Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for January 12
A proposal that would require Colorado hospitals to pay a per-patient fee to the state could fund health coverage for an additional 200,000 state residents, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports.
The office of Gov. Bill Ritter (D) and the Colorado Hospital Association are continuing to negotiate a fee, but CHA board members support the plan, according to CHA President Steven Summer.
The fee, which could generate up to $600 million annually along with federal matching funds, would be used to expand eligibility in government-sponsored health programs, allow some residents to buy into Medicaid and increase payments for physicians and hospitals that treat Medicaid beneficiaries (Sealover, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 1/7).
Louisiana health care providers will receive nearly $130 million of a $600 million federal Social Service Block Grant for disaster assistance released on Tuesday by HHS, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
Part of the funds will go to health care providers that experienced losses because of hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, and to assist medical facilities affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The money was approved by Congress in September as part of a larger spending bill.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals will be responsible for distributing the grants.
However, the agency still is awaiting guidance from HHS before creating a distribution formula, according to Tony Keck, chief of staff for state Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine (Moller, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 1/7).
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Monday "accelerated his administration's efforts to control spiraling statewide health care costs," and said that officials are considering regulations to block excessive insurance premiums, the Boston Globe reports.
A recent investigation by the Globe's Spotlight Team found that an agreement between the former CEOs of Partners HealthCare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts helped drive up health costs in the state.
Following the investigation, Patrick on Monday convened a panel of senior administration officials to coordinate new and existing state cost containment efforts. He said that cost containment efforts should be developed by this summer and that he expects to file new legislation.
Patrick said, "The increases at this rate over time (are) just not sustainable, not for families, not to business, not for government," adding, "We have to get at cost containment because these kinds of premium increases and the unevenness in the way various providers are compensated for similar services have to be addressed in order to assure the long-term viability of this grand experiment" of the state's health insurance law.
State Inspector General Gregory Sullivan said he wants providers and insurers to hold off signing new contracts until the Patrick administration has implemented new, as-yet-undetermined policies to limit premiums.
Partners and BCBS on Monday said they look forward to participating in Patrick's discussions (Bombardieri, Boston Globe, 1/6).
Last week, U.S. District Court Senior Judge John Nixon said TennCare officials can review the eligibility of about 150,000 beneficiaries with disabilities who previously were protected from review by a 1987 injunction, the Tennessean reports (Tennessean, 1/9).
On Wednesday, the administration of Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) asked Nixon to release the state from the ruling.
Bredesen made the request on the grounds that reviewing the eligibility of this group -- many or all of whom subsequently could be released from the program -- could allow the state to save tens of millions of dollars at a time when the state is considering cutting benefits to other beneficiaries to meet budget reduction goals.
Bredesen has asked that state agencies cut at least 15% of spending from their budgets. Because the state has been barred from reviewing the eligibility of these beneficiaries, it is not known how much a full review could save the state, according to the Tennessean.
Tennessee Justice Center attorney Gordon Bonnyman, who represents those who were protected against review by the 1987 ruling, reiterated the language from the ruling, stating that the state has not proven that it is capable of appropriately reviewing the eligibility of the 150,000 beneficiaries.
The ruling, issued in a case filed in 1979 by Tennessee Medicaid beneficiaries, covered severely disabled individuals, whose care costs the state about $400 million annually, according to the Tennessean (Emery, Tennessean, 1/8).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.