Almost 20 million American families, including about 13.5 million families with health insurance, had trouble paying their medical bills in 2003, according to a report released last week by the Center for Studying Health System Change. While uninsured families were more likely than families with insurance to have problems paying their bills, 68% of those who had problems were insured, the center said. The 20 million families represent 43 million people. More than 30% of the families did not fill a prescription, 25.2% delayed obtaining care and 12.4% skipped needed care completely because of cost concerns, the center said.
Anthem-WellPoint deal OK'd
Anthem's proposed $16 billion takeover of WellPoint Health Networks was approved last week by shareholders. About 97% of shareholders of both companies, represented at separate meetings in Indianapolis and Thousand Oaks, Calif., voted in favor of the merger, which would create the nation's largest health insurer with 28 million members and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 13 states. The deal, which has been approved by 10 states and federal antitrust regulators, is being reviewed by California insurance regulators. Critics have said the merger would enrich WellPoint executives while leading to higher premiums and reduced services.
Survey rates N.Y. HMOs high
New York HMOs were rated above the national average by consumers but should do more to treat mental illness, according to an annual, state-funded report by the New York State Health Accountability Foundation. The report evaluated the state's 20 commercial HMOs on 18 measures of access, service and patient care using 2002 data that plans submitted to the state. On most measures, New York HMOs met or exceeded the national average, with 65% of patients giving their HMOs a score of eight or higher on a 10-point scale, compared with 62% nationally.