Health Care Reform News From Around the Nation: September 4
The Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform on Thursday unveiled a fifth proposal for reconfiguring the state's health care system, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports (Scanlon, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 8/24).
Under the proposal, insurers would develop a standard health insurance plan with no-cost preventive care. Insurers would be prohibited from denying coverage under the standard plan to individuals with chronic illnesses or high risks of disease.
The fifth plan also would:
- Mandate that all state residents obtain health insurance;
- Provide subsidies on an income-based sliding scale for low-income families; and
- Require low-income workers receiving subsidies to use that money to purchase employer-sponsored health insurance if it is offered and costs less than the state insurance plan (Denver Rocky Mountain News, 8/24).
The commission also reviewed a report outlining the costs of the four previously proposed health plans. The most expensive option would be the government-run single-payer plan, which would cost an estimated $26.6 billion annually.
The least expensive plan would not include coverage mandates and would offer subsidies for adults and create a health insurance purchasing pool for small businesses. That plan would expand health coverage to about 40% of the state's uninsured residents and cost an estimated $980 million annually (Sealover, Colorado Springs Gazette, 8/24).
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has proposed cutting 10% from total Medicaid reimbursements for state hospitals in fiscal year 2008, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
According to Paul Belcher of the Florida Hospital Association, the cuts would have the greatest impact on low-income patients whose incomes are too high to qualify them for Medicaid. He added that more than 42,000 Medicaid beneficiaries could lose coverage because of the cuts (Wessel, Orlando Sentinel, 8/30).
Gov. Casey Cagle (R) on Thursday unveiled a proposal intended to make health care more accessible and affordable in the state, the Morris/Augusta Chronicle reports.
The proposal would:
- Provide grants to establish five clinics for low-income residents and treat the most common complaints found at emergency departments;
- Allow doctors and hospitals to market their services directly to patients; and
- Establish a Web site where residents could compare health insurance policies (Jones, Morris/Augusta Chronicle, 8/24).
Three advisory councils representing consumers, health care providers and health care purchasers submitted preliminary recommendations to the Kansas Health Policy Authority on ways to overhaul the state's health care system, the Kansas City Star reports.
The consumer advisory council recommended individual and employer health insurance mandates to achieve universal health coverage in the state.
The purchaser advisory council, representing insurers and employers, recommended an individual coverage mandate but raised concerns about "the practicality of such a requirement."
The advisory councils will make their final recommendations to the authority on Sept. 25, and the authority will present proposals to the state Legislature in November (Karash, Kansas City Star, 8/23).
The Maryland Dental Action Committee said the state must increase Medicaid reimbursements to dentists who treat children by $40 million over the next two years, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The committee said increasing reimbursements would encourage more dentists to participate in the state's Medicaid program.
The committee is expected to deliver recommendations to improve uninsured children's dental care access to state Health Secretary John Colmers on Sept. 11. The recommendations include:
- Allowing pediatricians and nurses to give children fluoride varnishes;
- Creating a dental health education campaign;
- Incorporating dental screenings with vision and hearing screenings for school children; and
- Establishing primary dental care providers for child Medicaid beneficiaries (Anderson, Baltimore Sun, 8/30).
New York state agencies paid nearly $10 million for Medicaid services that likely never were administered, according to a report issued Tuesday by the state comptroller, Long Island Newsday reports. The report examined claims for services over a five-year period ending in 2006.
The audits found that the majority of overpayments for services occurred while beneficiaries were hospitalized, suggesting that facilities billed for services that were not provided. The audits also found eight cases in which the state Department of Health's eMedNY claims processing system made payments for home care services after patients had died (Mallia, Long Island Newsday, 8/28).
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Thursday said he has cut from the state budget $463 million in "pet projects and other spending" and plans to use the funds to expand existing health care programs after the state Legislature rejected his health expansion proposals, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Blagojevich added that he is "preparing new rules and administrative changes that will give half a million Illinoisans access to health care."
Republican analysts said Blagojevich cut $90 million in funding intended for hospitals and nursing homes.
The Tribune reports that Blagojevich's proposed changes "are expected to receive intense scrutiny and face hurdles before they can take effect" (Long et al., Chicago Tribune, 8/24).
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco on Friday filed with the Oregon state Elections Division to form a committee to oppose a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to increase the state cigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack to fund health initiatives, the Oregonian reports (Har, Oregonian, 8/18).
The measure would generate an estimated $153 million from 2007 to 2009 and $233 million from 2009 to 2011 (California Healthline, 8/20).
Most of the funding would be used to provide health care for more than 100,000 children in the state. Opponents maintain that the initiative also would give lawmakers the ability to spend as much as $68 million on other health programs (Oregonian, 8/18).
State Department of Administration Secretary Michael Morgan on Wednesday told state health officials to develop a strategy for cutting Medicaid spending by 20% until lawmakers end a budget stalemate, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The cuts would require CMS approval and likely would result in lower reimbursement for providers.
The two-year budget was due July 1, but spending levels from the previous budget will continue until a new one is approved (Forster/Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/29).