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Doctors Attack Trump’s Short-Term Health Plans Ahead Of Comment Deadline

April 22, 2018, Forbes, Bruce Jaspen- An effort by the Trump administration to introduce cheaper short-term health insurance plans is under attack by physician groups who see the plans eliminating benefits and putting patient health at risk. The American Academy of Family Physicians and other doctor groups have unleashed detailed critiques of Trump’s effort to introduce cheaper health insurance with skimpier benefits ahead of a Monday deadline at 5 pm to provide public comments to the administration.

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Black moms, babies remain at higher risk

April 22, 2018, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris- From grassroots organizations working directly with moms to large insurers, health advocates remain increasingly concerned that black mothers and babies continue to die at higher rates than white mothers and babies. “We know black moms and black babies die more often than other folks,” said Toni Hill, founding director of the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project, which is open to all expectant mothers but focuses its outreach to mothers of color. Reports published earlier this year from the Mississippi Department of Health and America’s Health Rankings, which is compiled by the United Health Foundation, show significant disparities in infant mortality and maternal mortality persisted despite improvements.

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Idea to require Medicaid recipients to work needs safeguards

April 21, 2018, The Clarion-Ledger- Mississippi’s request to require some Medicaid recipients to work for their benefits is sounding alarm bells. Some are legitimate, while others are not. A report last week said researchers believe that in the next five years, up to 20,000 low income parents in the state would lose their government healthcare coverage if the request is approved. This is because they would earn too much money working 20 hours a week to qualify for Medicare in Mississippi. “Too much money” actually is the wrong term. Twenty hours a week at minimum wage would produce gross pay of just $7,540 in a year’s time. But in some cases, the state’s income cutoff to qualify for Medicaid is lower than that.

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New Reports On Potential Negative Impacts Of Short-Term Plans

April 20, 2018, Health Affairs, Katie Keith- Two new analyses-issued by the actuarial firms Wakely and Oliver Wyman-examine the impact that the proposed rule, if finalized, would have on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual market. Both find the impact to be much higher than federal estimates, which is consistent with a previous analysis from the Urban Institute. Wakely’s report modeled three different scenarios and found that short-term plans would increase ACA individual market premiums from 0.7 to 1.7 percent and decrease enrollment by 2.7 to 6.4 percent (between 396,000 and 826,000 people) in 2019. These effects would worsen over time as insurers fully implemented and marketed short-term plans, taking such steps as redeveloping underwriting capabilities.

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Mississippi receives $3.58M grant to fight opioid crisis

April 19, 2018, WLOX, WLOX Staff- The State of Mississippi has been awarded a $3.58 million grant to fight the opioid crisis, as announced by U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. The Mississippi Department of Mental Health Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services will use the Opioid State Targeted Response (STR) grant to build on prevention and recovery strategies to reduce opioid abuse. The state received an initial $3.58 million STR grant in April 2017. “The toll taken by opioid abuse is already too high in Mississippi. This grant funding will allow the state to expand prevention and treatment options, which should help ensure the opioid epidemic does not grow any worse in our state,” Hyde-Smith said.

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Nearly $9,000 for earlobe procedure: What’s in a UMMC medical bill?

April 18, 2018, The Clarion-Ledger, Anna Wolfe- Heather Waddell’s 6-year-old daughter, Piper, left her earrings on too long. The small plastic backing had lodged into her earlobe, where it was stuck. It didn’t cause any pain, but to get her ears re-pierced, the post would have to be removed. Piper didn’t cry after the short outpatient procedure, but Waddell did when she got the nearly $9,000 hospital bill. Waddell’s insurance company, Cigna, covered $5,827.96 through the combination of a direct insurance payment and a discount Cigna negotiates with University of Mississippi Medical Center, home of the children’s hospital. Mom was left to pay $2,971.91 for the January outpatient surgery, which amounted to roughly 20 minutes of their three-hour hospital stay.

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1.7 million people could be impacted by Medicaid work requirements in 10 states

April 16, 2018, The Hill, Jessie Hellmann- About 1.7 million Medicaid beneficiaries could be impacted by work requirement proposals in 10 states, according to new report released Monday from the PwC Health Research Institute. Three states Indiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky - have already had work requirements approved by the Trump administration. Requests from the other seven states are still pending. Most of the states are seeking waivers to impose work requirements on adults who gained coverage through ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. The populations impacted by the waivers represent nearly $8 billion in annual medical expenditures, according to the report.

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Toe ointment, a $937 bill, and a hard truth about American health care

April 10, 2018, Vox, Sarah Kliff- Last October, Bradley Sroka took his 1-year-old daughter, Margot, to the local emergency room. The little girl had managed to tie a piece of her own blonde hair around her toe, causing it to swell and turn purple. The hair had left a clean circular cut around Margot’s toe, which spurted blood each time her parents tried to inspect it. “We had no idea how deep the cut was, whether we could just wrap a Band-Aid around it,” Sroka says. “It was like nothing we’d ever encountered.” Margot turned out to be fine - a physician assistant inspected her toe, made sure the hair was gone and applied an antibacterial ointment. A month later, the Sroka family got the bill: $937.25 for the 29-minute visit. They are responsible for the entire bill, which was within their deductible.

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Surprise medical bill: when insurance covers the hospital visit, just not the doctor

April 15, 2018, The Clarion-Ledger, Anna Wolfe- Michelle Mills made sure to check that River Oaks hospital in Flowood was in her insurance carrier’s network on her way to the emergency room last fall. Her child had experienced a sports injury after colliding with another player, fracturing his nose. So when Mills got a separate bill from the out-of-network emergency room physician - whom she said she never even saw she was perplexed. The doctor had charged $1,853. The insurance carrier paid $38. The emergency room doctor works for a physician staffing group, not River Oaks. Mills had no way of knowing that in advance. The bill from Capital Emergency Physicians, which was incorporated using River Oaks’ address but bills out of Oklahoma City, notified Mills the doctor was not in her health plan’s network. “As a result, you may be billed for the difference between the amount billed and the allowed amount,” the bill reads. This is called a “balance bill” a practice prohibited by a state law that is neither consistently enforced nor interpreted.

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Medicaid expansion sparks economic stimulus, healthier workers

April 15, 2018, The Advocate, Advocate Editorial- That Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature were wrong to turn down the expansion of Medicaid insurance coverage for the working poor almost a decade ago is amply demonstrated by the experience of the first year since John Bel Edwards reversed course. An independent analysis by the LSU Public Administration Institute found that Medicaid expansion is a win for the state. It covers working people who make up to 138 percent of the poverty line, less than $35,000 for a family of four. As a practical matter, these are the uninsured, since the price of coverage was simply too high, even when employers offered some benefits. The advantages of expansion are both financial and medical. On the financial front, the generous federal matching grants for expansion more than 90 percent - mean that money once spent on care for the uninsured, often in emergency rooms, is now available through doctor’s offices.

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