August 31, 2018, Kaiser Health News, Chad Terhune- A Texas hospital that charged a teacher $108,951 for care after a heart attack slashed the bill to $332.29 Thursday - but not before the huge charge sparked a national conversation over what should be done to combat surprise medical bills that afflict a growing number of Americans. The story of Drew Calver was first reported by Kaiser Health News and NPR on Monday as part of the “Bill of the Month” series, which examines U.S. health care prices and the troubles patients run up against in the $3.5 trillion industry. In Calver’s case, the 44-year-old father of two had suffered a heart attack in April 2017 and a neighbor rushed him to the nearest emergency room, which was an out-of-network hospital under his school district health plan. His insurance paid the hospital $56,000 for his four day hospitalization and procedures to clear his blocked “widow-maker” artery. But the hospital, St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, wasn’t satisfied with that amount and went after the high school history teacher and swim coach for an additional $109,000 in a practice known as “balance billing.
August 30, 2018, Modern Healthcare, Alex Kacik- More than half of American adults have been surprised by a medical bill that they thought would have been covered by insurance, according to a new survey. The surprise charges were most often for physician services (53%), followed closely by laboratory tests (51%), per a survey 9 facilitated by the research institute NORC at the University of Chicago that represents more than 1,000 Americans, 57% of whom received a surprise medical bill. Other charges were related to hospitals or other healthcare facility charges (43%), imaging (35%) and prescription drugs (29%). Twenty percent of their surprise bills were a result of a doctor not being part of the network.
August 29, 2018, Mississippi Today, Larrison Campbell- In a week full of surprises, add another. On Wednesday morning, the head of the Department of Health suddenly announced her retirement, sending ripples through the Capitol. Dr. Mary Currier, who has served as state health officer since 2010, will retire, effective Nov. 1. She has spent 34 years with the agency, and prior to running the department served as the state epidemiologist. Currier said she planned to spend more time with her family. “It has been a privilege to serve in this role for nearly nine years. I have a great passion for public health, and I have worked with some of the best people not only in the state, but in the country,” said Dr. Currier. “However, I have three beautiful grandchildren and a wonderful family who need me now. It’s time to pass the baton. I know the field of public health in Mississippi is in great hands.”
August 28, 2018, Bloomberg, Alexandre Tanzi- Fewer Americans lack health insurance—but the gap remains wide, especially in some pro-Trump states. The number of uninsured declined to 28.3 million in the first quarter, down from 29.3 last year—and 48.6 million in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The distribution, however, is uneven with data for south-central states—Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas—showing almost a quarter of adults lacking health care coverage. President Donald Trump, who has opposed Obamacare, won those four states in the 2016 presidential election.
Expressing “grave concern” over Medicaid work requirements’ potential effect on low-income families and loss of health coverage, Democratic Representatives Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, ranking member of the subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules, penned a strongly worded letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma demanding information on how work requirements will affect low-income families, how CMS plans to safeguard their health coverage and whether the work requirements violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Cummings and Krishnamoorthi wrote that work expansion proposals, especially those in non-expansion states, could mean lower-income families lose Medicaid eligibility and are simultaneously unable to afford private insurance, an outcome the two called the “perverse result that even the proponents of these new requirements should oppose.” They illustrated a hypothetical example in Mississippi, where parents or caregivers are eligible for Medicaid if their income is at or below 27 percent of the federal poverty threshold, or $467 a month. In the state, 91 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries are mothers and 71 percent are black.
August 26, 2018, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson- A reopened public comment period for a proposed Medicaid work requirement drew more than 300 comments. The revised Medicaid Workforce Training Initiative Demonstration Waiver focuses on a small group of working age adults on the Mississippi Medicaid rolls. Through Aug. 18, there were 347 items recorded in the public comment section on Medicaid.gov. The responses were overwhelmingly opposed. Respondents could choose to identify themselves or not in the publicly viewable comments. “Despite the name, this seems like a paltry way to save the state a few dollars at the expense of too many Mississippians…I am unclear what I as a Mississippian gain from this initiative, and it appears my fellow Mississippians will lose too much,” one commenter, identified as C. Wall, wrote.