Health Care Reform News Around the Nation for the Week of Oct. 6
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) Cover Florida program and two other proposed measures intended to expand health care coverage to more state residents have stalled, Florida Health News reports.
State officials on Wednesday were expected to announce which of the nine health insurance companies, which submitted bids to offer basic low-cost health plans to residents, had been chosen as part of Crist's program. However, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson earlier this week said that the availability of the information on which companies were selected would be delayed until between Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.
AHCA spokesperson Fernando Senra said "scheduling challenges" caused the delay. The goal is to close the contracts by "mid to late" November so that the plan can be implemented by Jan. 1, 2009, Benson said.
Meanwhile, a change in insurance law that would extend to 30 the age a young adult can remain on a parent's health coverage has been delayed over questions concerning who decides -- the employer offering the coverage or the parent of the young adult -- whether a young adult can remain on the policy, according to Florida Health News. On Monday, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida announced that it will suspend optional coverage for dependents ages 25 to 40 until the provisions of the law have been clarified (Jordan Sexton, Florida Health News, 10/1).
An Illinois appellate court ruled that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) did not have the authority to expand the state's FamilyCare program without approval from the General Assembly, the Chicago Tribune reports. The decision upholds an earlier ruling that Blagojevich's expansion plan was beyond his administrative powers.
The judges said that Blagojevich'sÂ belief that he can expand the program without approval from lawmakers "suffers from several flaws." According to court documents, the Blagojevich administration is unable to identify how many adults are enrolled in the program or how much money the state collects in premiums.
Lucio Guerrero, a spokesperson for Blagojevich, said that the administration is considering appealing the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court (Garcia, Chicago Tribune, 9/27).
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) administration believes there is still time to work out a compromise with the Bush administration to alter the state's Medicaid program, state Department of Health and Hospitals Deputy Secretary Sybil Richard said on Thursday to members of an advisory group assisting the development of the Louisiana Health First initiative, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
Under the proposed pilot program, as many as 380,000 current Medicaid beneficiaries -- mostly children -- would be shifted from their current fee-for-service plans to managed care networks. Jindal's administration is hoping to begin the program in the Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, New Orleans and Shreveport regions by mid-2010. The pilot requires approval from HHS, which covers approximately 70% of the state's Medicaid costs. The state also is seeking forgiveness of $771 million in "disallowances," which the state plans to spend to expand Medicaid coverage.
According to the Times-Picayune, state officials are seeking to receive approval before the Bush administration leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009, because they are concerned the change in administration could delay the process by up to one year (Moller, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/3).
CMS on Tuesday agreed to grant Massachusetts a three-year, $10.6 billion Medicaid waiver that will allow the state to continue its health insurance law, the Boston Globe reports (Lazar, Boston Globe, 10/1). The waiver will allow the state to spend $21.2 billion over the next three years on its health insurance law, a $4.3 billion increase over the previous waiver (LeBlanc, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/1).
The 2006 Massachusetts health insurance law requires most state residents to obtain health coverage, with subsidized policies offered to those who meet income requirements. About 440,000 additional residents have obtained coverage since the program began (Boston Globe, 10/1).
The previous federal waiver for the program had expired June 30, but the government granted several extensions as negotiations for the new waiver were ongoing (Sack, New York Times, 10/1).
The waiver allows the state to maintain income eligibility for subsidized health coverage to residents with incomes up to 300% of the poverty level, who otherwise would not qualify for Medicaid. The agreement also allows the state to spend $5 billion over the next three years on its new programs, about $1 billion more than the previous waiver allowed (Boston Globe, 10/1).
Also on Tuesday, the administration of Gov. Patrick Deval's (D)Â administration said that it would delay until Jan. 1, 2009, new rules requiring businesses to contribute more toward workers' health coverage and that the rules would apply only to companies with 50 or more employees, rather than 10 or more, as previously planned. JudyAnn Bigby, the state HHS secretary, said that concerns raised by businesses about the rules were "compelling" and that it was not the state's intent to "penalize small businesses" (Boston Globe, 10/1).
In a letter to several state Senate Republicans on Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) described two alternative funding mechanisms for a scaled-down version of his proposal to expand health coverage to more uninsured state residents, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The revised proposals would expand coverage to an additional 250,000 uninsured adults; the previous proposal sought to expand coverage to an additional 270,000 adults.
Under the revised proposals, the annual cost of the plan would range from $723 million to $857 million by fiscal year 2012-2013, according to estimates from the Rendell administration. Rendell said both options would use a combination of existing state revenue and federal funding and would not include any tax increases.
The revised proposals also include funding for health clinics that serve low-income residents, as well as for the MCARE abatement program, which helps physicians pay for medical malpractice insurance. The program expired in March and Rendell said he would not reauthorize it until an agreement was reached on expanding health coverage (Raffaele, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/1).
Fewer Tennessee residents are uninsured, and satisfaction with TennCare -- the state's Medicaid program -- remains high, according to a University of Tennessee study released on Monday, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports. For the study, the university's Center for Business and Economic Research interviewed 5,000 heads of households by telephone between April and June of 2008.
According to the study, about two-thirds of household heads in TennCare said their care was "good" or "excellent," and three-fourths said the same for their children's care. The study also found that slightly more TennCare beneficiaries visited emergency departments this year, compared to last year (Knoxville News-Sentinel, 9/29).
The study is available online (.pdf).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.