Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of April 20
The Colorado House has abandoned legislation that would have laid the groundwork for a statewide single-payer health care system, the AP/Denver Post reports.
State Rep. John Kefalas (D) said he asked his colleagues to terminate the bill because he did not have enough votes to pass it.
Kefalas said the bill was introduced to aid the estimated 800,000 uninsured state residents, as well as those who are underinsured. The bill would have established a central health care authority, headed by a 23-member board of directors, to create the single-payer system (AP/Denver Post, 4/15).
Last week, the Missouri Senate passed a final budget plan that did not include funding for an expansion of its version of the Children's Health Insurance Program, as proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D), the AP/Columbia Missourian reports.
Nixon's plan would have eliminated CHIP premiums for families with incomes of 150% to 185% of the federal poverty level and reduced premiums for families with incomes of up to 225% of the poverty level.
The changes would have allowed an additional 16,000 children to enroll in the program and would have cost the state $7.7 million and the federal government $35.3 million.
In a party-line vote, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have eliminated premiums for families with incomes below 185% of the poverty level.
Republicans said they would not commit state money to expanding the program because it could continue to grow and require cuts in the future.
The state House also rejected the expansion (Lieb, AP/Columbia Missourian, 4/15).
Last week, the Nevada Senate Finance Committee rejected Gov. Jim Gibbons' (R) plan to abolish the Governor's Office of Consumer Health Assistance for Hospital Patients, which he said would save $926,993, the Nevada Appeal reports.
Supporters of retaining the office said that since it was created about a decade ago, the office has saved residents millions of dollars on large hospital and other medical bills (Dornan, Nevada Appeal, 4/14).
On Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) announced that a new one-page "Express Lane" application for the state's FamilyCare program will be mailed to families who indicated on their state tax forms that they have eligible, uninsured children, the Bergen Record reports.
Children in families with incomes up to 350% of the federal poverty level are eligible for FamilyCare.
The one-page form replaces a 14-page application (Groves, Bergen Record, 4/15).
Earlier this month, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri (R) signed into law a bill that "officially closed a loophole" to allow workers laid off from small businesses or firms that dissolved to receive COBRA subsidies included in the federal economic stimulus package, the Providence Journal reports.
The stimulus package provides coverage of 65% of COBRA premiums to workers in firms with up to 20 employees and those whose firms closed.
The bill was fast-tracked to amend current state law before the April 17 deadline imposed by the federal government (Needham, Providence Journal, 4/10).
Tennessee's TennCare program spent $706 million for prescription drugs in 2008, less than one-third of the $2.44 billion spent in 2005, according to state figures, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.
In 2005, the state capped the number of prescriptions that TennCare beneficiaries could fill per month at five, two of which can be brand-name drugs, Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said.
According to state officials, much of the reductions in spending came from cuts in enrollment and increases in Medicare payments, but drug costs for comparable TennCare beneficiaries fell by nearly 40% in the past three years (Flesser, Chattanooga Times Free Press, 4/12).
A temporary injunction blocking Washington state from imposing a rule that would cut Medicaid reimbursements for brand-name prescription drugs could cost the state $3 million or more, according to state Medicaid Director Doug Porter, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
The injunction, issued on March 31 by Judge Robert Bryan, prohibited the state from reducing reimbursement rates from 86% to 80% of the average wholesale price, a change that would have saved the state $1 million per month, according to Porter.U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle will hear from both sides in a hearing scheduled for May 18 and will decide whether to continue the ban or allow the reimbursement rate change (Klass, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/13). 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.