Saturday headlines
11:50 am
Sat January 4, 2014

State mails 49,000 kids' insurance cards to wrong people

North Carolina health officials say they inadvertently disclosed the personal information of almost 49,000 children receiving Medicaid coverage.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Friday night that nearly 49,000 Medicaid cards showing the children's names, Medicaid identification numbers, dates of birth and primary care physicians were mailed December 30th to the wrong people. Spokesman Ricky Diaz said officials were informed of the problem Thursday and provided public notice as quickly as possible. The department is investigating.

HOSPITALS FACE LAWSUIT OVER BILLING PRACTICES

Two hospitals in Iredell County are facing a federal whistleblower lawsuit by two former emergency room doctors who say they were fired for not ordering unnecessary tests and unnecessary hospital admissions.  Doctors Thomas Mason and Steven Folstad say in a lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Charlotte that they were pressured to boost revenues for parent company Health Management Associates of Florida. They originally filed the suit in 2010 under seal, but it became public last month when the U.S. Justice Department got involved. It’s one of a series of similar suits around the country against the hospital company.  Health Management Associates said it will fight the lawsuits. Officials said they closely monitor billing practices and compliance programs to stay within the law.

INSURERS WANT 25% HIKE IN HOMEOWNERS' PREMIUMS

The group representing companies that provide homeowners insurance in North Carolina is seeking an average increase of more than 25 percent, a request the state insurance commissioner describes as appalling. The North Carolina Rate Bureau filed the request Friday, seeking an increase beginning August 1st. Insurance Department officials say the new prices range from a decrease of almost 3 percent to an increase of more than 35 percent. The state will review the request and propose adjustments. If the two sides don't agree, then a public hearing would be held. The last rate increase was in July, and  Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin says he's appalled that companies would request more increases so soon.

MINISTER GETS 25 YEARS FOR SEX CRIMES

A federal judge in Charlotte has sentenced a former minister in Gaston County to 25 years in prison for sexually molesting two Haitian girls on mission trips to that country. Larry Bollinger pleaded guilty a year ago to two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. He told the judge Friday he was suffering from sexual addiction. Bollinger traveled regularly to Haiti with the Lazarus Project, which supports charitable organizations in the country.

APPALACHIAN TRAIL HIKERS RESCUED

Three Appalachian Trail hikers who were stranded in the snow without shelter  have been flown to a hospital by helicopter. Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials said the three men, from Gaffney, South Carolina, were taken to Mission Hospital in Asheville Friday afternoon. The men set out on Thursday for a 10-day backpacking trip. They used their cellphones to call for help Thursday night. Wind chills were 20 degrees below zero and snow drifts were up to 2 feet high. Rangers eventually reached the men, finding them weak and unable to walk. They were being treated for hypothermia and possible frostbite.

MORE FLU DEATHS IN S.C.

South Carolina reported three more flu deaths the week of Christmas, and officials say the number of cases continues to rise. The Department of Health and Environmental Control says nine people have now died in South Carolina since the flu season began in September