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Anthem Blue Cross 39 Percent Rate Hike Draws Ire Of Federal, Calif. Regulators

Los Angeles Times: "California insurance regulators asked Anthem Blue Cross to delay controversial rate increases of as much as 39% for individual policies, hikes that have triggered widespread criticism from subscribers and brokers -- and now from the federal government. In a rare step, the Obama administration called on California's largest for-profit insurer to justify its rate hikes, saying the increases were alarming at a time when subscribers face skyrocketing healthcare costs." "In a letter to Anthem's president, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius voiced serious concern over the higher premiums, which go into effect March 1 for many of the insurer's estimated 800, 000 individual policyholders" (Helfand, 2/9).

States Push Ahead On Health Care Reforms And Policy Issues, Pre-Empting Some Provisions Of Congressional Efforts

Politico: "State lawmakers in at least three dozen states are pushing ahead with a series of measures aimed at pre-empting whatever might come out of Washington. On the left, Democrats in the California Senate recently approved a measure to establish a state-run, single-payer health care system favored by liberals on Capitol Hill. And on the right, conservatives in Virginia and other states are pushing legislation to stave off federal efforts to mandate that individuals secure insurance coverage or require businesses to provide it" (O'Connor, 2/9). Columbia Missourian: "The Missouri Senate spent nearly all of its session time Monday on resolutions that would urge the state's attorney general to sue the federal government for legislation that may never see the light of day in the U.

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As Health Overhaul Stalls, Hospitals Face Rising Cost Of Uncompensated Care

For American hospitals, "the cost of doing nothing in Washington translates into tens of billions of dollars each year in medical bills that go unpaid by patients with little or no insurance, " The New York Times reports. "Nationwide, the cost of unpaid care for hospitals, which includes charity care as well as money that could not be collected from patients, was around $36 billion in 2008. It is expected to spiral higher." Some hospitals, such as Park Nicollet Health Services near Minneapolis, are already cutting back services and staff. "Even for many patients who do have coverage under Medicaid or Medicare, some experts say, severe state and federal budget constraints mean hospitals will probably get squeezed by significant government payment cuts, whether or not the overhaul legislation moves forward" (Abelson, 2/8).

Lawmakers In Kansas, Idaho Prepare Measures To Pre-Empt Any National Mandate To Purchase Insurance

The Associated Press/Forbes: "Kansas lawmakers have heard testimony on a proposed amendment to the state Constitution asserting Kansans' right to refuse to buy health insurance. Proponents of the measure call it a response to Democratic proposals in Congress that they say would force people to buy health insurance or face penalties for failing to do so." Supporters of the amendment believe the mandate in the national legislation is unconstitutional (2/9). In related news, The Associated Press/Canadian Business reports that "Idaho House Republicans passed a bill Tuesday meant to scuttle proposed federal health care reforms that would require residents or companies to buy insurance.

Polls: People Like Their Own Insurance But Want Reform, Heart Patients' Cost Worries

Two polls were released about American attitudes about health coverage and costs. Lancaster Online: "Most Americans who have health insurance are pleased with their coverage, a new national Franklin & Marshall College poll shows. But many of those same people are worried about those who can't afford insurance, and overwhelmingly believe the health care system needs to be reformed, according to a survey of 920 adults. ... The survey found that 75 percent of Americans who have insurance rate their coverage as good or very good - the same percentage who believe the health-care system is in need of reform. ... But they are divided over whether the proposals are good for the country.

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Community Health Centers Step In To Provide Care For Newly Uninsured

Community Health Centers are providing a growing number of newly uninsured people with primary and preventive care. These centers are being tested by the growing patient load, MarketWatch reports. "They've been serving primarily low-income and uninsured patients for more than 40 years, but they're being put to the test as newly uninsured people discover they can go there for care regardless of their ability to pay. ... It's a mixed picture for many health centers because money from the federal stimulus package has enabled them to hire more staff and expand facilities. Even so, the funds may not be enough to meet the heightened demand for services.

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