Health Care Reform Around the Nation: May 14
State Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist (R) urging him to include proposed changes to Florida's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program in the legislative agenda for a special session next month, the AP/Florida Times-Union reports.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers this year introduced a proposal to streamline Florida's version of SCHIP but could not reach an agreement before the legislative session ended May 4.
The proposal aimed to simplify the enrollment process for the program, which has seen a drop in participation over the last several years. Many of the more than 500,000 uninsured children in the state are eligible for SCHIP but are not enrolled.
Crist said he would consider adding the item to the agenda (Royse, AP/Florida Times-Union, 5/8).
A universal coverage proposal by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) that would create a new tax on the gross receipts of companies with annual revenue of more than $2 million has encountered considerable opposition from the business community, the New York Times reports.
Some business leaders maintain that the tax would exceed profits for many companies, and a few corporations have threatened to leave Illinois if the measure becomes law (Saulny, New York Times, 5/5).
Also on the subject of health care, Blagojevich (D) last week announced that more than 4,000 physicians have signed up for a state program that pairs beneficiaries in Illinois' version of SCHIP with primary care providers to reduce unnecessary visits to hospital emergency departments, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The program originally aimed to enroll 3,000 physicians (Chicago Tribune, 5/7).
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) on Thursday signed into law a bill that would establish a series of studies to assess the state's options for health care reform, the Kansas City Star reports.
The legislation is intended to build a foundation for a more significant overhaul of the state health care system next year (Klepper, Kansas City Star, 5/11). The bill also would:
- Create a premium-assistance program for families with annual incomes up to the federal poverty level who are ineligible for Medicaid;
- Encourage the use of pre-tax wages for health expenses;
- Designate grant money for high-risk insurance groups;
- Require additional screenings for newborns; and
- Establish a Medicaid fraud and abuse inspector general (California Healthline, 4/30).
The state House and Senate approved a two-year, $10 billion health and human services bill, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) said he would veto the measure because its exceeds his spending recommendations, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Draper, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/7).
The bill would:
- Expand coverage through state health insurance programs to 72,000 additional adults and children by 2011;
- Allow military families to enroll in a state health insurance program for low-income residents for one year without paying premiums;
- Establish a commission to develop a plan for providing universal coverage in the state;
- Launch an initiative to target uninsured state residents who qualify for public health insurance programs but are not enrolled; and
- Provide start-up funding for a health insurance exchange proposed by Pawlenty to allow state residents to purchase health insurance tax free (Associated Press, 5/7).
The Wisconsin Hospital Association issued recommendations calling for its member hospitals to provide uninsured patients with discounts similar to those negotiated by health insurance companies, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. The recommendations are intended to increase transparency in the billing and collection process, association officials said.
The group also recommended that member hospitals:
- Do more to inform uninsured patients about the availability of charity care and financial assistance;
- Provide financial assistance to patients with household incomes up to 300% of the poverty level; and
- Consider providing assistance for uninsured patients with catastrophic medical bills who cannot afford to pay (AP/Chicago Tribune, 5/6).