Daily roundup: Dec. 19, 2011

Bite-sized hospital and health industry news

  • Florida: HHS last week rejected Florida's request for a waiver from the medical-loss ratio (MLR) regulations under the federal health reform law. According to CQ HealthBeat, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation sought an adjustment of the MLR standard to allow insurers to spend 68% of premium dollars on claims in 2011, 72% in 2012, and 76% in 2013. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said the MLR requirement could disrupt the state's private health insurance market, which is led by only a few companies but provides coverage for about 840,000 individuals. However, HHS in its rejection letter disagreed, saying, "We have determined that the evidence presented does not establish a reasonable likelihood that the application of the 80 percent MLR standard will destabilize the Florida individual market" (Fineout, AP/Miami Herald, 12/15; Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/15; Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 12/15 [subscription required]).
  • Louisiana: Researchers at New Orleans-based Tulane University Hospital have documented a higher rate of myocardial infarctions (MIs) in the three years following Hurricane Katrina. Specifically, MIs accounted for 2% of Tulane's patient admissions during the three years after Katrina, compared with 0.7% during the two years prior to the hurricane. According to researchers, the uptick could have been caused by irregular diet, exercise, and medication access patterns, as well an increased incidence of chronic stress (Norton, Reuters, 12/14).
  • Maryland: A state advisory group last week proposed legislative changes that would increase oversight of stenting procedures in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reports. The group's recommendations—which marked the conclusion of a five-month investigation into unnecessary stenting—included empowering the Maryland Health Care Commission to regulate stent services, requiring "continuing evaluation" of hospitals with stent programs, and allowing the commission access to sensitive health information for investigative purposes. The group also suggested using national cardiology data to monitor stent trends and keeping information current (Bishop, Sun, 12/15).
  • New York: The number of obese schoolchildren in New York City decreased by 5.5% across the last five years—the biggest drop for any major U.S. metropolitan area. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, attributes the decline to citywide efforts, including the addition of healthier meal and snack options in schools and an aggressive advertising campaign against sugary sodas. City officials last week also announced plans to form a multiagency task force that will recommend new projects to address obesity (Hartocollis, "School Book," New York Times, 12/15).


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