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850,000 doctors could be hit by potential data breach from insurer's stolen laptop

A file containing identifying information for every physician in the country contracted with a Blues-affiliated insurance plan was on a laptop computer stolen from a BlueCross BlueShield Assn. employee. It is not yet known whether any identity theft has resulted from the data breach. The file included the name, address, tax identification number and national provider identifier number for about 850,000 doctors, Jeff Smokler, spokesman for the Chicago-based Blues association, said Oct. 6. That number represents every physician who is part of the BlueCard network, which allows Blues members to access networks in other states, Smokler said. Some 16% to 22% of those physicians listed -- as many as 187,000 -- used their Social Security numbers as a tax ID or NPI number, Smokler said. The association updates its file of BlueCard network physicians weekly, Smokler said. An unidentified employee downloaded the unencrypted file onto his personal computer to work on it at home, a practi ...

Health system reform sees rebound in public support

After declining in August, public support for a variety of aspects of health system reform increased in September, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Fifty-three percent of Americans said in mid-September that the country would be better off if President Obama and Congress adopted health reform, an increase from August's 45% and the 51% reported in July. Republicans and independents also softened their opposition: 49% of Republicans said families would be worse off if health reform passes, down from 61% in August. The percentage of independents saying so dipped to 26%, a decrease of 10 percentage points. "Opinion in the coming months is hard to predict, but as the focus shifted from the town halls and hot-button issues to the president, the Congress and the core issues in the legislation that affect people the most, the summer downturn in support was largely erased," said Drew Altman, PhD, Kaiser's president and CEO. The poll of 1,203 adults was ...

Medicaid pay could be cut again when stimulus money runs out

Federal stimulus funding has helped state Medicaid programs avoid drastic reductions in eligibility and physician fees, but program directors already are contemplating such cuts when the additional federal support runs out at the end of next year. States faced unprecedented financial pressures in fiscal 2009, which ended on June 30 for most states. They experienced a surge in new Medicaid enrollees and a historic decline in tax revenues. States coped by trimming or freezing Medicaid fees and restricting benefits, among other actions, according to a ninth annual survey of state Medicaid directors released Sept. 30 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Management Associates. Medicaid enrollment grew by 5.4% in fiscal 2009 -- the highest rate in six years -- while total program spending increased by 7.9%, the fastest pace in five years. The enrollment spike was the main reason spending grew, according to report co-author Vernon K. Smith, PhD, principal with Health Management As ...