Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for Jan. 26, 2009
Earlier this month, the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut unveiled a proposal for a new state health care program intended to expand insurance coverage to the state's estimated 300,000 uninsured residents and cover up to 98% of all state residents by 2014, the Hartford Courant reports.
The proposed SustiNet program would begin enrolling residents in 2011 and would expand the state's employee health insurance pool to include residents who already are enrolled in the state's Medicaid and HUSKY health programs.
UHCF officials expect the program to save individuals and employers as much as $1.7 billion by 2014 because of the large size of the insurance pool.
However, the state could be expected to spend an additional $950 million in 2014 when the program is projected to be fully implemented and operational, the Courant reports.
Connecticut lawmakers are expected to address health care reform in the current session, the Courant reports (Levin Becker, Hartford Courant, 1/13).
Some Iowa lawmakers this month announced their support for a measure that would allow small businesses, local governments and not-for-profit groups to buy into the state employee health care coverage program, the AP/Omaha World-Herald reports.
State Sen. Jack Hatch (D) said Gov. Chet Culver (D) has promised to support the measure (AP/Omaha World-Herald, 1/15).
On Jan. 14, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) proposed reducing the state's operating budget by 1.3% to $14.4 billion in fiscal year 2010 to close an estimated $2 billion budget shortfall, the Baltimore Sun reports (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 1/22).
Cuts proposed in the budget would delay an expansion of Medicaid to more than 70,000 childless adults in the state (Wagner/Helderman, Washington Post, 1/22).
State lawmakers approved a multi-phase Medicaid expansion in 2007, and about 25,000 state residents have enrolled in the program since the first phase of the expansion for low-income children and their parents (Witte, AP/The Capital, 1/16). Benefits for childless adults were scheduled to be extended in July (Washington Post, 1/22).
O'Malley said his proposed budget could change by April based on the amount of federal assistance the state receives from the economic stimulus package being debated in Congress (AP/The Capital, 1/16).
In an e-mail sent last week to three state lawmakers, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) outlined a proposal to shift oversight of elderly care services, such as adult day care and home health care, from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to the agency that oversees Medicaid, the Boston Globe reports.
The lawmakers responded with a joint letter saying that the reorganization should be shelved.
AARP and other advocates for the elderly also oppose the shift.
The governor must submit his reorganization plan to the state Legislature, which must act on it within 60 days or it will become state law. Under the law, lawmakers must approve or reject the entire proposal without making any changes (Lazar, Boston Globe, 1/22).
In other Massachusetts news, more than 44,000 seniors in the state must pay larger prescription drug copayments as a result of an $11 million cut to the state Prescription Advantage program, which provides copay assistance for seniors who meet an income-eligibility requirement, the Globe reports.
The cut, which was part of Gov. Patrick's $1 billion state budget reduction in October 2008, could leave many seniors paying double or triple their copays, state officials said (Lazar, Boston Globe, 1/14).
Republican state lawmakers have proposed eliminating the Utah Department of Health and shifting its responsibilities to other agencies, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The proposal is intended to help cut a combined $50 million from the Human Services and Health departments' budgets this fiscal year and $102 million from the FY 2010 budgets (May, Salt Lake Tribune, 1/21).
The West Virginia Medicaid Fund Advisory Council has unanimously approved a plan to ask CMS for permission to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for dentists for the first time in eight years, the Charleston Gazette reports.
West Virginia's Medicaid program covers some dental care for children younger than age 19 and emergency tooth extractions for adults ages 19 and older.
State Medicaid officials expect CMS to approve the request within the next two months (Eyre, Charleston Gazette, 1/11).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.