Lawmaker blasts Blue Cross
* Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) last week chastised the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association for trying to terminate its license with CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Owings Mills, Md., after Maryland moved to take over the health plan. In a letter to Blues association President Scott Serota, Stark accused the association of betraying its public service mission and criticized it for running advertisements in the Washington area stating that CareFirst is no longer a Blues affiliate. The association sued to terminate its contract with CareFirst late last month after Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich signed legislation replacing almost half of CareFirst's board and barring a for-profit conversion for five years. A federal judge imposed a stay on all pending legislation.
Ruling targets Xenical
* A judge ruled last week that the California Department of Managed Health Care could not force Blue Shield of California, San Francisco, to pay for the weight-loss drug Xenical. Reversing a tentative ruling, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Emily Vasquez rejected the department's claim that a new law, which became effective in January, allows regulators to require coverage of drugs excluded under existing HMO contracts.
Costs, quality data sought
* Officials at the California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, last month approved a proposal requiring contracted HMOs to provide more data on costs and quality and beef up efforts to offer medical coverage in every county. The pension fund's health panel also approved a controversial plan to give insurers longer-term contracts. Amid spiraling medical costs, CalPERS has cut the number of HMOs with which it contracts to three from 13 a few years ago on the bet that closer relationships with select carriers will help improve quality and reduce costs. The panel's recommendations must be approved by CalPERS' full board.