Humana drops Boulder hospital
A dispute over rates has prompted health insurance company Humana to no longer include Boulder Community Hospital as an in-network provider, effective Aug. 21.
Ross McLerran of Humana told Boulder Weekly the company notified its 4,200 affected members of the change in a letter last month.
BCH spokesperson Rich Sheehan said Humana asked the hospital to cut its rates by about 20 percent, which BCH simply could not do.
“We are continuing to negotiate with Humana and we are hoping to come to an accommodation that pleases both parties,” Sheehan said.
But McLerran said Humana officials are not optimistic that an agreement can be reached.
“Over the past 12 months of negotiation, Boulder Community Hospital failed to offer fair and reasonable rates comparable to that within the market,” he said. “Our research showed that Boulder Community Hospital charged Humana rates that are at least 23 percent higher than United HealthCare and Anthem health plans. We are not asking Boulder Community Hospital to match the lowest rate offered to other health plans, we are only asking them to get close to current market rates so that we can remain competitive.”
“As a nurse practitioner and now as a client/patient, I feel like a pawn in this massive and obscure ‘game,’” Humana member Lynda Monsey wrote in a letter to the insurance company. “When providers and hospitals seem to float in and out of these networks, it is the patients who suffer at the mercy of this chaos. … Surely Humana has smart enough, sensible enough, and compassionate enough people to negotiate a workable contract so the people of Boulder can use their local hospital.”
City council: No Xcel franchise
Boulder city council members voted 6-2 on Aug. 3 to not put a renewed franchise agreement with energy provider Xcel on the November ballot.
By choosing not to pursue a new 20-year agreement with Xcel, city officials say they could have more flexibility in determining the city’s future energy structure. Options include municipalization, working with outside providers or even a modified agreement with Xcel. In the meantime, Xcel will continue to provide power to Boulder and customers will not notice a difference in service.
While the city is deciding how to proceed, however, there remains a small issue of money. Under the current agreement, which expires at the end of the year, Xcel pays the city of Boulder approximately $4 million each year in franchise fees to use the city’s streets and rights-of-way. Xcel passes this cost on to customers as part of their monthly electric bills. Once the franchise agreement expires, however, the city will no longer be able to collect that fee. With the franchise option off the ballot, the city now must come up with a way to make up that $4 million.
One option that will be considered at the next city council meeting on Aug. 17 is a five-year “replacement tax” on Xcel. Like the franchise fee the company currently pays, it is expected the cost of the new tax would be passed on to customers. As a result, there would be no change in customers’ rates or in the amount of money the city receives from Xcel. Voters would have to approve this tax in November.
San Lazaro manager steps down
San Lazaro trailer park manager Laura Hadaway, who was the subject of a July 22 Boulder Weekly story about disputes between residents and management in the trailer park, has resigned.
Joshua Winter of San Lazaro Park Properties sent a letter to residents of the trailer park on July 29 announcing the change in management. Hadaway “has decided to continue her work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, along with possibly getting back into the legal profession,” Winter wrote in the letter. “We thank her for her tireless work and look forward to having her as a continued member of our community.”
Michael Moore, who had served as assistant manager at San Lazaro, was promoted to manager.
“Michael has assisted San Lazaro for quite some time now, and we are thrilled to have him accept the position,” Winter wrote.
Brancato back in the race
Bob Brancato of Firestone, a Republican candidate for Congress, has reinstated his campaign after a brief hiatus that was prompted by a Boulder Weekly inquiry.
Brancato, who is running against fellow Republican Stephen Bailey in the Aug. 10 primary, is aiming to unseat U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in the 2nd Congressional District.
Brancato suspended his campaign in late June after Boulder Weekly published an account of a domestic disturbance at his home last fall. No charges were filed, and Brancato and his wife disputed the account of the incident documented in a Firestone police report.
Brancato announced the reinstatement of his campaign on July 21.
Medical marijuana licensing begins
The City of Boulder began processing licenses for medical marijuana businesses on Aug. 2. Under Chapter 6-14 of the Boulder Revised Code, any medical marijuana business not operating by that date will have to obtain a license before it will be allowed to open.
The code also requires pre-existing medical marijuana businesses to apply for a license, under the following deadlines and conditions:
• Medical marijuana businesses that were operating before Aug. 2 but were not in compliance with Chapter 6-14 of the Boulder Code on June 17 have until Aug. 31 to submit a completed application for a license.
• Medical marijuana businesses that were operating on June 17 and were in compliance with all laws and regulations at that time have until Oct. 31 to apply for a license.
Under the code, medical marijuana business licenses are required for any business that involves medical marijuana, not just retail dispensaries.
The fee for a license is $5,000, of which $3,000 is non-refundable. The remaining $2,000 is refundable if the license is not issued.
Application forms are available for download at www.bouldercolorado.gov/medicalmarijuana. The same website includes detailed instructions, checklists and frequently asked questions. Questions can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers will be posted to the FAQ section of the website. People can also sign up to receive updates by going to the site.