Health Care Reform Around the Nation for May 11
Delaware Lt. Gov. Matt Denn (D) and two state lawmakers have proposed legislation (HB 139) that would eliminate income requirements for the state's health insurance program for children, the Wilmington News Journal reports.
Delaware Healthy Children is open to households with incomes of up to 200% of the federal poverty level. Monthly premiums are between $10 and $25.
Under the measure -- proposed by Denn, state Rep. Terri Schooley (D) and state Sen. Patricia Blevins (D) -- parents with incomes above the eligibility threshold could enroll their children in the plan for a monthly premium of about $110, the known average cost of providing medical care to children in the program.
The premium structure would allow the expansion to be carried out at no additional cost to the state, the News Journal reports (Gibson, Wilmington News Journal, 5/1).
The state could lose $300 million in federal Medicaid funding if lawmakers do not expand a pilot program statewide by fiscal year 2011, Health News Florida reports.
Under the pilot program, which former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) initiated in 2005, the state receives $1 billion annually for providing no-cost care to uninsured residents. However, the program also includes the penalty clause for reduced federal funds if it is not expanded by 2011.
According to Health News Florida, previous attempts to expand the program have been defeated by the state Legislature over the past two years, and some lawmakers this session have indicated that they do not plan on approving an expansion (Jordan Sexton, Health News Florida, 5/1).
Â Legislative leaders only recently learned of the penalty and "now are scrambling in the waning days of the lawmaking session" to approve special budget language requesting additional time from the federal government, the St. Petersburg Times reports.
They also must decide what to do with about $246 million in surplus funds, which some public hospital executives say should be used to close the $300 million shortfall if the penalty takes effect or any other funding deficits in the future (Caputo, St. Petersburg Times, 5/2).
Last week, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) signed a bill (HB 228) that will split the state's Department of Human Resources into three separate entities: the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Department of Community Health, and a refocused Department of Human Resources, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Perdue said he is dedicated to having the new agencies fully functional by July 1 (Gould Sheinin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/5).
The state Department of Health and Hospitals has issued emergency rules that cut Medicaid provider payments by 7% as part of an effort to reduce the department's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget by $445 million, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.
The cuts took effect immediately; however, they will have to be approved by the state Legislature to remain in effect for FY 2010, which begins July 1 (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 5/2).
Last week, the Missouri House rejected a spending bill that would have expanded Medicaid coverage to nearly 35,000 parents, the Kansas City Star reports.
Instead, a committee of lawmakers from both chambers of the state Legislature agreed to retain the $146.8 million slated for the expansion and use it for an alternative plan that has not yet been written.
The deal was viewed as necessary so that the budget can pass by Friday as required by the state's constitution (Noble, Kansas City Star, 5/6). According to the AP/Southeast Missourian, the bill failed by an 85-75 vote.
The bill would have expanded Medicaid coverage to custodial parents with incomes of up to 50% of the federal poverty level. Missouri's current income eligibility threshold for the program is $292 per month.
According to the AP/Missourian, the agreement gives lawmakers an additional week to reach a compromise on legislation that would expand coverage. The legislative session ends on May 15 (Lieb, AP/Southeast Missourian, 5/7).
Legislation that would use an increase in the South Carolina cigarette tax to create a new health coverage program for low-income state residents has stalled in the state Senate Finance Committee, the AP/Myrtle Beach Sun News reports.
The bill, which was approved by the state House, would increase the cigarette tax from seven cents per pack to 57 cents per pack.
Of the estimated $150 million the tax increase would generate, $100 million would be used to create a fund that would cover 75% of health care policies for residents with annual incomes of up to $21,600, with a maximum credit of $3,000. Employers with 25 or fewer lower-income workers would be eligible for a 67% credit for each worker, with the same maximum limit.
The remaining money would go toward health insurance for high-risk individuals, cancer research, smoking cessation and prevention programs, and agricultural marketing.
However, the insurance program would require federal Medicaid waivers for the 160,000 people whom supporters say the plan would cover.
State Senate Minority Leader John Land (D) said that there is no guarantee the waivers could be obtained and that the plan would waste money on administrative functions at state agencies and insurers that could be better spent in the existing Medicaid program (Davenport, AP/Myrtle Beach Sun News, 5/5).
Last week, Texas officials said that increased Medicaid enrollment and growing health care costs will require state lawmakers to provide an additional $1 billion in funding for Medicaid over the next two years, the Dallas Morning News reports (Garrett, Dallas Morning News, 5/6).
State officials said that amid job losses and the economic recession, more people now qualify for the program (Root, AP/Houston Chronicle, 5/5).The budget being negotiated by the state Senate and House already projects spending all the general revenue that the state comptroller said is available to lawmakers. Therefore, unless the comptroller increases its revenue estimates, the projected Medicaid increase could force lawmakers to cut more than 1% from the budget (Dallas Morning News, 5/6). 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.