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Site offers warning, not cheaper drugs

An Internet site Gov. Jim Doyle promised would help people order cheaper prescription drugs from Canada offers a warning instead _ that importing drugs is illegal.

Doyle pledged in December to create a site to help residents avoid skyrocketing domestic drug prices. But the site, launched Wednesday, contains no links to Canadian pharmacies, no addresses and no phone numbers.

"I would like to provide you with the names of those Web sites, but I can't," the Democratic governor says in a Web site statement. "The Bush administration refuses to permit states to help people save money by purchasing medicine from Canada."

Doyle spokesman Dan Leistikow said the site is a work in progress, and that the goal remains to offer links to Canadian pharmacies.

Drugs are as much as 50 percent cheaper in Canada because of government price controls, but importing prescription drugs is banned by U.S. federal law.

Challenging HMOs on emergency care pays off

If your managed care plan refuses to pay for a trip to the emergency room, it might pay to challenge the decision.

Denials of emergency room coverage are almost always reversed and claims paid if the decisions are appealed, according to a new study of claims at two large California HMOs.

Researchers from the RAND Corp. health think tank and the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than 90 percent of coverage denials for emergency room care were won on appeal.

The study, published today in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, analyzed 405 appeals of coverage denials from two health plans from 1998 to 2000. Disputes over emergency room payment made up 52 percent of appeals for services already provided at one plan and 34 percent in the second plan.

Coverage of emergency room visits has been one of the major sore points of managed health care. Federal law requires emergency rooms to provide medical screening and stabilize patients who present themselves for treatment, regardless of whether they have insurance coverage or if the visit is covered by insurance.

Managed care plans have argued that too many people seek ER care for minor ailments that could be handled by a physician within the health plan during regular office hours. Nearly half (46 percent) of the appeals in the study involved weekend, nighttime or holiday visits, and the average cost was $1,107.

Lottery show winner killed crossing street

ELWOOD, Ind. _ A man who won $57,000 in an Indiana lottery game taped for television died hours later when he was hit by a pickup truck.

The Hoosier Millionaire featuring Carl D. Atwood, 73, was broadcast Saturday night after his family said they wanted the show to go on, Hoosier Lottery director Jack Ross said.

Atwood won the money Thursday during a two-hour taping in Indianapolis.

"I am very thankful," he proclaimed. "I must admit that I never expected to be leaving the show with this amount of money. Now I can purchase a very nice car."

Hours later, Atwood was hit by a truck as he walked to the grocery store where he bought the winning ticket near his home in Elwood, about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis. He died at a hospital.

The driver has not been charged.

Atwood would have been among those invited back to compete for a $1-million grand prize in three weeks.

"We will work with the family to make arrangements on how to handle the championship show," Ross said. "We will certainly have a place on that show for someone who the family chooses to take his place."

Freezing rain coats Plains to East Coast

Winter storms dumped freezing rain, sleet and snow from the Plains to the East Coast on Sunday, making traveling treacherous along ice-slicked roads.

At least 15 people died in weather-related car wrecks. Dozens of airline flights were delayed or canceled from Missouri to South Carolina, and sporadic power outages were reported.

Nevertheless, the National Weather Service said an icy storm bound for the Northeast packed less of a punch than had been expected.

Still, North Carolina's Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency as the storm moved East. Freezing drizzle Sunday afternoon coated an earlier covering of snow. Troopers responded to 2,000 traffic accidents by mid afternoon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety said.

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