Saturday, June 29, 2013

Florida Gun Laws and the Absence of Common Sense

Gov. Rick Scott signed a gun control bill Friday to close a loophole in firearm sales to some mentally ill people. According to the press release "Mental health and second amendment advocates worked together to produce this bill that does not affect persons voluntarily seeking mental health exams or treatments but rather closes a loophole in current law that could potentially put firearms in the hands of dangerous, mentally ill individuals who are a threat to themselves or others as determined by a court." The bill addresses a gap in Florida law that has allowed people who voluntarily commit themselves to a mental institution to buy a gun once they are released. The new law requires that before agreeing to voluntary treatment under the state’s Baker Act, individuals receive written notice that if treated, they may be prohibited from buying a gun or “applying for or retaining a concealed weapons or firearms license” while they’re deemed a danger to themselves or others. Their names are then added to a national data base that informs retailers of people prohibited from buying a gun. People who are involuntarily committed are already added to that list. A judge and a physician have to concur that an individual is no longer a danger to themselves or others to have their name taken off the national database. Scott said that since 2002, "just under 100,000 individuals have been disqualified from purchasing a firearm based on court adjudications of mentally defective or mental commitments." I applaud the Governor to his sudden realization and insight that " common sense parameters balance the rights of individuals to purchase firearms with society's reasonable expectation of public safety." I hope that he will apply the same parameters to allow physicians asking their patients if they store their guns safely to avoid an accidental shooting death within the confines of their home and family. Meanwhile, he continues to litigate in federal court seeking to prevent physicians asking their patients these common sense question. Yours Bernd

Big Profits (Again) For Florida's HMOs

According to an article published in the South Florida Business Journal titled "Commercial HMOs report healthy profit margins" , the commercial business lines of Florida HMOs had a combined profit margin of 4.1 percent in 2012, down from 4.2 percent in 2011. That was still the second-highest profit margin of the past five years. Some health plans were more profitable than others with United Healthcare leading the way at 10.8 percent. Let's not forget that despite these gains the real money in HMOs isn't on the commercial side, but in Medicare Advantage plans.In this market Florida's Medicare HMOs had a combined profit margin of 8 percent in 2012, up from 7.4 percent in 2011. This SHOULD trigger a debate in Congress over whether Medicare HMOs are overpaid and WHY physicians are receiving a shrinking share of this profit pie. What do you think? Yours Bernd

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Healthcare in Florida

In healthcare there seem to exist two parallel universes:the one for normal earthlings crushed by 30% health insurance premium increases and the one for our politicians who pay peanuts for their own insurance. For example, Florida House members will pay just $8.34 a month for state-subsidized health care next year, or $30 a month to cover their entire family. That’s one-sixth of what state senators and most state employees will pay, and one-tenth of the cost to the average private-sector worker, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It’s also less than the $25 a month House Republicans wanted to charge poor Floridians for basic coverage such as a limited number of doctor visits or preventive care. Unless we enjoy living in a parallel universe we should NOT let them get away with it!!! Yours Bernd

Monday, June 17, 2013

Insurance Rate Increases

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (aka Florida Blue) has obtained the approval for a rate increase for several of their individual health insurance policies including BlueOptions-PPO-Individual-16842FL007, MyBasic NetworkBlue-PPO-Individual-16842FL008, BlueChoice-PPO-Individual-16842FL009, BlueSelect-EPO-Individual-16842FL012 and MyBasic BlueSelect-EPO-Individual-16842FL013. According to their web site the average increase will be 15.32% effective July 1st, 2013 and will affect 264,850 people. As a Florida Blue customer my rate increased almost 30% ! The reasons driving the dramatic premium increase include a 189.37% increase in costs for inpatient care compared to a 111.07% increase in outpatient care. It's of interest to note that the current Medical Cost Adjustment - the difference between what the insurer thought it was going to pay for medical services and what it actually paid during the current year - DECREASED by 466.64%! For the final rate determination the Florida Insurance Code requires that all individual and small group carriers obtain approval of their premium rates from the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). In addition, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Health Care Reform, requires that all weighted average rate increases in the individual and small group markets that exceed a stipulated threshold (currently 10%), must be assessed to determine if they are "reasonable". For individual and small group carriers issuing coverage in the state of Florida, the federal enforcement agency for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services (HHS), has delegated the authority to determine if rate increases are reasonable to the OIR. According to the OIR all Florida Blue's rate increases for individual and small group products either do not exceed the threshold, or have been determined to be "reasonable." Anyone who has received his/her new premium notice might have to get used to the new definition for "reasonable" rate increase. Its probably listed in the alternative Wikipedia published by the healthcare industrial complex which pays our politicians and corrupts our public life. Yours Bernd