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Health Insurance Becomes Available to Laid-Off Workers

June 17, 2008

By Julius A. Karash, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

Jun. 17–Missouri consumers who reach the end of extended group health coverage after a layoff will soon be able to obtain coverage through the state.

Effective July 1, qualified persons will be eligible for guaranteed coverage through the Missouri Health Insurance Pool, also known as the state’s “high risk” insurance pool.

Eligible persons must apply for the state coverage within 63 days of exhausting extended group coverage.

COBRA, or the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, authorizes extended group coverage for certain former employees, retirees, former spouses and dependent children. The coverage typically lasts for 18 months. Those who take advantage usually pay the entire premium.

The Missouri Health Insurance Pool was set up to offer insurance to people who are denied coverage in the individual market. Under state law, the plan cannot charge premiums greater than 150 percent of the standard market rate.

Community benefits

The University of Kansas Hospital ranked first among Kansas City-area hospitals in a recent assessment of benefits provided to the community.

According to the Missouri Hospital Association, KU Hospital provided $85.1 million in community benefits in 2006. The tabulation includes charity care, patient bad debt, unpaid costs from Medicare and Medicaid services, community donations and health professional education.

KU Hospital also led the list the previous year, when its community benefit was tallied at about $73 million.

“It should not be surprising that the academic medical center leads the community benefit survey,” Bob Page, KU Hospital president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

“The areas surveyed make up the historic mission of the University of Kansas Hospital, a mission we take very seriously.”

The No. 2 spot went to St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, whose community benefit was calculated at $55.5 million. St. Luke’s also claimed the previous year’s No. 2 spot, with $41.9 million.

The total community benefit of St. Luke’s and four affiliate hospitals totaled $86.7 million in 2006, according to Missouri Hospital Association data.

Statewide, Missouri hospitals provided more than $1.6 billion in community benefits in 2006, up $500 million from the previous year.

More than $157 million of the increase was attributed to higher levels of uncompensated care.

The entire report is at www.focusonhospitals.com.

Levy honored

Robert Levy, chairman of the board of Truman Medical Centers, received the 2008 Excellence in Governance Award from the Missouri Hospital Association last week.

Recipients are honored for their dedication to hospitals or health systems and their communities.

To reach Julius A. Karash, call 816-234-4918 or send e-mail to jkarash@kcstar.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

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