Health Care Reform News From Around the Nation for April 27
On Wednesday, the Arizona Senate approved two bills that would allow the state to receive $1.7 billion in federal economic stimulus funding for Medicaid and unemployment, the Arizona Republic reports (Benson, Arizona Republic, 4/23).
One bill would reverse a requirement adopted last year that some childless adults reapply for Medicaid benefits every six months instead of annually. Because the rule took effect after a federally imposed cut-off date, CMS said the state was out of compliance with the requirements of the stimulus package.
The state would use the Medicaid funds to help close budget shortfalls in this and next fiscal years.
A second bill would provide laid-off state residents with 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits (Davenport, AP/Tucson Citizen, 4/22).
On Tuesday, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed a bill (HB 1293) that would impose a fee on hospitals to raise about $600 million annually to draw down matching federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage and other health programs, the Denver Post reports.
If the bill receives federal approval, Medicaid eligibility for children and pregnant women would increase from 205% to 250% of the federal poverty level, and single, childless adults with incomes at the poverty level would be eligible for Medicaid.
In addition, the legislation would guarantee Medicaid enrollment for children for up to one year.
The measure would expand coverage to at least an additional 100,000 uninsured state residents over several years.
The bill also would create a program allowing adults with disabilities who have annual incomes of up to $48,735 to pay for part of their medical care, with the state paying the remainder.
The bill would be enacted over the next two years if the state receives federal approval to levy the fees (Hoover/Brown, Denver Post, 4/22).
Last week, the Iowa House voted 92-3 to approve a narrower version of health insurance legislation that would establish a panel to make recommendations to the state Legislature about how to help people obtain health insurance, the Des Moines Register reports.
The House version of the bill eliminated the creation of a health insurance exchange that would have helped residents find affordable coverage, and does not include limits on drugmakers' gifts to health care providers.
The original bill also would have permitted small businesses to buy into the state employees' insurance plan, but the House version no longer contains that provision.
The bill will now return to the state Senate (Leys, Des Moines Register, 4/21).
Last week, HHS Secretary-designate Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) signed legislation that amends state law and offers subsidies covering up to 65% of premium costs for workers using COBRA benefits through 2010, Kansas Health Institute News reports.
The federal economic stimulus package that President Obama approved in February provides the subsidies for workers so they can temporarily continue their health insurance benefits after losing their jobs.
The state legislation puts Kansas in compliance with the stimulus package requirements (Kansas Health Institute News, 4/14).
On Tuesday, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announced plans to designate and provide higher reimbursement to physicians whose practices participate in model care programs known as "patient-centered medical homes," the Detroit Free Press reports.
A patient-centered medical home refers to physician practices that improve patient care through the help of health coaches, nurses, dietitians and others, as well as with coordinated electronic health records. The practices must focus on patient wellness, chronic disease management, reducing medical complications and improving access to care to prevent visits to the emergency department.
Under the program, BCBS beginning July 1 will increase payments by 10% to practices that act as medical homes.
The insurer has provided $100 million over the last five years to create the system for 1,000 physicians at 300 primary care practices throughout the state (Anstett, Detroit Free Press, 4/21).
Last week, the Washington state House voted 89-9 to approve a bill (HB 2341) that would eliminate beneficiaries from the state's Basic Health Plan if they receive separate health benefits from the state Department of Social and Health Services, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.The bill also would allow Basic Health officials to remove more people from the program based on their income, their ability to get other health insurance and how long they have been enrolled in the Basic Health program (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/21). 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.