Health Care Reform News From Around the Nation: October 15, 2007
About 95% of Iowa residents who live in rural areas have health insurance and feel they have adequate access to health care services, compared with 89% of residents who live in or near cities, according to a survey released Friday, the Des Moines Register reports.
The survey of 1,000 Iowa adults was conducted and funded by the Iowa Rural Health Association to understand how the state's residents feel about their health care.
Ann Selzer, an independent pollster who led the study, attributed the higher percentage of rural residents with health coverage in part to the larger number of senior citizens in rural areas who are eligible for Medicare (Leys, Des Moines Register, 10/5).
The Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority Board on Thursday rejected a proposal for a prescription drug plan that would have included a $15 copayment for refills of generic drugs, as well as a $1,000 deductible for brand-name drugs with additional copays of $50 or $75 per refill, the Boston Globe reports.
The board did not conduct an official vote on the high-deductible plan, but members voiced their disapproval by noting that actual savings on monthly premiums would be limited and that the plan could leave people with inadequate coverage, the Globe reports. Board members asked staff to find other ways to reduce the cost of drug coverage, according to the Globe.
In March, the board approved a requirement that all residents obtain health insurance with prescription drug coverage. The board in November will release coverage standards for insurers, and residents must have drug coverage by January 2009.
The board is considering ways to make drug coverage affordable for the more than 160,000 state residents who have health insurance but no drug coverage, the Globe reports (Dembner, Boston Globe, 10/12).
A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers on Wednesday proposed four bills that would block private health insurers from significantly raising rates during policy renewals, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The legislation also would reduce restrictions on the not-for-profit, tax-exempt insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that require it to receive approval from the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services for rate increases.
The insurer would be able to set rates on its own, and increases would be subject to review if the insurance office found them to be questionable.
Private insurers opposed to the plan this week formed the Coalition for Access and Affordability in Michigan to challenge the legislation.
The coalition comprises:
- The Council for Affordable Health Insurance;
- The Life Insurance Association of Michigan;
- United Healthcare; and
CMS has approved a waiver for federal funding of TennCare -- Tennessee's Medicaid managed care program -- state officials announced last Monday, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 10/9).
The three-year waiver caps at $540 million annually the amount of money TennCare can draw from the federal government to help reimburse hospitals for treating Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured.
However, state officials said the state will need an additional $270 million to cover increasing hospital costs related to charity care and Medicaid losses (Schelzig, AP/Tennessean, 10/9).
Negotiations over the waiver delayed plans to request federal matching funds for Cover Tennessee, a new program for uninsured state residents, Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) said on Tuesday, the AP/Tennessean reports.
Bredesen signed Cover Tennessee into law in 2006 with the hopes that it eventually would qualify to receive matching funds.
The program would provide health insurance for uninsured adults in the state who work for small businesses that employ fewer than 25 workers, at least half of whom have annual incomes less than $41,000.
The program also includes a high-risk pool for state residents with medical conditions that have made them unable to receive private insurance coverage, called AccessTN (Schelzig, AP/Tennessean, 10/10).
Texas' Health and Human Services Commission officials on Thursday announced that the state has sufficient money from existing federal grants to continue covering beneficiaries in its version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program for at least one year, regardless of the fate of federal legislation that would reauthorize and expand the program, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The state also has sufficient funds to cover an expected enrollment increase of 135,000 children, HHSC spokesperson Stephanie Goodman said.
The increase was approved by the state Legislature as part of a measure that reversed cuts made in 2003, when the state faced a budget crisis.
Texas' version of SCHIP covers children in families with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (Elliott, Houston Chronicle, 10/12).
Virginia does not have enough experienced psychiatrists to evaluate residents or enough hospital beds for patients seeking emergency mental health treatment, and many hospitals are losing money treating these patients, according to a report released this week by the General Assembly's Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission, the Washington Post reports.
The 230-page report found that 47 of 135 localities in Virginia do not have public psychiatrists and that 87 do not have public child psychiatrists.
In addition, the study found that 24 of the state's 26 private hospitals licensed to admit mentally ill patients reported unreimbursed fees totaling $61 million in 2005 and that 14 EDs reported unreimbursed costs for treating mentally ill patients totaling $45 million.
Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) and General Assembly members have said they would address the issues raised in the report during next year's legislative session (Jenkins, Washington Post, 10/11).