Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of March 16
Last week, the state House voted 82-14 to approve a bill that would expand eligibility for ARKids First, Arkansas' version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, to children in families with incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty level, the AP/Baxter Bulletin reports. The current income threshold is 200% of the poverty level.
The expansion will be funded with a state tobacco tax increase that took effect earlier this month, which is expected to generate $86 million, and matching federal funds.
Under the bill, about 8,000 additional children would become eligible for the program. The measure now advances to the state Senate (AP/Baxter Bulletin, 3/10).
The Idaho Senate voted 34-1 to cut $10.4 million from the state's Medicaid budget in 2010, saying that even with the additional funding from the federal economic stimulus package, the move is necessary to balance the state budget, the Idaho Statesman reports.
The House already has passed the measure, which freezes nursing home rates and discontinues transportation services for Medicaid beneficiaries to non-emergency appointments (Idaho Statesman, 3/10).
Last week, Massachusetts officials gave final approval to regulations prohibiting pharmaceutical and medical device firms from giving gifts to doctors, restricting companies' ability to buy doctors meals and requiring that companies report all payments greater than $50 made to doctors for certain types of consulting and speaking work, the Boston Globe reports.
The regulations, which the state Public Health Council approved 10-0, were adopted to implement a law passed last year that restricts interactions between physicians and drug and device makers.
Lawmakers said the regulations are intended to control costs by reducing unnecessary prescriptions and to make potential conflicts of interest transparent (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 3/12).
Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said that he will redirect millions of dollars for health care and other programs to help families affected by the economic recession, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Rendell said he would immediately extend adultBasic coverage to an additional 16,000 people on the waiting list for the program, which provides health insurance to lower-income adults. More than 200,000 residents are on the waiting list, 25,000 of whom were added in February.
Administration officials said no new funding would be required immediately for the expansion (Couloumbis, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/10).
Earlier this month, the Utah House voted 50-23 to approve a bill (HB 171) that would remove the five-year residency requirement for children of documented immigrants to receive coverage under Medicaid or SCHIP, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The bill passed a preliminary vote in the state Senate, but it must pass a second vote in the chamber before it can advance to Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) for his signature (McFarland, Salt Lake Tribune, 3/10).
Earlier this month, the state House voted 68-28 to approve a bill (HB 2128) that would allow families with incomes greater than 300% of the federal poverty level to purchase nonsubsidized health coverage for their children, the AP/Seattle Times reports.
The bill would allow families to buy into the program after Jan. 1, 2010. According to the measure, the benefits offered under nonsubsidized plans would differ from those offered under subsidized coverage.The bill, which now advances to the state Senate for consideration, also calls for greater outreach to improve the ways that parents are informed about their children's eligibility for coverage (La Corte, AP/Seattle Times, 3/7). 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.