Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of March 2
Last week, the Colorado Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill (SB 132) that would repeal a program created to provide low-income state residents access to affordable prescription drugs, the Denver Post reports.
When the Colorado Cares Rx Program was created in 2007, supporters believed it could help more than 250,000 state residents. The state partnered with RxOutreach, the not-for-profit arm of a mail-order pharmacy, to operate the program.
However, after it was rolled out in 2008, a Post analysis found that chain pharmacies had cheaper prices for many of the drugs available through the program.
Eliminating the program would save the state about $3.9 million annually (Ingold, Denver Post, 2/25).
The Connecticut Association of Health Plans and ConnectiCare's CEO Mickey Herbert have been talking with state lawmakers and business groups about a proposal that would require all residents to obtain health insurance coverage, the Hartford Courant reports. Residents who are insured would have the option of keeping their coverage.
For people who cannot obtain or afford private coverage, a new insurance pool would be established and residents would be eligible for coverage regardless of pre-existing health conditions. The pool would have multiple insurers with multiple plans that bid to participate.
Although details such as premiums, copayments and benefits have not been worked out, government subsidies would be needed to keep coverage affordable for lower-income residents (Levick, Hartford Courant, 2/20).
Broward County, Fla., commissioners on Tuesday sent the state Legislature a resolution saying that the county wants to end its participation in a Medicaid pilot program that some say has led to delays in access to care, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Wyman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/25).
Under the pilot program, which covers most Medicaid beneficiaries in five Florida counties, the state pays private insurers a set amount for covering a specific number of residents and the companies determine what benefits and coverage network they will offer.
An Associated Press analysis indicated that physicians are dropping out of the program and there is little evidence to show that the program saves money (California Healthline, 2/9).
State officials have said that the program is effective and should continue because it has increased the number of health plans available, allows beneficiaries to customize their care and provides services Medicaid did not cover previously, according to the Sun-Sentinel (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/25).
Last week, the Kansas House voted 62-57 to reject a bill (HB 2287) that would have allowed small employers who do not offer employees health coverage to establish a so-called Health Reimbursement Arrangement to provide premium assistance to employees with private health coverage, the Kansas Health Institute News reports.
The National Federation of Independent Business-Kansas, the Wichita Independent Business Association and other small-business groups supported the bill.
State insurance department officials said they were concerned that the bill would undermine the small-group market by encouraging workers and employers to favor individual health plans over employer-sponsored health coverage (Kansas Health Institute News, 2/20).
Massachusetts Rep. John Scibak (D) recently announced plans to launch an effort to support passage of a bill that requires all children in the state to have a dental exam before entering kindergarten, the Springfield Republican reports.
The Massachusetts Dental Society, which supports the bill, could not estimate how many children in the state currently have a dental exam before entering kindergarten but noted that many children in low-income families have teeth and gum problems (Ring, Springfield Republican, 2/19).
Daunting paperwork and the annual recertification process are among the reasons more than one-third of New York state residents enrolled in Medicaid and other public health insurance programs lose their coverage even though they remain eligible, according to a study by the New York State Health Foundation, the New York Times reports.
For the study, researchers used information gathered from 60 state residents during eight focus group meetings in November and December 2008 in Albany, Buffalo and New York City.
The study aimed to determine why eligible beneficiaries were dropping their health coverage (Bosman, New York Times, 2/25).
In related news, the New York Medicaid program spends more on long-term care than programs in other states but delivers only average or slightly above average quality of care, according to a study the Rockefeller Institute of Government released earlier this month, the AP/USA Today reports.
According to the study, Medicaid spending for New York in 2006 totaled almost $45 billion -- the most of any of the states -- followed by California at $34 billion. New York also led all of the states on Medicaid spending for long-term care at $19 billion, followed by $12 billion for California, the study found.
New York spent an average of $5,500 on long-term care for dual eligibles, more than twice the national average, according to the study (Bauman, AP/USA Today, 2/20).
Utah state Sen. Luz Robles (D) and state Rep. Kory Holdaway (R) have introduced similar bills (SB 225 and HB 171) that would eliminate a five-year waiting period for children of documented immigrants to become eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid coverage, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.Earlier this month, President Obama signed into law a reauthorization and expansion of the program that includes a provision allowing states to eliminate a federal five-year waiting period for coverage of documented immigrant children. The two Utah bills would remove similar language from state eligibility guidelines (Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 2/24). 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.