In the midst of a soaring crisis over health care costs, the debt collection court in Coffeyville, Kansas is emblamatic of a larger problem that’s been getting national attention. Providers, like hospitals, are suing some of the sickest clients, who are losing everything they own because they needed care. In other industry and insurance news: stocks, Amazon employees’ coverage, antitrust suits, and more.
ProPublica: Welcome To Coffeyville, Kansas, Where The Judge Has No Law Degree, Debt Collectors Get A Cut Of The Bail, And Americans Are Watching Their Lives — And Liberty — Disappear In The Pursuit Of Medical Debt Collection.
On the last Tuesday of July, Tres Biggs stepped into the courthouse in Coffeyville, Kansas, for medical debt collection day, a monthly ritual in this quiet city of 9,000, just over the Oklahoma border. He was one of 90 people who had been summoned, sued by the local hospital, or doctors, or an ambulance service over unpaid bills. Some wore eye patches and bandages; others limped to their seats by the wood-paneled walls. Biggs, who is 41, had to take a day off from work to be there. He knew from experience that if he didn’t show up, he could be put in jail. Before the morning’s hearing, he listened as defendants traded stories. One woman recalled how, at four months pregnant, she had reported a money order scam to her local sheriff’s office only to discover that she had a warrant; she was arrested on the spot. (Presser, 10/16)
The Star Tribune: UnitedHealth Group Shares Jump 8% On Strong Earnings, Guidance
Shares of UnitedHealth Group soared on Tuesday after the company reported third-quarter results that beat expectations for profit and revenue while putting a focus on the Minnetonka-based company’s expanding business running outpatient medical centers. David Wichmann, the UnitedHealth Group chief executive, told investors during a conference call that the company is trying to develop a “next-generation” health care system, an ambition furthered in June by the purchase of DaVita Medical Group, which added more than 200 clinics across five states. (Snowbeck, 10/15)
Bloomberg: Health Insurers May Have Bottomed As Investors Tire Of Politics
The worst may be past for managed-care stocks this year, barring any major surprises, as investors are growing fed up with the political rhetoric in Washington, according to Wall Street analysts. UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s solid third-quarter earnings on Tuesday sparked the sector’s biggest rally in a decade as it helped ease concerns about rising medical costs. While expectations were low heading into the report, the magnitude of the move illustrates just how negative sentiment has gotten. Also roiled by fears of a single-payer system, health insurers appear to have found their footing as investors turned more optimistic about the industry’s business outlook, according to BMO analyst Matthew Borsch. (Darie, 10/15)
Modern Healthcare: Amazon, City Of Hope Partnership Gives Workers Access To Cancer Support
Amazon is the latest employer to contract with Duarte, Calif.-based cancer treatment center City of Hope to offer its workers an array of cancer support services. The partnership allows Amazon employees to request a review of their diagnosis and treatment plan from City of Hope specialists, who may recommend improvements to the plan if appropriate. Amazon employees may also travel to City of Hope for an in-person evaluation, according to the cancer center’s announcement Tuesday. (Livingston, 10/15)
Modern Healthcare: Oscar Will Appeal Dismissal Of Florida Blue Antitrust Challenge
Insurance company Oscar Health said it will appeal a federal court’s decision to dismiss its antitrust lawsuit against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. Oscar challenged Florida Blue’s policy of prohibiting its brokers from selling other insurers’ plans. Though New York-based Oscar had support from the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. District Judge Paul Byron in Orlando dismissed the case in September, ruling that the dominant Florida health insurer’s exclusive agreements with brokers are exempt from federal antitrust law. (Livingston, 10/15)
Modern Healthcare: Hackensack Meridian Health To Merge With Englewood Health
Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood Health have signed a definitive agreement to merge, the not-for-profit New Jersey health system and hospital announced Tuesday. Hackensack pledged a $400 million capital investment in Englewood, which executives hope will further Englewood’s position as a tertiary academic hub in northern New Jersey. Those investments include new operating rooms, additional ambulatory care facilities and expanded cardiac catheterization labs, among others. (Kacik, 10/15)
Modern Healthcare: Lower Reimbursements Lead Sinai Health System To Close Subacute Unit
Sinai Health System plans to close the subacute services unit at its North Lawndale rehabilitation hospital in Chicago due to changes in Medicare’s skilled-nursing payment system. The 21-bed unit within 102-bed Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital serves as a bridge between acute care and home health. It stopped accepting new patients Oct. 1 and will close upon approval from the state, Sinai said in a statement today. (Goldberg, 10/15)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.