The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas on July 4, 1999 · Page 6
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July 4, 1999

The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas · Page 6

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Galveston, Texas
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Sunday, July 4, 1999
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A6 l)\!h NlAXS SUNDAY, JULY 4, 1999 GALVESTON COUNTY, TEXAS HMOs Continued from Page Al HMO services will be missed In the past year, UTMB ended its contracts with PacifiCare Health Systems and the Sisters of Charity To seniors, the managed-care plans will be sorely missed because they cover most of the cost of prescription drugs. They also cut down on out-of-pocket medical costs at a lower price than the supplemental policies carried by traditional Medicare participants. Kelly said he talked to a man. Wednesday who was paying $400 a month for a supplemental plan. Also, like other participants in managed-care plans, seniors are dismayed at being bounced between physicians as they're moved from one Medicare HMO to another or out of the plans altogether. UTMB said it had to end its contracts because it lost $4 million on the Secure Horizons deal last year and was projected to lose another $1 million to $2 million this year on the Choice 65 pact. To some, such losses represent a reasonable expenditure in the context of UTMB's $1 billion annual budget. Drugs Continued from Page Al you're trying to take care of 20,000-plus people, most of whom can't afford medicine, that isn't much." Hart, 52, suffers from chronic bronchitis, emphysema and a heart condition. She had smoked four packs of cigarettes a day. "Now I'm doing real good," she said. "I'm down to half a pack." Hart now is in the process of trying to get Social Security Supplemental Insurance. She had been receiving free care from UTMB. Then, as part of an attempt to control heavy losses from such care, UTMB started referring indigent patients like Hart to the county health district this year. To prepare for the change, the county spent millions of extra dollars, hired additional personnel and expanded the hours of its clinics. But Hart says it's not enough. Already having been forced to go without the estrogen she'd been on, Hart said that in June she was forced to wait for cholesterol medication she needed. Now she's worried that she can't rely on the clinics for the medicine she needs to survive. "If 4Cs cannot treat me, they should send me back to UTMB," she said. Morris said the health district was seeking other sources of funding, such as reimbursements from some pharmaceutical firms. In the meantime, Morris has instructed 4Cs staff to make difficult decisions about what medicines to buy for the pharmacy. Those necessary to survival are to be bought. Those that aren't might not be, Morris said. "They'll be able to get the insulin they need to stay alive, but they may not be able to get pain medication for their arthritis," Morris said. Hart said she had been told to go to a private pharmacy to get medications the 4Cs clinic couldn't provide. "If I could afford to go there, I wouldn't need to go to the clinic," Hart said. MARTY SCHLADEN/The Daily News Accident "It seems to me that health care for senior citizens is a little more important than a million dollars," Reed Hansen, a senior who attended Wednesday's meeting, said afterward. It might not be much comfort, but UTMB's senior patients aren't alone in being left without a Medicare HMO that contracts with their local hospital. Nationwide, about 200,000 Medicare HMO participants will be forced to change health plans next year and additional seniors will face higher rates for fewer benefits. The same day seniors met at Galveston College to voice their concerns, PacifiCare, Humana and Foundation Health Systems — three of the nation's biggest Medicare HMOs — announced they would stop covering Medicare members in several markets. Last year, about 400,000 Medicare recipients in more than 30 states had to change health plans when more than 100 HMOs opted against renewing Medicare contracts. The federal government cut the growth in the reimbursement rate in 1997. Until then, Medicare had been seen as the most lucrative market for HMOs. The 1997 balanced-budget law, which was responsible for the lower reimbursements from Continued from Page Al Saturday. Veronica Nieto, who suffered neck and back injuries in the accident, was listed in good condition at the hospital. Hale, 20, also remained at the hospital on Saturday, after suffering head and chest injuries in the collision. He was listed in fair condition Saturday night. None of the three occupants of Nieto's car were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident, officials said. It was unclear as of late Saturday whether any citations were issued in connection with the collision. Medicare, "was probably one of the most devastating things to happen to public hospitals throughout the country," Richard Moore, UTMB's vice president for business, told the crowd at Galveston College. The HMOs now are finding seniors to be a difficult group from which to turn a profit. They went into the business earlier in the decade assuming a fixed proportion of healthy to sick clients. Instead, the makeup of that population is in constant flux, said Susan Tyler, UTMB's director of geriatric services. "That's why I think HMOs for the Medicare population just won't work," Tyler said. "We use most of our health care in the last 18 months of our lives." Presidential proposal As Galveston County's seniors were revolting last week against their loss of HMO services, President Bill Clinton was proposing a fix to the entire Medicare system. His plan would provide coverage for prescription drugs and screening tests. It would be financed through a mix of new money from projected budget surpluses and incentives for cost savings. The prescription coverage initially would cost seniors $24 a month, and it would pay for half of all prescription drugs up to $2,000 a year. Under the plan, when the program is fully implemented in 2008, monthly premiums would go up to $44 a month and cover half of all drug costs up to $5,000 a month. The program would be free for low-income seniors. Those who attended Wednesday's meeting seemed receptive to the plan for prescriptions. "I think it's a good start, definitely," said Roy Searcy, 80. Tyler said parts of the plan sounded good, but much remained to be scrutinized. "I'm really pleased they're looking at the drug benefit; that's really important," she said. "But the devil is in the details." For example, Clinton hopes to keep costs down through the use of techniques like managed care and controlling overuse of lab services. But those measures could prove to be only marginally effective in the face of inexorably rising health-care costs and a graying population. In the meantime, Kelly wants to see local seniors band together and use their purchasing power to get health services that go beyond what fee-for-service Medicare offers. "We need to take that money and buy services as a group," he said. ® The Associated Press contributed to this report. Walls come tumbling A Construction crews on Saturday began the demolition of the old Southern Union Gas building. **• Crews began the demolition at 3227 Market St. of the historic building. (Photos by Nicole Frug6) GALVESTON COUNTY, TEXAS SUNDAY, JULY 4, 1999 Illl. Dvih Ni;\\s A7 Charter school boom has included many ups and downs The Associated Press AUSTIN - Three years into Texas' experiment with independent charter schools, several have run into financial problems: one got more than $240,000 from the state without opening, another is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and difficulties have spurred audits at others. Meanwhile, academic results have been mixed at the publicly funded schools, which are independent of school districts and free from many state regulations. Texas' first opened in fall 1996. "The world of charter schools in Texas... shows the full range from those doing brilliantly to those that are embarrassments and probably will be closed," said State Board of Education Chairman Chase Untermeyer of Houston, who was named to his post by Gov. George W Bush. Bush and other officials have touted open-enrollment charter schools as a way to encourage educational innovation. Many charter supporters say Texas' overall program — one of the nation's largest — is a good one. Charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools in their calendars and schedules, can devise their own student discipline procedures and can hire uncertified teachers. Ninety schools have opened, and another 78 have been chartered by the State Board of Education. With $62.2 million from -« Clntla Arenas, 10, works on an assignment Tuesday during class at the Kipp Academy in Houston. Kipp Academy is one of the many successful charter schools across the state. (AP) the state in 1998-99, they served 17,616 students out of 3.9 million in Texas public schools. Officials praise a number of the schools for their work, particularly because 66 percent of students attending them statewide are considered at risk. But there also have been difficulties: • The State Board of Education this week is to consider re- voking the charter of the Emma L. Harrison Charter School in Waco, which an administrative law judge said has violated numerous laws and accumulated an "insurmountable" budget deficit. The Texas Rangers are investigating at the request of local prosecutors. The school's chief operating officer, Ida Rnkard, didn't want to comment, said a woman who answered the telephone. • The Cypress Lodge Charter School, which had been planned for East Texas, surrendered its charter last year without opening after receiving $240,519 in public funds. The state has yet to recover the money. • Thirteen of the first operating charter schools were overpaid more than $2 million because they overestimated enrollment. Payback plans were instituted that officials say should result in full restitution this year, and stricter state fiscal policies were put in place. • TEA was looking at several schools after receiving reports of unpaid teachers or other financial or management diffi- culties. Various schools have had problems with delinquent payments to the Teacher Retirement System. Officials said the problems shouldn't cast a shadow on the whole program. "There's a general feeling in the Legislature that some time needs to go by so we can evaluate these programs. But certainly, if you have 100 outstanding programs but you have one bad program, the one bad program is the one that's going to get all the newspaper print," said House Public Education Committee Chairman Paul Sadler, D-Henderson. The State Board of Education has scheduled a workshop this week on the charter program, which has grown quickly since a 1995 law authorized the first 20. Schools began opening in fall 1996, and a 1997 law expanded the program. One hundred and forty schools were chartered in Texas in 1998 — perhaps the nation's single largest expansion in one year, said Alex Medler, U.S. Department of Education public charter school program analyst. Charter school facts i AUSTIN ~ Some charter school I facts and figured, according to the Texas Education Agency (enrollment and funding are for 1998-99 school year): • Schools chartered: 168. • School opened: 90. • Enrollment: 17,616. • Student breakdown: 66 percent at risk of dropping out 56 percent male : 44 percent female 34 percent African-American 42 percent Hispanic 22 percent white 8 percent special education 3 percent limited English proficiency 1 • State funding: $62.2 million. Federal entitlement: $2 million. State law: Twenty open-enrollment charter schools authorized under 1995 legislation. Up to 100 more charter schools similar to the first 20 authorized • under 1997 legislation. Unlimited number of additional schools authorized under 1997 law if at least 75 percent of their student bodies are considered at risk. 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SALE 8.99-35.99 OFF FAMOUS NEW YORK MAKER PASTEL TWIN SETS Matching sleeveless mocks and cardigans Orig S64-S98 SALE 31.99-48.99 10FF ANNA & FRANK SILK TOPS Slik fujl camp shirts and wesklts. Orlg S34. SALE 16.99 OFF SAVINGS FOR THE HOME; PLUS. LOOK FOR THESE HOME SAVINGS! 5O% OFF LAURA ASHLEY & ECHO ;>rtn tHfn.irt r rmn» R«*rt In A Oaq trr.li! rn SALE G7. 40% OFF VELVET COMFORTER SETS 50% OFF rlu«rt rnfflr and Onq SI'.Rfljq r.n'r J SALE 2f4.8O-25>.4O BREADMAN 2-LB. BREADMAKER Bnko'S up to a ?-lh toa* F**aime<i rtptov b*»kfi arurt fy\ra larqp. viewing window Orcq 99 99 curr fiO O3 SALE 49-99 5O% OFF GLASSWARE Ortfrtu Dii'anrl .->nrJ Wi flnrt h.v«/arc Rr>Q t A <» SALE 7.50-12-50 SALE 179.99 CLUB CHAIR By Pcmbrook tn linen, s?iqc ^od mau r and ortq^sl pr)«w «f« offering prte« onty and may or m«y nor n«vfl resulted tn sate*. AOvftrttsea merchandise may he Available at tne»« or similar sale pricos in upcoming aales mis season. Interim marxdowns may hnv« been taken on original prices. Re«ul.r and oriolnal Bnces are ottering pflcM only and may or may not nave resume) m sale,. AOverllsM merchandise may be available at these or Similar sale price, in upcoming sale, tnls season. Interim marKflswn, may nave M»n tnKen on on a in« pr,ces ENTER TO WIN AN AMERICAN ADVENTURE TRIP FOR FOUR FOLETS THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GOOD CHARGE IT WITH FOLEY'S WE ALSO WELCOME VISA MASTERCARD AND DISCOVER CHARGE IT WITH FOLEY'S WE ALSO WELCOME VISA MASTERCARD AND DISCOVER FOLEY'S THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GOOD EXCLUSIVE T-SHIRT, CAP & TOTE BAG, JUST $15.99 WITH ANY S25 PURCHASE Prison officials knew of 8-inch gap in fence FORT WORTH — Prison officials knew an 8-inch gap in a prison fence was a security problem but failed to correct it until a convicted murderer used it to escape last week, the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported Saturday. On June 27, Dallas murderer Clifford Dwayne Jones slipped free from one loop in a handcuff and scaled a 25-foot fence to the top of an enclosed recreational area in Huntsville's Estelle Unit. From there, he squeezed through the 8-inch gap between the top of the recreation yard and the roof of the prison, jumped to the ground and then cleared two other fences. The flaw was noticed months ago as officials began construction at four units that are modeled after the 660- bed Estelle facility. Airport Web site to list arrivals and departures GRAPEVINE — Surf before you fly. Starting next month, Dallas- Fort Worth International Airport will link the flight monitor displays in terminals with its site on the World Wide Web. The site, www.dfwairport.com, will list real-time arrival, departure and gate information for all flights at the airport. The airport board voted Thursday to approve a $60,000 contract with Infax of Atlanta to set up the flight information system, which should be running by late August, said Tracy Buxton, the airport's Web site content specialist. The Web site — which already includes information about terminals, parking and ground transportation — records about 1,500 "hits" a day. That should at least double when gate, arrival and departure information comes online, Buxton said. Lotto ticket-selling system goes down AUSTIN — A software glitch caused a temporary Texas Lottery outage Saturday, affecting sales terminals across the state and frustrating customers wanting a chance at the $14 million Lotto Texas jackpot. Lottery spokeswoman Pat Overton in Austin said the game's contractor, Gtech, reported a 2-hour system outage between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. The culprit appeared to be a glitch in part of the statewide software upgrade for the 16,000 retailers in Texas. The upgrade began several weeks ago and had proceeded without a hitch until Saturday, officials said. Outlets reporting trouble included stores in Pampa, Fort Worth, Carrollton and Houston. The Associated Press

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