In an effort to protect Florida from possible federal Medicaid cuts, Gov. Lawton Chiles said he will call a special session of the state Legislature in July to approve his plan to expand the state's Medicaid program to as many as 1.1 million uninsured residents. The Republican-dominated Legislature has three times voted against his plan. However, a bipartisan group of 14 lawmakers now is urging passage of Chiles' plan to avert an estimated $1.1 billion loss of federal funds as a result of congressional budget cutting. Last year, federal officials approved a waiver that would allow Florida to place Medicaid recipients in HMOs. Savings would be used to offer subsidized health insurance to residents not eligible for Medicaid.
A top House Republican has introduced legislation in Congress that would allow consumers to pay for healthcare through tax-free medical savings accounts. Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, along with Rep. Andrew Jacobs (D-Ind.), introduced a bill that would allow consumers to save up to an amount equal to the deductible of a catastrophic health insurance policy, to a maximum of $2,500 for individual coverage or $5,000 for a family. Although there is no official accounting of what the bill would cost the Treasury, Rep. William Thomas (R-Calif.), a co-sponsor, said one estimate put the cost at $2 billion over five years. Archer's bill joins at least six others that would make it easier for consumers to save for day-to-day healthcare expenses and drop their comprehensive health insurance policies.
Lifespan, Rhode Island's largest health system, has selected VHA as its national healthcare alliance. Providence-based Lifespan, which was a VHA member, merged with Miriam Hospital, also in Providence, and had been weighing the choice of healthcare alliances because Miriam was a member of Premier Health Alliance, Chicago. VHA is an Irving, Texas-based alliance of 1,200 healthcare organizations in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Lifespan is one of 99 shareholder hospital systems in the group.
A quality-rating group has denied accreditation to Mid-Atlantic Medical Services, a Rockville, Md.-based HMO holding company. It was uncertain whether the National Committee for Quality Assurance's decision to deny accreditation would make major employers wary of choosing Mid-Atlantic's MD-IPA and Optimum Choice HMOs. Mid-Atlantic covers about 550,000 people in the Washington area. But Mid-Atlantic officials said they already have implemented some of changes suggested by the NCQA review and hope for full accreditation within a year. Mid-Atlantic spokesman Mike Savage said the NCQA's reasons for denying accreditation resulted mostly from administrative or data-collection procedures.
The HHS Office of Civil Rights and the state of Connecticut have signed an agreement to bar Medicaid payments to home-care providers that engage in redlining. The agreement stems from a complaint lodged by a black New Haven, Conn., resident against Staff Builders Services, a Lake Success, N.Y., home healthcare provider (May 29, p. 4). The resident alleged that Staff Builders refused to serve her and her disabled son after they moved to a housing project with mostly minority residents in January 1993. HHS said company guidelines barred employees from visiting certain streets and housing complexes, although the company has rescinded those guidelines. HHS had given Staff Builders 60 days to correct its practices or face penalties, including the loss of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas last week after nearly eight hours of surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. The 67-year-old Bernardin, who has stepped up his role in Roman Catholic healthcare in the past two years as head of the Chicago Archdiocese and is a member of the Catholic Health Association board, has been given a 25% chance of surviving between one and five years. Physicians removed a kidney and a growth on his pancreas. Earlier this year, Bernardin spoke out against an investor-owned domination of healthcare. His speech has since been published and distributed widely by the CHA and other not-for-profit healthcare organizations.
The only two hospitals in Newnan, Ga., will merge. Newnan Hospital, a 110-bed not-for-profit facility, will combine its assets in a joint venture with Peachtree Regional Medical Center, a 143-bed hospital owned by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. Newnan is about 30 miles south of Atlanta.