopped hiring smokers four years ago, and since then, hospitals in Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Georgia and Florida have done the same.

Another Missouri hospital, St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau also has a policy against hiring smokers. Explains hospital chief executive Steve Bjelich, “We felt it was unfair for employees who maintained healthy lifestyles to have to subsidize those who do not. Essentially that’s what happens.”

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Friday Film Strip: Prescription Drugs and Pets

June 17th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in friday filmstrips, pet insurance

We’ve all done it – left pain relievers or allergy medicines where our dogs or cats can get them. Sometimes, nothing happens, but there are some drugs which work great for humans, but can seriously harm our pets. This week’s video discusses that issue:

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Aetna Insurance Expanding Medicare Supplement Biz

June 15th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in health insurance, medicare

Earlier this week, Aetna announced a deal to acquire the Medicare supplement insurance business and related business units from Genworth Financial for $290 million.

Pending approval from federal and state regulators, the deal should close in the fourth quarter of this year, Aetna representatives said in a press release issued from their Hartford, CT headquarters.

As part of the transaction, Aetna will acquire the Continental Life Insurance Co., and will also reinsure other insurance businesses. The Medical supplemental business being acquired from Genworth Financial includes roughly 145,000 members and operations that brought in approximately $317 million of net earned premiums last year.

This acquisition isn’t Aetna’s first foray into Medicare supplement insurance, but it will expand the company’s operations significantly.

Medicare supplement insurance is an important product for seniors who face gaps between what Medicare will cover, and their total health care needs. It often provides coverage for regular office visits and health-maintenance regimens which aren’t in the scope of regular Medicare plans.

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