Vehicle theft; health plan contracts; Medicare claims
Cadillac's Escalade is the top target of car thieves, says the Highway Loss Data Institute, an insurance research group. The Escalade is equipped with an antitheft device that's designed to immobilize the ignitionbut it doesn't seem to stop thieves from nabbing the hot SUV.
Cable TV prices spiked more than 50 percent after the industry was deregulated in 1996, and some companies have nearly doubled their rates, says a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Deregulation was supposed to lower prices and increase competition, but instead, consumers are paying more and getting fewer choices, the group claims. It wants Congress to give local communities the power to regulate cable TV rates and service.
If you buy a nonrefundable airline ticket and have a change in plans, you'll probably get a year in which you can book another flight without losing the value of your ticket. The major domestic airlines eased up on their "use it or lose it" policy, put into effect last fall, in order to give passengers more time to reschedule a canceled flight.
In general, you'll have to cancel your reservation before the flight's scheduled departure. Most airlines will then give you a year from the date the original ticket was issued to reschedule. Expect to pay a change fee of around $100. The new changes were made by American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United.
Under a new California law, third-party payers (such as self-insured employers, union trusts, or even other health plans) who buy or lease a health plan's physician network must honor the contracts doctors signed with the original payer. Until now, the new payers often didn't adhere to those contracts, the California Medical Association says, creating financial losses, confusion, and administrative hassles for physicians. The law also prohibits health plans from selling or leasing their networks to companies that sell medical discount cards promising reduced fees to patients who visit certain providers, according to the association.
HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, together with the AMA and AHA, are offering posters and fact sheets with tips on how patients can help improve their quality of care. The 5 Steps to Safer Health Care message encourages patients to ask questions about their prescription medications, lab tests, and surgical procedures. The material is available on the Web in English at www.ahrq.gov/consumer/5steps.htm or in Spanish at www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cincorec.htm , by phone (800-358-9295) or by e-mail (email@example.com).
Are you still submitting Medicare claims on paper? If you're in a large practice, time is running out. Beginning October 16, Medicare will no longer pay paper claims, except in limited circumstances, according to a rule that will take effect in mid-October.
The new regulation is expected to bring some of the 14 percent of claims now submitted on paper into compliance with HIPAA. However, medical practices with fewer than 10 full-time-equivalent employees are exempt, and the government estimates that more than two-thirds of all Medicare physicians could qualify for such an exemption based on size. HHS may also waive the electronic requirement when there is a service interruption in the claims submission that is outside a provider's control, and in "other extraordinary circumstances."
Yvonne Wollenberg. Online UPDATES.
Oct. 10, 2003;80.