Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of Oct. 20
Last week, Cook County, Ill., Judge James Epstein renewed an order prohibiting the state from making payments under a health coverage expansion enacted under an emergency order by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), the AP/Chicago Tribune reports (Robinson, AP/Chicago Tribune, 10/15).
Last month, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld an earlier decision that Blagojevich did not have the authority to expand the FamilyCare program without approval from the General Assembly (California Healthline, 10/6).
Epstein refused to stay the order pending an appeal by the state and said the state has 14 days to explain how it intends to comply with the order. He said that people who gained coverage under the expansion "do not have a right to continue to receive coverage under this improperly promulgated program."
In a statement following Epstein's action, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services said the agency is "currently reviewing the decision, but the governor is committed to making sure that these families continue to get the insurance they need" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 10/15).
Pennsylvania's two-year legislative session is ending without a compromise on overhauling the state's health care system, as sought by Gov. Ed Rendell (D), the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Republican lawmakers in the state objected to Rendell's proposal, saying that a weakening state economy would require tax increases to sustain the coverage expansion (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/11).
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Legislature did approve legislation that would ban mandatory overtime for nurses at all health care facilities in the state, and Rendell is expected to sign the measure into law, the Philadelphia Daily News reports (Hyclak, Philadelphia Daily News, 10/13).
The bill would prohibit health care facilities from requiring nursing and other health care employees to "work in excess of agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled daily work shifts." Nurses could voluntarily work overtime after a 12-hour shift but could not be fired for refusing overtime.
Health care facilities still could require overtime if there is an "unforeseeable, declared national, state or municipal emergency;" if there is a "highly unpredictable and extraordinary event," such as a terrorist attack; or when a facility has a large amount of unforeseen absences by employees (Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/7).
The ban will take effect July 1, 2009, to give health care facilities time to hire more nurses (Philadelphia Daily News, 10/13).
The Utah Legislature's Health System Reform Task Force work groups are beginning to release details of recommendations for overhauling the state's health care system, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Mark Bair, chair of the work group comprising health care providers, said that all uninsured state residents would have to obtain coverage for reform to work, which will require affordable and portable health plans that are issued on a modified community rating. Coverage would have to be available to residents with pre-existing health conditions.
Bair also said that tax advantages and choices would have to be maximized and a Web site with benefit and cost information would help consumers shop for coverage. In addition, the state would have to overhaul the medical malpractice system to reduce overutilization of health care services and offer incentives for people to lead healthier lives, Bair said (Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 10/14).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.