Payer Roundup—Groups sue over rollback of birth control rule; Florida man sentenced in $1.6M Medicare fraud scheme

Packs of birth control pills
Notre Dame announced recently that it will stop providing birth control coverage to students and employees at the end of the plan year. (Getty/areeya_ann)

Groups challenge new contraception coverage rule

The National Women’s Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s new rules that aim to allow a wider range of employers to opt out of covering contraception.

The advocacy groups filed the suit on behalf of five women who are at risk of being denied birth control, including three Notre Dame students. The Indiana-based university announced recently that it will stop providing birth control coverage to students and employees at the end of the plan year, according to Indiana Public Media.

“Blocking access to basic healthcare that 99% of women use at some point in their lives is unlawful, discriminatory and harmful,” said NWLC President and CEO Fatima Goss Graves. “Everyone deserves birth control coverage, no matter where they work, how they are insured or where they go to school. (Release)

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House passes CHIP funding bill

The House of Representatives voted 242-174 on Friday to pass a bill that would reauthorize funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program for five years and fund community health centers for two years.

The bill, which includes offsets that would make cuts to some Affordable Care Act programs, Medicare and Medicaid, has been controversial and therefore may face a tough road ahead in the Senate.

Indeed, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., spoke in opposition to the measure before Friday’s vote took place.

“It pains me to be here today because this should not be a partisan bill,” he said. “House Republicans are using the reauthorization of CHIP and community health centers as a way to once again sabotage the ACA.”

But Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., argued the bill “will deliver quality healthcare and peace of mind to millions of Americans.”

“This is long overdue legislation,” he said.

Florida man gets prison time for bilking Medicare out of $1.6M

Miguel De Paula Arias, of Fort Pierce, Florida, was sentenced this week to 13 years in prison for a Medicare fraud scheme involving stolen identities.

Prosecutors accused Arias of stealing the identities of six retired and semi-retired physicians and using their Medicare accounts to submit claims for services provided to patients. All told, he funneled more than $1.6 million in funds paid by Medicare into bank accounts he controlled in the victim doctors’ names.

Arias pleaded guilty in July to one count of healthcare fraud, one count of making false statements and one count of aggravated identity theft, though he originally faced as many as 40 counts. (TC Palm article)

Cigna debuts support line for veterans

Cigna has introduced a free, national support line that aims to help veterans and is offering a weekly Mindfulness for Vets session.

The support line—which is available to both members and nonmembers—will help veterans with services and resources for pain management, substance use counseling and treatment, financial issues, food, clothing, housing, safety, transportation, parenting and child care, aging services, health insurance, legal assistance and more.

The mindfulness program, which veterans can access by phone every Tuesday, “will encourage veterans to observe their thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment without judgment, and cultivate self-care,” said Karen Cierzan, vice president of clinical operations for Cigna’s behavioral health business. (Release)

UnitedHealthcare introduces hospital indemnity coverage

UnitedHealthcare, which already sells hospital indemnity plans to individuals who buy their own health insurance, now will offer those ancillary benefit plans to employer clients in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The new Hospital Indemnity Protection plans provide a cash benefit—ranging from $700 to more than $5,000—to help cover employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses or meet other financial needs after a hospital stay.

The plans, which are available to businesses with 51 or more eligible employees, can be purchased as standalone products or in additional to medical coverage. (Release)

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include information about the House's vote on the CHIP funding bill.

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