Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of April 6
A new Illinois law that will reduce what hospitals charge uninsured patients and cap how much hospitals can collect from such patients takes effect on Wednesday, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports.
Under the law, hospitals cannot charge eligible uninsured patients more than 35% more than the cost of services. In addition, the law caps at 25% the amount of a patient's family income hospitals can collect annually from eligible uninsured patients.
The law aims to allow uninsured patients to pay for hospital services at discounted rates (AP/Chicago Tribune, 3/30).
State lawmakers have approved a $13 billion state budget that includes $1.2 million in new spending to extend coverage under the state's HealthWave program to more uninsured children, the Kansas City Star reports.
HealthWave oversees child Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries in the state.
The budget plan passed the Senate by a 35-5 vote and the House by a 71-53 vote and now proceeds to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) (Klepper, Kansas City Star, 3/31).
On March 31, the Maryland Senate voted to approve a bill that would guarantee uninsured patients with annual incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level no-cost care at state hospitals, the Baltimore Sun reports (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 4/1).
The Maryland House of Delegates unanimously approved the bill on March 28. Â
Under the bill, Maryland hospitals would be required to develop a financial assistance policy for uninsured and underinsured patients. The legislation would prohibit hospitals from charging interest on unpaid bills before creditors obtain a court judgment, and it would require hospitals to provide people referenced on hospital bills with information about financial assistance.
The bill also would require hospitals to train staff to help patients understand hospital billing and apply for government-sponsored health care programs (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 3/29).
Reports of fraud, abuse and neglect in Medicaid's home health care program have tripled over the past 10 years as the state significantly increased funding for the program, according to the state auditor's office, the Boston Globe reports.
The program pays for personal attendants for beneficiaries with disabilities.
A state audit last year found $610,000 in erroneous overpayments for personal care attendant services in 2005.
In response to the trend, the auditor's office, the state attorney general and federal health care agencies launched a task force to investigate major fraud cases involving home health care (Abel, Boston Globe, 3/28).
Last month, the Michigan House passed a package of bills that would repeal a 13-year-old law that provides pharmaceutical companies with immunity from lawsuits involving FDA-approved products, the Detroit News reports.
The main bill was passed by a 61-48 vote and the other bills passed with similar or narrower margins, according to the News.
Current law allows plaintiffs to collect legal damages only if they can prove that a company withheld or misrepresented information that would result in FDA revoking its approval of a drug.
The legislation would repeal the law retroactive to 1996 (Heinlein, Detroit News, 3/26).
Last week, the state Senate voted 26-5 to approve a $182.2 billion, two-year budget that includes $61.4 billion for health care, the Dallas Morning News reports. The health care spending includes:
- $45.6 billion for Medicaid;
- $2.4 billion for coverage for current and retired state employees;
- $2.3 billion for SCHIP; and
- $1.2 billion for health care for prison inmates (Garrett, Dallas Morning News, 4/2).
A U.S. District Court judge in Washington has issued a temporary injunction blocking the state from imposing a rule that would cut Medicaid reimbursements for brand-name prescription drugs, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports.
The rule was set to take effect on April 1 (Stucke, Spokane Spokesman-Review, 4/1).
Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) ordered a 6% reduction in Medicaid pharmacy reimbursements for brand-name drugs to save more than $100 million between 2009 and 2011.
Walgreen said that as a result of "extreme reimbursement cuts," it would withdraw 44 pharmacies in the state from the program as of May 1. Those pharmacies represent 60% of the company's Medicaid business in the state (Kell, Wall Street Journal, 4/1).
The Washington State Pharmacy Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association filed a lawsuit protesting the cuts.
Judge Robert Bryan scheduled a hearing on the matter for April 9 (Spokane Spokesman-Review, 4/1).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.