LOS ANGELESBlue Shield of California was fined $12.6 million by Californias insurance commissioner for alleged violations of policy cancellation rules and irresponsible claims processing, including failing to pay claims on a timely basis and mishandling consumer appeals. The actions stem from a market conduct exam of the not-for-profit insurer by the insurance commissioners office using data from 2004 and 2005. The inquiry showed more than 1,200 violations of the law, half of which were related to improper rescissions or canceling individual policies. In a strongly worded written statement, Duncan Ross, president of Blue Shield of California Life & Health Insurance Co., called the actions a radical departure from the departments widely accepted and long-standing interpretation of the law. He added that the insurer would vigorously fight the excessive penalties. The San Francisco-based insurer, with 3.2 million members, has already refunded $1 million in claims, according to the commissioners office. Blue Shield committed serious violations that completely undermine the public trust in our healthcare delivery system, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said in a written statement. Let this be a message to all health insurers that we will not tolerate irresponsible rescissions and shoddy claims handling.
ESCONDIDO, Calif.Palomar Pomerado Health broke ground on its $773 million new hospital, Palomar Medical Center West in Escondido. The first hospital to be constructed in northern San Diego County in more than 30 years, the 800,000-square-foot facility is designed to accommodate up to 600 beds and be environmentally sustainable. The hospital, which won a citation in Modern Healthcares 2007 Design Awards, is expected to open in 2011.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo.Centura Health, a 12-hospital healthcare system, announced that it has entered an agreement to buy a 50-acre parcel in Castle Rock, Colo. The company would not disclose how much it paid for the property, but said that a $120 million medical campus is planned for the site. The first phase will include a medical office building and facilities offering emergency department, imaging, outpatient and laboratory services, a Centura news release said. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2009, and then work is expected to get started on a full-service hospital. A Centura spokeswoman said that the company had been evaluating whether the site was an appropriate spot to build on since the end of last year. The project will be sponsored by Adventist Health System, Winter Park, Fla., which co-owns Centura with Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives.
OLYMPIA, Wash.Wash. Gov. Christine Gregoire proposed spending $8 million on patient-safety initiatives to reduce medical errors, train more professionals and achieve greater transparency. The proposal by Gregoire, a Democrat, includes $2 million to investigate complaints against healthcare providers; $3 million on nursing and other staff training; $930,000 on credentialing and disciplining providers; $1.4 million in online databases to reduce medical errors; and $560,000 on increasing licensing standards for counselors. She also plans to introduce legislation to ensure the public has hospital-specific reporting on adverse events. The patient-safety initiative is part of the governors fiscal 2008 budget proposal and requires legislative approval. The state has a $1.3 billion surplus. If we want our families to be secure, our businesses to be competitive and our state budget to be sustainable, we must ensure that all Washingtonians have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, Gregoire said in a written statement.
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