News and Commentary

Headlines on Deadline January 2007

State budgets got an unexpected gift last year. Medicaid spending declined in 2006, the first time that has ever happened. Medicaid spending fell 1.4 percent in the first nine months of 2006, USA Today reports. After adjusting for the rate of health care inflation, the decline was 5.4 percent.... Regence BlueShield has decided not to launch its Select Network plan for 45,000 Boeing workers in Washington state. The health plan pulled back as a result of a lawsuit filed by a physician and some patients that claims that the tiered network rates physicians with unproven measures of efficiency. The lawsuit is the first inspired by an effort by the American Medical Association to challenge insurers that the AMA says use unproven measures of efficiency to profile docs. The AMA says that Aetna's Aexcel, Cigna's Care Network, and UnitedHealthcare's Premium Physicians may also be challenged.... Mortality rates for hospitals ranked high on a government Web site were not that much better than those for hospitals ranked low. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reviewed 2004 data on the Hospital Compare Web site, which is run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and a JAMA editorial says that the results "raise questions about the appropriateness of using Hospital Compare performance measures as the basis either for pay-for-performance systems or for consumers to identify better-quality hospitals." More discussion about this issue is sure to come.... It looks likely that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will run for president. That means that the state's universal health care plan might become the focus of debate, and even perhaps the model for a federal overhaul of the health care system. Massachusetts officials say that they've been overwhelmed by requests from officials from other states to discuss the plan. Stay tuned.... Probably nobody ever moved to California because the HMOs there offered the lowest premium rates in the country. Good thing, because that is not the case anymore, according to a survey by the California HealthCare Foundation, a charity organization funded by money the state garnered when Blue Cross of California converted from a not-for-profit to a for-profit organization. HMO enrollees there paid premiums that were in line with what enrollees everywhere paid last year.