Arizona Hospital Association Drops AHCCCS Lawsuit

Arizona Republic:  “The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association has dropped a lawsuit challenging payment cuts from the state’s Medicaid program.  The hospital group in November sued the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to reverse a 5 percent cut in hospital payment rates. Rather than pursue the court case, Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association President and CEO Laurie Liles said her group would seek to work with lawmakers to restore hospital funding rates.”

Arizona Contractor gets Probation, Big Fine in Illegal-hiring Case

Arizona Republic:  “A southern Arizona contractor who pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring illegal immigrants was sentenced to probation Thursday in the first case in the state in which authorities pursued criminal charges instead of just fines against an employer in an illegal-hiring case.  Ivan Hardt, owner of Sun Dry Wall & Stucco Inc. of Sierra Vista, was sentenced in Tucson by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins to one year of probation for the misdemeanor conviction.  The . . . felony charge will be dismissed if he pays the government $450,000.”

Text of Arizona House Bill 2625 – the Contraception Bill

House Bill 2625
an Act

Amending sections 20‑826, 20‑1057.08, 20‑1402, 20‑1404 and 20‑2329, Arizona Revised Statutes; relating to health insurance.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

Section 1. Section 20-826, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:

20-826. Subscription contracts; definitions

A. A contract between a corporation and its subscribers shall not be issued unless the form of such contract is approved in writing by the director.

B. Each contract shall plainly state the services to which the subscriber is entitled and those to which the subscriber is not entitled under the plan, and shall constitute a direct obligation of the providers of services with which the corporation has contracted for hospital, medical, dental or optometric services.

C. Each contract, except for dental services or optometric services, shall be so written that the corporation shall pay benefits for each of the following:

1. Performance of any surgical service that is covered by the terms of such contract, regardless of the place of service.

2. Any home health services that are performed by a licensed home health agency and that a physician has prescribed in lieu of hospital services, as defined by the director, providing the hospital services would have been covered.

3. Any diagnostic service that a physician has performed outside a hospital in lieu of inpatient service, providing the inpatient service would have been covered.

4. Any service performed in a hospital’s outpatient department or in a freestanding surgical facility, if such service would have been covered if performed as an inpatient service.

D. Each contract for dental or optometric services shall be so written that the corporation shall pay benefits for contracted dental or optometric services provided by dentists or optometrists.

E. Any contract, except accidental death and dismemberment, applied for that provides family coverage, as to such coverage of family members, shall also provide that the benefits applicable for children shall be payable with respect to a newly born child of the insured from the instant of such child’s birth, to a child adopted by the insured, regardless of the age at which the child was adopted, and to a child who has been placed for adoption with the insured and for whom the application and approval procedures for adoption pursuant to section 8‑105 or 8‑108 have been completed to the same extent that such coverage applies to other members of the family. The coverage for newly born or adopted children or children placed for adoption shall include coverage of injury or sickness, including necessary care and treatment of medically diagnosed congenital defects and birth abnormalities. If payment of a specific premium is required to provide coverage for a child, the contract may require that notification of birth, adoption or adoption placement of the child and payment of the required premium must be furnished to the insurer within thirty‑one days after the date of birth, adoption or adoption placement in order to have the coverage continue beyond the thirty‑one day period.

F. Each contract that is delivered or issued for delivery in this state after December 25, 1977 and that provides that coverage of a dependent child shall terminate on attainment of the limiting age for dependent children specified in the contract shall also provide in substance that attainment of such limiting age shall not operate to terminate the coverage of such child while the child is and continues to be both incapable of self‑sustaining employment by reason of intellectual disability or physical handicap and chiefly dependent on the subscriber for support and maintenance. Proof of such incapacity and dependency shall be furnished to the corporation by the subscriber within thirty‑one days of the child’s attainment of the limiting age and subsequently as may be required by the corporation, but not more frequently than annually after the two‑year period following the child’s attainment of the limiting age.

G. No corporation may cancel or refuse to renew any subscriber’s contract without giving notice of such cancellation or nonrenewal to the subscriber under such contract. A notice by the corporation to the subscriber of cancellation or nonrenewal of a subscription contract shall be mailed to the named subscriber at least forty‑five days before the effective date of such cancellation or nonrenewal. The notice shall include or be accompanied by a statement in writing of the reasons for such action by the corporation.� Failure of the corporation to comply with this subsection shall invalidate any cancellation or nonrenewal except a cancellation or nonrenewal for nonpayment of premium.

H. A contract that provides coverage for surgical services for a mastectomy shall also provide coverage incidental to the patient’s covered mastectomy for surgical services for reconstruction of the breast on which the mastectomy was performed, surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to produce a symmetrical appearance, prostheses, treatment of physical complications for all stages of the mastectomy, including lymphedemas, and at least two external postoperative prostheses subject to all of the terms and conditions of the policy.

I. A contract that provides coverage for surgical services for a mastectomy shall also provide coverage for mammography screening performed on dedicated equipment for diagnostic purposes on referral by a patient’s physician, subject to all of the terms and conditions of the policy and according to the following guidelines:

1. A baseline mammogram for a woman from age thirty‑five to thirty‑nine.

2. A mammogram for a woman from age forty to forty‑nine every two years or more frequently based on the recommendation of the woman’s physician.

3. A mammogram every year for a woman fifty years of age and over.

J. Any contract that is issued to the insured and that provides coverage for maternity benefits shall also provide that the maternity benefits apply to the costs of the birth of any child legally adopted by the insured if all of the following are true:

1. The child is adopted within one year of birth.

2. The insured is legally obligated to pay the costs of birth.

3. All preexisting conditions and other limitations have been met by the insured.

4. The insured has notified the insurer of the insured’s acceptability to adopt children pursuant to section 8‑105, within sixty days after such approval or within sixty days after a change in insurance policies, plans or companies.

K. The coverage prescribed by subsection J of this section is excess to any other coverage the natural mother may have for maternity benefits except coverage made available to persons pursuant to title 36, chapter 29 but not including coverage made available to persons defined as eligible under section 36‑2901, paragraph 6, subdivisions (b), (c), (d) and (e).� If such other coverage exists, the agency, attorney or individual arranging the adoption shall make arrangements for the insurance to pay those costs that may be covered under that policy and shall advise the adopting parent in writing of the existence and extent of the coverage without disclosing any confidential information such as the identity of the natural parent.� The insured adopting parents shall notify their insurer of the existence and extent of the other coverage.

L. The director may disapprove any contract if the benefits provided in the form of such contract are unreasonable in relation to the premium charged.

M. The director shall adopt emergency rules applicable to persons who are leaving active service in the armed forces of the United States and returning to civilian status including:

1. Conditions of eligibility.

2. Coverage of dependents.

3. Preexisting conditions.

4. Termination of insurance.

5. Probationary periods.

6. Limitations.

7. Exceptions.

8. Reductions.

9. Elimination periods.

10. Requirements for replacement.

11. Any other condition of subscription contracts.

N. Any contract that provides maternity benefits shall not restrict benefits for any hospital length of stay in connection with childbirth for the mother or the newborn child to less than forty‑eight hours following a normal vaginal delivery or ninety‑six hours following a cesarean section.� The contract shall not require the provider to obtain authorization from the corporation for prescribing the minimum length of stay required by this subsection. The contract may provide that an attending provider in consultation with the mother may discharge the mother or the newborn child before the expiration of the minimum length of stay required by this subsection. The corporation shall not:

1. Deny the mother or the newborn child eligibility or continued eligibility to enroll or to renew coverage under the terms of the contract solely for the purpose of avoiding the requirements of this subsection.

2. Provide monetary payments or rebates to mothers to encourage those mothers to accept less than the minimum protections available pursuant to this subsection.

3. Penalize or otherwise reduce or limit the reimbursement of an attending provider because that provider provided care to any insured under the contract in accordance with this subsection.

4. Provide monetary or other incentives to an attending provider to induce that provider to provide care to an insured under the contract in a manner that is inconsistent with this subsection.

5. Except as described in subsection O of this section, restrict benefits for any portion of a period within the minimum length of stay in a manner that is less favorable than the benefits provided for any preceding portion of that stay.

O. Nothing in subsection N of this section:

1. Requires a mother to give birth in a hospital or to stay in the hospital for a fixed period of time following the birth of the child.

2. Prevents a corporation from imposing deductibles, coinsurance or other cost sharing in relation to benefits for hospital lengths of stay in connection with childbirth for a mother or a newborn child under the contract, except that any coinsurance or other cost sharing for any portion of a period within a hospital length of stay required pursuant to subsection N of this section shall not be greater than the coinsurance or cost sharing for any preceding portion of that stay.

3. Prevents a corporation from negotiating the level and type of reimbursement with a provider for care provided in accordance with subsection N of this section.

P. Any contract that provides coverage for diabetes shall also provide coverage for equipment and supplies that are medically necessary and that are prescribed by a health care provider, including:

1. Blood glucose monitors.

2. Blood glucose monitors for the legally blind.

3. Test strips for glucose monitors and visual reading and urine testing strips.

4. Insulin preparations and glucagon.

5. Insulin cartridges.

6. Drawing up devices and monitors for the visually impaired.

7. Injection aids.

8. Insulin cartridges for the legally blind.

9. Syringes and lancets, including automatic lancing devices.

10. Prescribed oral agents for controlling blood sugar that are included on the plan formulary.

11. To the extent coverage is required under medicare, podiatric appliances for prevention of complications associated with diabetes.

12. Any other device, medication, equipment or supply for which coverage is required under medicare from and after January 1, 1999. The coverage required in this paragraph is effective six months after the coverage is required under medicare.

Q. Nothing in subsection P of this section prohibits a medical service corporation, a hospital service corporation or a hospital, medical, dental and optometric service corporation from imposing deductibles, coinsurance or other cost sharing in relation to benefits for equipment or supplies for the treatment of diabetes.

R. Any hospital or medical service contract that provides coverage for prescription drugs shall not limit or exclude coverage for any prescription drug prescribed for the treatment of cancer on the basis that the prescription drug has not been approved by the United States food and drug administration for the treatment of the specific type of cancer for which the prescription drug has been prescribed, if the prescription drug has been recognized as safe and effective for treatment of that specific type of cancer in one or more of the standard medical reference compendia prescribed in subsection S of this section or medical literature that meets the criteria prescribed in subsection S of this section.� The coverage required under this subsection includes covered medically necessary services associated with the administration of the prescription drug.� This subsection does not:

1. Require coverage of any prescription drug used in the treatment of a type of cancer if the United States food and drug administration has determined that the prescription drug is contraindicated for that type of cancer.

2. Require coverage for any experimental prescription drug that is not approved for any indication by the United States food and drug administration.

3. Alter any law with regard to provisions that limit the coverage of prescription drugs that have not been approved by the United States food and drug administration.

4. Notwithstanding section 20‑841.05, require reimbursement or coverage for any prescription drug that is not included in the drug formulary or list of covered prescription drugs specified in the contract.

5. Notwithstanding section 20‑841.05, prohibit a contract from limiting or excluding coverage of a prescription drug, if the decision to limit or exclude coverage of the prescription drug is not based primarily on the coverage of prescription drugs required by this section.

6. Prohibit the use of deductibles, coinsurance, copayments or other cost sharing in relation to drug benefits and related medical benefits offered.


Arizona Senate Rejects Contraception Bill

AZCentral:  The Arizona Senate on Wednesday voted down a controversial bill to allow employers and insurance companies to opt out of covering contraception for religious reasons. 

The bill failed in the Senate on a 13-17 vote, but House Bill 2625 is not dead. Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who championed the measure in that chamber, said she will bring it back for a revote this session. 

The bill has drawn nationwide attention in recent weeks, and the measure has spawned much confusion over what it actually would do. An amended version considered Wednesday by the Senate aimed to clear up some of the confusion.

Continue reading Arizona Senate rejects contraception bill.

Obamacare Arguments: Day 2

ABA Journal:  The U.S. Supreme Court will hold two hours of arguments today on the constitutional questions in the health care case.

The issue is whether Congress had the authority to require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, according to the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. says Congress was authorized to act under the commerce clause, which allows regulation of economic activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Uninsured Americans are unable to pay for $43 billion in health care each year, essentially transferring the costs to other Americans, he argues.

Continue reading Obamacare arguments day 2.

How to Handle the Coming Dividend Tax Hike

Smart Money:  “Unless Congress takes action, the top tax rate for the highest earners on most dividends, currently 15%, is set to jump to a whopping 43.4% next year. That is a maximum income-tax rate of 39.6% — since dividends ll once again be taxed as regular income — plus a 3.8% tax on investment income as part of the health-care overhaul passed in 2009.”

Arizona Hospitals Experiencing Fallout from Nurses Wages

Arizona Republic:  “Arizona hospitals last decade struggled to find enough nurses to fill shifts in critical hospital operations, prompting some hospitals to turn to temporary or traveling nurses to ensure enough medical help for patients.

While the nursing market has largely stabilized in recent years as colleges graduate more nurses, hospitals are still grappling with one impact of the nursing shortage — legal fallout from allegations that a hospital industry group fixed wages for temporary and traveling nurses.

More than two dozen Arizona hospital systems agreed to pay nearly $22 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged a nursing registry controlled by the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association suppressed wages paid to temporary or traveling nurses.”

Bank of America Starts Foreclosure Rental Program

Associated Press:  “Bank of America has launched a pilot program that will let some homeowners at risk of foreclosure become renters and stay in their homes.  Fewer than 1,000 borrowers in Arizona, Nevada and New York will be enrolled in the test program, which began this week. Those selected will transfer the title of their homes back to Bank of America and have their mortgage debt forgiven.  The homeowners can rent the homes for up to three years at or below their area’s market rental rate.”

Exclusive interview with Dharun Ravi, the Man Convicted of 15 Crimes After the Suicide of His Gay Roomate Tyler Clementi  “Dharun Ravi’s face is drawn and thin. The stress of the last year and a half has wrung him out. His eyes are perpetually sad, not the eyes of a very bright 20-year-old young man who should have a promising future. He is sitting on a plush maroon sofa in his parents’ living room, free on bail but still a prisoner in public opinion. He has been convicted of a hate crime for spying on Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after the episode.”