Residents say the only hospital in Carlsbad, N.M. is notorious for suing its patients, adding in lots of mystery charges and refusing to give itemized bills, reports CNN. When patients can’t pay, the hospital will sometimes sue them to collect the money. An investigation of court records shows that in the past 10 years, Carlsbad Medical center has sued more than 3,000 people to collect debts. In a statement, the hospital CEO said they sue fewer than one percent of the patients who receive care at the hospital. Still, most other hospitals in the area haven’t sued any patients for debt collection over the past 10 years.
A new rural health research center in Tennessee will focus on breaking the cycle of inter-generational behavior that contributes to poor health. The Center for Rural Health Research will be housed at the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN, according to Daily Yonder. The center will also work to become a source for policymakers – providing the data from which those in government and other policy making organizations can make decisions to help improve the health of those in rural and nonurban communities.
Over six years ending in June 2018, the University of Virginia Health System and its doctors sued former patients more than 36,000 times for over $106 million, seizing wages and bank accounts, putting liens on property and homes and forcing families into bankruptcy, a Kaiser Health News and Washington Post analysis has found. Uninsured patients are left to cover bills that are sometimes twice what a commercial insurer would have paid due to insurer discounts and negotiated rates. Under a Virginia program designed to help state and local governments collect debt, the health system also seized $22 million in state tax refunds to patients with outstanding medical bills in the last six fiscal years — most of it without court judgments, in addition to billing them for legal costs and interest on their unpaid bill. This nonprofit hospital system offers charity care and other community benefits to patients, but savings of only $4,000 in a retirement account can disqualify a family from aid, even if its income is barely above poverty level. Health system representatives have defended themselves, stating that suing patients and using collections agencies are last resorts. Contributing to the problem, standards for community benefit requirements are vague—the American Hospital Association merely requires hospitals to have a financial assistance policy and make “reasonable efforts” to determine whether a patient qualifies before initiating collections.
North Carolina is in the early stages of turning away from te traditional fee-for-service model and towards a model based on health outcomes, according to the New York Times. Under the new model, providers will be paid based on health outcomes, whereby the better they perform, the more they can earn - the goal is to keep people healthy and out of the hospital and to save money on healthcare spending. It's estimated that the state's changes will increase the share of total healthcare dollars that go to primary care physicians, as opposed to specialists, hospitals and other places.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota announced that they will cover insulin costs next year with $0 co-pay, according to Alpha News MN. The insurance company's CEO cited the skyrocketing costs of insulin as a reason for the measure, which have risen by over 300 percent, noting that their first responsibility is to improve the health and financial stability of their members. Previously, Minnesota Medical Insurer Medica and UCare announced that they will cap insulin costs at $25 a month.
The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services is threatening to levy roughly $20 million in fines on more than two dozen drug manufacturers that have yet to submit cost and profit reports to the state as required by a law aimed at better understanding the rising costs of treating diabetes, reports The Nevada Independent. Under the 2017 diabetes drug transparency law, the annual reports are required to include production costs, administrative expenditures, profits, financial assistance, coupons, and other information in an effort to better understand why the disease is so costly to treat. Manufacturers are also required to provide to the state additional information for drugs determined to have experienced a significant price increase, including a list of each factor that contributed to the increase and the percentage of the total increase attributable to each factor.
A recent report by the University of Minnesota's State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) found that more Iowans who get their insurance through their employer are on high deductible plans, reports Iowa Public Radio. The annual report studies trends in employer-sponsored insurance. It found the number of Iowans on a high-deductible plan jumped significantly from 50 percent in 2017 to 57 percent last year. The majority of Iowans – nearly 60 percent – get their insurance through employers.
A recently passed New Mexico law (SB337), which takes effect in January 2020, aims to protect New Mexico residents (who have state-regulated health plans) from surprise balance billing, reports Healthinsurance.org. Under the state’s new law, patients cannot be charged more than their regular in-network cost-sharing obligations (copays, deductible, coinsurance, up to the maximum out-of-pocket level for their plan) if they receive emergency care at an out-of-network facility or receive non-emergency care from an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility, as long as the patient either had “no ability or opportunity” to receive the care from an in-network provider instead. This includes situations in which there is no in-network provider available.
The Governor of Wisconsin, through an executive order, created a task force focused on reducing prescription drug prices in Wisconsin, according to WEAU News. The Governor's Task Force on Reducing Prescription Drug Prices is charged with gathering and analyzing data on development, pricing, distribution and purchasing of prescription drugs, analyzing other states' strategies in reducing prescription drug prices and identifying opportunities to work with other states and the federal government. The Task force is also charges with making recommendations for reducing prescription drug prices in Wisconsin.
More than 110 rural hospitals have closed nationwide since 2010, with profound consequences for the communities they served, according to Kaiser Health News. In Fort Scott, Kansas, ambulances responded to more than 80 calls for service and drove more than 1,300 miles for patients to get care in other communities during an 18-day period when the local emergency department was closed. In addition to delaying treatment for patients needing emergency care, the travel time prevented the crews from serving local needs and caused emergency vehicles to wear out faster. Increased reliance on air ambulances also causes problems for rural communities–though they can transport patients quickly, the dispatch system is not coordinated in many states and regions across the country. Moreover, many air ambulance companies do not participate in insurance networks, which can cost patients dearly.