SCHIP waivers get OK. Three states-New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin-became the first to receive federal approval to open their Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Programs to parents of low-income children qualifying for the programs. New Jersey and Rhode Island go a step further with their waivers, extending SCHIP coverage to pregnant women who exceed Medicaid income limits. An estimated 10 million children qualify for the joint state-federal healthcare program created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, but just 3.3 million are enrolled. Some experts say more children would be enrolled if their parents also were eligible.
Kaiser deal awaits approval. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Kansas City (Kan.) said it will transfer its 55,000 members to Coventry Health Care this spring as part of a sales agreement, pending regulatory approval. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser will close its four Kansas City-area medical offices by April, eliminating about 425 jobs. Kaiser's Kansas City plan posted a profit of $3.4 million in 1999 and $3.9 million through the third quarter of 2000. The company said it was leaving the market for long-term strategic reasons. Bethesda, Md.-based Coventry operates a 60,000-enrollee plan in the Kansas City market.
UHS stuck with charges. Universal Health Services, King of Prussia, Pa., will take a one-time charge of 15 cents per share against fourth-quarter earnings for costs incurred in its planned February closing of an unprofitable women's hospital in Austin, Texas. The charge also reflects a $6.5 million jury award to physicians who accused UHS of breaching its contract through the hospital's closure. Meanwhile, UHS estimated its precharge, per-share earnings for the fourth quarter at 77 cents, beating analysts' consensus estimate by 2 cents and representing a 40% jump from the 1999 quarter. UHS is expected to formally announce its fourth-quarter and year-end earnings Feb. 16.
River Valley to shut down. River Valley Health System, Ironton, Ohio, said it will cease operations at the end of January, shutting down its 219-bed hospital in Ironton and a mental-health facility in nearby Portsmouth, Ohio. The system board voted unanimously for the closure, citing "significant losses" in the past two years. River Valley is the only hospital in Ironton, a town of 13,000 about 100 miles south of Columbus, Ohio.