Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

State employee health changes implemented illegally; New report: hospitals pack economic punch; Former health chief indicted for perjury; and Editorial: Support children’s health program

State employee health changes implemented illegally

An attorney general’s opinion says the Jindal administration’s plan to cut employee and retiree health benefits and overhaul health plan offerings is being illegally implemented. The opinion by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell says the administration failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when making the changes. The Lafayette Adviser reports that the APA “requires public notice, a comment period and legislative oversight,” but says that “those provisions weren’t followed when the Jindal administration made changes to insurance plans that took effect Aug. 1. Changes included medication restrictions and requiring prior authorization for certain medical procedures.”

Administration lawyer Elizabeth Murrill claims that the APA requirements “are not expressly required by law” for health plan changes, but said the Office of Group Benefits will begin to follow them anyway “to ensure plans are implemented properly.” Caldwell’s opinion does not have the force of law, but the Advocate reports that the Retired State Employees Association is considering suing to block the changes.

New report: hospitals pack economic punch

A study by LSU professor Dr. James Richardson, commissioned by the Louisiana Hospital Association, found that hospitals employ 98,000 people, have a combined payroll of $4.6 billion and generate $30 billion in economic activity across the state, reports the Advocate. The study also said that “Medicaid-related hospital spending creates and supports more than 48,000 jobs while generating more than $137.5 million in state tax collections and $117.8 million in local taxes.” The last finding is particularly relevant considering that Louisiana has the option to expand Medicaid to uninsured adults, and confirms prior studies that show billions in new federal health dollars would not only improve health outcomes, but create 15,600 jobs.

Former health chief indicted for perjury

A special state grand jury indicted former Secretary of Health and Hospitals Bruce Greenstein on nine counts of perjury related to the awarding of a $200 million Medicaid contract, one of the largest in state government, reports the Advocate. Greenstein resigned in April 2013 amid a cloud of controversy related to the contract that went to his former employer, Client Network Services Inc. (CNSI). The Jindal administration cancelled the CNSI contract in March of that year, alleging that Greenstein had “improper contact” with executives at the company during the award process. The former secretary denies any wrongdoing.

Editorial: Support children’s health program

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to run out of money in 2015 unless Congress acts to extend funding. CHIP helps provide insurance to children from families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage. While some suggest letting the program expire or only funding it for two more years given the private insurance changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times editorial board makes the case for extending funding for at least four more years. A longer extension, the editorial argues, would allow more time for policymakers to evaluate how health care reform is impacting children’s insurance access and prevent any coverage losses. CHIP has been a hugely successful program, cutting the number of uninsured children in half, the editorial says, and Congress should move carefully to make sure those gains are not lost.

Number of the Day

48,000 – Number of jobs supported by Medicaid hospital spending (Source: Louisiana Hospital Association)