Health Care Reform Around the Nation: April 16
Key lawmakers waned in their support for a bill that would provide state-funded coverage for all state residents under age 65 after a nonpartisan financial analysis said the initiative could cost as much as $17.7 billion annually -- more than the governor's proposed state budget -- the Hartford Courant reports. The estimate was based on annual premiums of $6,000 per person.
The bill would create a single-payer system and expand access to health insurance to nearly three million residents. It received committee approval last month and awaits action in the House and Senate.
After receiving the cost estimates, House and Senate leaders said they would shift their focus to increasing enrollment in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (Keating, Hartford Courant, 4/10).
The Dirigo universal coverage initiative that took effect two years ago has helped to make Maine the only state to reduce its percentage of uninsured residents over the last five years, although enrollment in the voluntary plan has fallen significantly short of initial projections, BusinessWeek reports.
Dirigo provides income-adjusted subsidies to individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance.
After an initial start-up contribution from the state, the system is intended to sustain itself through annual contributions from insurers and self-insuring large employers. The system for calculating the so-called offset payments has been an area of contention, prompting lawsuits from some insurers (Arnst, BusinessWeek, 4/16).
The state legislative session ended with senators declining to act on a state House-approved bill that would have doubled the tobacco tax to $2 per pack to expand Medicaid coverage to as many as 200,000 low-income adults and children, the Washington Post reports.
State House leaders called the proposal a top priority at the onset of the session, but momentum dwindled as other measures moved to the top of the legislative agenda (Wagner/Rein, Washington Post, 4/10).
The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill (SB 577) that by 2013 is intended to shift the state's Medicaid beneficiaries into a new managed care health insurance program called HealthNet, the Kansas City Star reports.
The bill would move the state's more than 800,000 beneficiaries into one of three groups based on where they live and whether they have chronic health conditions.
HealthNet also would assign each beneficiary a primary care physician and a health care advocate. It would offer monetary incentives to providers that deliver quality care and bonuses to beneficiaries who engage in healthful behaviors.
The bill now moves to the state House for consideration (Wagar, Kansas City Star, 4/13).
The state House on Thursday approved health care reform legislation modeled after recommendations from the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
The bill would:
- Encourage health care practices that have been proven effective;
- Launch health promotion programs for state employees;
- Encourage the use of electronic health records; and
- Provide online access to the University of Washington Health Science Library.
The legislation also would establish a pilot program under which a state board would help small businesses negotiate lower health insurance premiums. The provision is modeled after a similar effort in Massachusetts (Byrd, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/13). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.