Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of Oct. 27
A measure on Arizona's November ballot would amend the state's constitution to prohibit laws that mandate people obtain health coverage, or that restrict an individual's choice of private health care systems or private health plans, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
Proposition 101 also would prohibit laws that interfere with an individual's "right to pay directly for lawful medical services" or that impose a penalty or fine on an individual who chooses not to obtain coverage.
Supporters of the measure say they are concerned that mandatory health coverage could give state lawmakers "more power to dictate physician choices and treatment options than the insurance companies and HMOs already wield." Proponents of Proposition 101 include:
- Arizona Dental Association;
- Arizona Restaurant Association;
- Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association;
- Arizona Chiropractic Society;
- Arizona Homeopathic & Integrative Medical Association; and
- Goldwater Institute.
Opponents say the proposition is "ambiguous, poorly written and will wind up in the courts," the Daily Star reports. Opponents of the measure include:
- Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program;
- University Physicians Healthcare;
- Arizona's chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics;
- Arizona Academy of Family Physicians; and
- Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.
A group of proposition supporters have filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against AHCCCS, saying that taxpayer money should not be used to campaign against a ballot measure.
In a prepared statement, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) said, "We simply can't afford the unintended consequences of Proposition 101, which could take away benefits from thousands of Arizona families and drive up costs for taxpayers" (Innes, Arizona Daily Star, 10/20).
Last week, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration sent a proposal to Gov. Charlie Crist (R) calling for a Medicaid managed care pilot project to be expanded to 20 additional counties, Florida Health News reports.
The pilot, which currently operates in five counties under a federal Medicaid waiver, requires that beneficiaries sign up for managed care plans, usually HMOs, that offer additional benefits but also can place limits on them.
The request includes an increase in Medicaid payments for specialists, which is intended to increase access for beneficiaries.
However, the proposal was made at the same time the agency plans to comply with Crist's request that state agencies reduce staff by as much as 10% in the event that the current economic downturn forces further spending cuts (Gentry, Florida Health News, 10/20).
Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority board voted unanimously to proceed with new minimum standards for health coverage, but added exemptions for individuals, unions or employers who can prove that plans that have not been authorized by the state are comparable to the requirements, the Boston Globe reports.
In general, state-approved plans must offer benefits for prescription drugs, preventive and primary care, hospitalization, mental health and substance use services, and emergency services.
Those who do not have insurance, or cannot prove that their coverage meets these standards, will face an annual tax penalty. The amount of the penalty is $912 this year, but is expected to increase for 2009, state regulators said.
All insurers licensed in the state will be required to tell members whether their policies meet state standards, but individuals will be responsible for ensuring that their coverage is adequate.
The board also voted unanimously to delay until Jan. 1, 2010, implementation of rules mandating benefits for radiation and chemotherapy, maternity and newborn care, and diagnostic imaging and screening tests. The delay is intended to give employers more time to adjust their policies.
Mailings will be sent to employers and insurers to help explain the changes, according to Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the board (Lazar, Boston Globe, 10/18).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.