Health Care Reform Around the Nation: May 21
The state Legislature on Tuesday approved a bill that would increase income limits for Alaska's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program to 175% of the 2007 federal poverty level, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
The eligibility limits in 2003 were raised and frozen at 175% of that year's poverty level, but inflation has reduced the threshold to about 150%.
The legislation approved last week would reinstate coverage to about 1,300 of the 2,500 children who have lost benefits since the changes (Kizzia, Anchorage Daily News, 5/16).
Gov. Bill Ritter (D) on Tuesday signed a package of health care bills related to Medicaid, coverage for children and health disparities, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports.
The governor signed bills to:
- Extend Medicaid coverage for 1,400 foster children until age 21;
- Increase access to early-intervention medical care for children with disabilities; and
- Establish a state Office of Health Disparities and two advisory councils to address racial, ethnic and rural health disparities (Washington, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 5/16).
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) on Thursday signed into law a bill that would increase the state cigarette tax by 44 cents per pack to fund a new health insurance program for low-income residents, the AP/Louisville Courier-Journal reports. The plan requires approval from the federal government (Smith, AP/Louisville Courier-Journal, 5/11).
Daniels last fall proposed the plan, which the state House and Senate approved in April.
Under the program, state residents with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level would pay premiums to purchase health insurance through a private company. Participants also would receive a $1,100 health savings account and up to $500 in no-cost preventative care.
The bill also would:
- Increase the number of children and pregnant women who are eligible for Medicaid;
- Allow dependents up to age 24 to receive coverage through their parents' health insurance plans;
- Establish an insurance pool for small businesses; and
- Provide tax incentives to companies that offer health insurance to employees (California Healthline, 5/7).
The state House on Tuesday approved by voice vote an amendment that would extend the state Medicaid program until 2010, allowing lawmakers more time to hammer out plans for an overhaul, the Kansas City Star reports (Hoover, Kansas City Star, 5/18).
Earlier this month, House lawmakers approved a bill that would change the name of the program and place a greater emphasis on quality of care and patient responsibility (Wagar, Kansas City Star, 5/12). However, a House and Senate conference committee after two days of debate was unable to reach an agreement on advancing more comprehensive reform this year (Kansas City Star, 5/18).
Gov. Brain Schweitzer (D) on May 14 vetoed a bill that would have expanded Medicaid for children, citing the state Legislature's lack of agreement on the budget to fund the program, the AP/Billings Gazette reports.
Schweitzer in his veto message said he had "no other choice" without funding for the expansion, which would cost about $1.5 million. He also noted that he has signed legislation to expand Montana's version of SCHIP (AP/Billings Gazette, 5/15).
The state Legislature on Wednesday approved an $8 million Medicaid cost-sharing program included in Gov. Jim Gibbons' (R) health and human services budget, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports.
The program would achieve savings by:
- Improving health care management for some children, elderly and disabled beneficiaries; and
- Providing dental care to pregnant women, a move that is projected to reduce the number of premature births.
The plan also would increase Medicaid reimbursements for most physicians to 90% of the federal Medicare rate, while some specialists would receive 100% of the federal rate. The approved increase would cost the state $10 million less than an earlier budget plan that recommended a higher rate (Fehd, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/16). 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.