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The University of Texas is cutting back on the HMO its medical branch offers in the Galveston market. Some employers negotiated such good prices, officials say, that the university was losing money on the contracts. It has given notice it will not renew those policies, slashing its number of enrollees in half, to 40,000. . . . In its first four months, a new Kentucky program, in which the state subsidized health insurance for those whose health conditions make them uninsurable signed up only 164 persons, although officials think that at least 5,000 in the state will eventually take advantage of the offer. . . . North Carolina should slice the fees it pays doctors caring for Medicaid patients, the state legislature was advised by the Lewin Group and the West Virginia Medical Institute after a study commissioned by the lawmakers. North Carolina payment rates were higher than any other state in the region and should be cut by at least 9 percent, the consultants said. They also recommended requiring prior authorization for overused drugs. . . . North Carolina is also trying to cut the cost of the medical benefits paid to its own employees by pressuring hospitals to reduce inpatient charges to the state plan by 3.45 percent and its outpatient charges by 15 percent. The state says that will put them more in line with what hospitals are accepting from managed care plans. . . . The Hawaii Medical Services Association, the state's Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer, has written all its groups with 100 or fewer employees (which by state law get rates based on the total community experience) that their premiums will rise next year. Hikes are also in store for bigger companies. The plan lost $49 million last year on operationsthanks to both higher drug outlays and increased demand for servicesbut more than covered the loss from investment income. . . . Kansas legislators passed a measure requiring private health plans, which cover 40 percent of the state's residents, to provide at least 45 days of inpatient treatment and 45 days of outpatient treatment for mental health problems. . . . Arizona's legislature failed to override Gov. Jane Hull's veto of a $24 million increase in funding for mental health programs. . . . But Arizona did sign a new contract with CIGNA HealthCare that for the first time gives state workers and their families equal coverage for behavioral and physical ills. . . . Kentucky's Department of Insurance says it has salvaged enough assets from Advantage Care Inc., taken over by the state in November last year, to pay all claims in full. The outcome was better than expected, because employers quickly found alternative coverage rather than continue to make claims under Advantage's money-losing policies. . . . The Maine legislature passed a bill banning mandatory overtime for nurses. Under the measure, the nurses themselves would be the sole judges of whether they are too tired to work extra hours safely.
Daniel Moskowitz. BLIPS . . . .. Business and Health 2001;6:18.