Health Care Reform Around the Nation for the Week of Feb. 23
Last week, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) signed into law a bill that will increase the state's cigarette tax by 56 cents per pack to fund health care programs, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. The tax will take effect March 1 and is expected to generate $87.8 million (DeMillo, AP/Kansas City Star, 2/17).
Beebe has proposed using the funding to expand the ARKids First B Medicaid program to children in families with incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty level, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
The current income threshold is 200% of the poverty level. The proposal would extend coverage to an additional 8,000 children (Blomeley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 2/15).
The tax increase also would fund a statewide trauma care system, among other programs (AP/Kansas City Star, 2/17).
Earlier this month, Louisiana legislative leaders said state lawmakers will not consider Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid program until CMS approves the state's waiver application, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.
The Jindal administration is seeking the waiver from the agency to experiment with insurance-based managed care programs in four areas of the state, according to the Advocate.
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine last week said such an approval can take up to six months to receive (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 2/13).
State Sen. Bill Avery (D) has introduced legislation (LB 136) that would increase the income eligibility level for the Kids Connection Medicaid program to 200% of the poverty level, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
The current income threshold is 185% of the poverty level; six other states set their eligibility at this level or lower.
Kids Connection will receive an 86% increase in funding for the current fiscal year under the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, according to an estimate by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute (Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, 2/16).
Medicaid payments for nursing homes in Texas have not kept pace with rising health care costs, and owners "say they cannot survive" with low reimbursements, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Medicaid reimburses nursing homes in the state at a rate of $113 per beneficiary per day.
Stephanie Goodman, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said, "The nursing home rate that we have in Texas does not, and has not for a long time, fully cover the costs that the nursing homes incur to provide the care."
In the past three years, 60 nursing homes in the state have closed. State officials say nursing homes would need $368 million over the next two years to ensure that the facilities can continue providing care for the state's aging population.State lawmakers in recent sessions have approved small daily increments to the payment rate, about $6 per beneficiary last year, and state Sen. Robert Deuell (R) said that the chances for a significant increase this year are "not very good" because of the state's tight budget (Elliott/Scharrer, Houston Chronicle, 2/15). 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.