Health Care Reform News From Around the Nation: October 1, 2007
Two Arizona surgeons on Tuesday unveiled a 2008 statewide general election ballot proposal that would prevent mandated health coverage from ever being enacted in the state, the Arizona Republic reports.
Jeffrey Singer, treasurer of the ballot measure campaign, said the proposal would preserve residents' rights to purchase or abstain from purchasing health insurance (Pitzel, Arizona Republic, 9/26).
The proposal, called the Medical Choice for Arizona Act, also would ensure that residents can continue to purchase prescription drugs or alternative medical treatments not covered by insurance, Singer said.
Supporters have until July 3, 2008, to collect 230,047 signatures for the measure to be added to next year's general election ballot.
Meanwhile, a separate petition drive, organized by Healthy Arizona, is preparing a measure that seeks to provide health coverage to all residents and that would base premiums on a sliding income scale (Fischer, Capitol Media/Arizona Daily Star, 9/26).
Under a third proposal by Arizonans for Responsible Health Care, all documented residents who have been in the state a minimum of three years would receive health coverage paid for by employers and employees through payroll deductions (Arizona Republic, 9/26).
The federal government approved an Indiana state-subsidized program that will allow health insurance to be extended to about 130,000 uninsured state residents, the AP/Indianapolis Star reports.
The program will be partially funded by an increase in the state cigarette tax, which is expected to generate $140 million annually, as well as federal matching funds. Over the next five years, the federal government is expected to contribute more than $1 billion to the program.
Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) said he expects the program to begin in January 2008 (AP/Indianapolis Star, 9/21).
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Wednesday said he wants to increase the state cigarette tax to $2 per pack to help address a $1.7 billion structural budget deficit and provide a "down payment" on a health care expansion, the Baltimore Sun reports.
According to the Sun, the proposed tax increase "appears to be aimed at reaching a compromise among competing interests in the General Assembly."
Earlier this year, the House of Delegates approved a cigarette tax to fund medical coverage for nearly 250,000 uninsured residents, but the state Senate rejected the increase, saying the state first must address the deficit.
According to aides, if the tax measure is approved by the General Assembly in a special session, it would generate an estimated $85 million in the first six months of next year, all of which would go toward health care coverage.
However, O'Malley spokesperson Rick Abbruzzese said $170 million generated for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008, would be used to pay down the deficit.
O'Malley also said soon he will release details of a plan that would provide incentives for small businesses to provide coverage for employees and adjust Medicaid limits in an effort to reduce the number of uninsured residents (Fenton, Baltimore Sun, 9/27).
Massachusetts officials on Sept. 21 said uninsured residents will not have to pay a $35-per-month deductible before receiving no-cost care at hospitals and instead will have to contribute copayments for services, the Boston Globe reports.
Under the compromise plan, to take effect Dec. 1, patients with annual incomes between 101% and 200% of the federal poverty level will contribute a $5 copay for hospital office visits, $50 for inpatient hospital visits and $50 for emergency department visits that do not result in admission.
ED fees will be capped at $250 annually, and there will be no copays required for children or for care received at community health centers.
The plan aims to reduce residents' dependency on the state's free-care pool (Dembner, Boston Globe, 9/22).
Gov. Haley Barbour (R) on Friday met with HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to request an adjustment to the federal formula used to calculate the percentage of costs for Mississippi's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
The state must pay the percentage to receive matching federal funds.
Under the current formula, the federal government provides 83% of the funds needed to insure children under the program and the state pays 17% -- "one of the most generous federal allocations," according to the Clarion-Ledger.
The state Legislature did not approve enough funds to cover the state's portion of the funding, Francis Rullan, spokesperson for the state Division of Medicaid, said (Radelat, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 9/22).
Gov. John Lynch (D) on Thursday announced a new three-year program that would encourage hospitals and schools to work together to enroll 10,000 additional children in the state's Healthy Kids program for lower-income children, the Manchester Union Leader reports.
The statewide program is a result of a pilot program that ran in Cheshire County, N.H., Healthy Kids President and CEO Tricia Brooks said (Fahey, Manchester Union Leader, 9/21).
North Carolina Treasurer and 2008 gubernatorial candidate Richard Moore (D) on Thursday proposed several ways to increase health insurance coverage for lower-income children, the Charlotte Observer reports.
If elected, Moore said he would:
- Offer financial incentives to hospitals, schools and community health centers to enroll eligible children in SCHIP;
- Require parents to provide their children's health insurance policy number on their state tax return;
- Expand SCHIP eligibility to children in families with annual incomes lower than 250% of the poverty level, up from 200% of the poverty level; and
- Offer state subsidies for children in families with annual incomes lower than 300% of the poverty level (Ingram, Charlotte Observer, 9/21).
The Ohio State Medical Association on Thursday released a proposal that would require all state residents to purchase health insurance, either with individual funds or government subsidies, the Dayton Daily News reports.
The proposal also calls for the state to:
- Focus on wellness and prevention, rather than treating illnesses;
- Improve the quality and transparency of care so that patients can have access to reliable quality and cost information; and
- Create a self-sustaining health care financing system with a dedicated source of funding, so that health care would not compete with other state programs (Hershey, Dayton Daily News, 9/21).