Thursday Roundup: Pre-Existing Condition?
Rural residents may pay more for health insurance in Maine • N.C. Commerce secretary says rural funding will continue under state division • Senate Commerce Committee passes rural call completion resolution • N.C. should have dropped the Possum Drop lawsuit, judge says
Is living in a rural community a pre-existing medical condition?
Health insurance could cost more in rural Maine than in cities, according to a story by the Portland Press-Herald. The paper looked at preliminary estimates of rates insurance companies would charge under the new health insurance exchanges, which are part of the Affordable Care Act. They found that a resident of rural Aroostook County could pay $1,000 more a year than a resident of Portland.
The Maine Legislature recently started allowing health insurers to charge different rates based on where customers live. The insurance companies defend the practice by saying it’s more expensive to provide medical care in rural areas than in cities.
Joseph Ditre, executive director of the health care advocacy group Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said residents shouldn’t be penalized because of where they live. The Press-Herald reports:
“Maine is a small enough state that we don’t need to do this,” Ditre said. “You ask yourself ‘Why?’ and the only answer you get is ‘because they can.'”
But Kevin Lewis, chief executive officer of Maine Community Health Options, said that one reason rates vary by region is because it costs more to deliver health care in rural areas.
“Geography is taking on a bigger role than before. But there are different underlying costs from area to area,” Lewis said.
For example, it takes longer for patients to get to a hospital in rural areas, which not only puts the patient at greater risk, but often makes the care more costly.
N.C. Rural Center. North Carolina’s Commerce secretary says the state will continue to invest in rural development projects, even though the state has stopped funding the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, the Fayetteville Observer reports.
State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said the state will take the money it previously appropriated through the Rural Center and run it through a new program managed within Commerce, the Rural Economic Development Division.
“The intent is to put more resources in rural North Carolina and not fewer,” she said. “North Carolina has two major economic engines in Raleigh and Charlotte – the one and four fastest growing communities in the country. We are fortunate they are there. But … we can’t grease those wheels at the expense of rural North Carolina.
“We are a rural state. That’s who we are.”
Some lawmakers worry that rural areas won’t get as much attention when rural development funding runs through the state instead of the Rural Center, the Observer reports.
The Rural Center is a private, nonprofit organization that received state money to support rural development projects. The center was criticized by a state audit last month and was the subject of a series of articles in the Raleigh News & Observer that questioned the center’s grant reporting and grant oversight.
Yesterday the chairwoman of the center’s board of directors, Valeria Less, resigned. The center’s president and founder, Billy Ray Hall, resigned earlier in July.
Rural Call Completion Resolution. The Senate Commerce Committee has passed a resolution asking the Federal Communications Commission to take additional action on improving long-distance service to people calling rural areas. The resolution on “rural call completion” problems could move to the full Senate for a vote.
Possum Drop. The state of North Carolina owes $75,000 in legal fees for its “frivolous” appeal of a lawsuit about the Clay’s Corner Possum Drop.
The Possum Drop is a New Year’s Eve event in Brasstown that involves lowering a possum at midnight, sort of like the New Yorkers lower the big ball in Times Square. Except, in Brasstown, they lower a possum in a clear, plastic box.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the state over a permit the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission issued for the event. PETA opposes the Possum Drop because they say it’s cruel to the possum.
When the state lost the suit, they appealed. The judge who handled the case said the state’s appeal was baseless and ordered the government to pay PETA’s legal expenses.
“But the ’Possum Drop can continue using a live animal,” the Ashville Citizen-Times reports. “Earlier this year state lawmakers passed a measure mandating that animal cruelty punishments don’t apply to a ‘licensed sportsman” taking a wild animal for display in “an annual, seasonal, or cultural event.’”
(For the record, we know the proper term is opossum, or, informally, ’possum. But come on, who spells that out or uses the apostrophe? Aside from lawyers, judges and the Associated Press stylebook, we mean.)