Docs look for traction on cigarette tax; legislators see pot holes

May 20, 2018, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris- Mississippi Medical Association President Dr. William Grantham has been traveling around Mississippi, aiming to build bridges and reduce the state’s smoking rates. The Clinton family physician and the medical association are proposing a $1.50 hike in the cigarette tax, which would mean smokers would pay $2.18 in tax on every pack. The additional revenue would generate an estimated $166 million, well over a third of the $400 million needed for infrastructure.“This is a public health initiative more than anything else,” Grantham said. “Where the revenue goes is less relevant than that it needs to get done.” Higher taxes encourage existing smokers to quit; it is especially effective in diminishing youth smoking. Fewer smokers decrease the rates of cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and strokes, he said.“Cigarette taxes have not increased since 2009,” Grantham said. “We’re way below the national average.”

A smoking ban was passed in Gulfport 10 years ago. Is the rest of the Coast as strict?

May 20, 2018, SunHerald, Justin Mitchell and Mary Perez- It’s been 10 years since the City of Gulfport passed a controversial ban on smoking in most public places. And while most of South Mississippi is committed to smoke-free public environments, other cities on the Gulf Coast don’t have policies that are as strict as Gulfport’s ordinance. The Gulfport law bans smoking at most public places, including restaurants, office buildings, retail businesses, taxicabs, and all city-owned facilities, including athletic fields and fishing piers. Smokers still have a few places where lighting up is legal: some parts of casinos, 20 percent of hotel rooms and barrooms. Smoking is banned in a business when at least 15 percent of the sales is food. Bona fide barrooms, which sell only alcohol, are exempt. Then-Councilman Brian Carriere helped write the ordinance that was passed by the City Council on March 18, 2008. The law went into effect on May 1, 2008.

Without federal leadership, states must safeguard ACA markets

May 20, 2018, The Hill, Mike Kreidler and John Arensmeyer- Although the Trump administration and its allies failed to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last year, they took a number of smaller steps that added up to a big problem: The ACA is now weaker. Unfortunately, the administration is still seeking to undermine the health-care law, moving forward with proposals that would expand association health plans (AHPs) and short-term insurance plans, both of which have the potential to limit the ability of state insurance commissioners to regulate health plans and cause premiums to rise. While some claim these proposals would be a boon for small business, small business advocates and health-care experts know we must maintain safeguards that promote affordable health-care coverage and stabilized health insurance markets.

Blue Cross will cover UMMC care if contract lapses

May 18, 2018, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi has pledged to pay in-network rates even if the insurer and University of Mississippi Medical Center cannot resolve their dispute by June 30.“We will continue to provide network-level benefits for care received from UMMC providers and facilities. This applies to adults as well as to children who need care at Batson Children’s Hospital,” said Meredith Bailess, Blue Cross director of corporate communications, in a statement. UMMC officials said Blue Cross has yet to communicate with them directly, and the hospital system needs to better understand what the insurer’s position is going forward. “We can’t take what they’re saying at face value,” said Marc Rolph, UMMC director of public affairs.

Surgeon General: Most in US Think Opioid Abuse Is Not Local

May 17, 2018, U.S.News, Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press- The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said Thursday that opioid abuse occurs nationwide, but only a small percentage of Americans think it’s an emergency in their own communities. “Most of us feel that the opioid epidemic is a problem,” Adams said during a panel discussion at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “But when you look at surveys, less than half of the people in the United States feel that it rises to the level of an emergency. And less than half of that - less than a quarter of the people - feel it’s an emergency in their community. Everyone thinks there’s a problem somewhere else.” Gov. Phil Bryant said Mississippi law enforcement officers have revived 43 people in the past nine months with naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdose. The governor said all Highway Patrol troopers and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents are carrying naloxone.

Life-saving air ambulances hit patients with hefty medical bills

May 17, 2018, NBC News- Air ambulances offer life-saving services, but often only a fraction of their high cost is covered by insurance, leaving patients to foot the bill. When patients need to be airlifted to medical care in an emergency, the first priority is getting them to the right healthcare provider as quickly as possible. Patients are at a disadvantage in this urgent situation because they cannot determine whether air transport is a medical necessity, nor are they equipped to direct which air ambulance provider should pick them up. That can lead to surprise expenses when the air ambulance provider turns out not to have a contract with the patient’s health plan, even if the consumer has insurance. The patient may then be billed for the full charge of the flight or the balance left after any payment by the insurer for the out-of-network coverage.