Health Reform Around the Nation: December 3, 2007
Alabama lawmakers held a joint legislative meeting on Wednesday to discuss next year's Medicaid budget, but the state Medicaid commissioner said the amount of an expected reduction in federal funding remains unknown, the Mobile Press-Register reports.
The $4.2 billion program is mostly funded by the federal government, but the state provided $470 million this year, more than a quarter of its general fund budget.
The loss of federal funds for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, as well as increased per capita income in the state, will result in a loss of federal dollars for the Medicaid program, but state Medicaid Commissioner Carol Hermann-Steckel said the amount of the reduction was unknown (Lyman, Mobile Press-Register, 11/29).
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) and several colleagues on Wednesday in a ceremony at Denver Health Medical Center unveiled a Web-based tool that provides hospital performance data, the Denver Post reports.
The Colorado Hospital Report Card includes measures of mortality rates for 11 procedures, three measures of patient safety and data on volume of 10 different procedures performed at each hospital in the state.
Fewer than a dozen states have collected similar hospital data, according to Colorado Hospital Association spokesperson Richard Haugh (Human, Denver Post, 11/29).
Enrollment in KidCare, Florida's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, has increased by nearly 16,000 children, or by about 1.2%, since the state expanded outreach efforts, streamlined bureaucracy and increased funding for the program in July, the Florida Times-Union reports.
Legislators allocated funding for 36,000 new KidCare beneficiaries, and more than 24,000 of those slots remain open. Additional slots could open in the future because unfilled slots are rolled over to the next month's allotment (Rushing, Florida Times-Union, 11/26).
The backup of patients with mental illnesses in Georgia emergency departments stems from a lack of available beds at state psychiatric hospitals, hospital officials said on Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
During a meeting of a state commission studying possible changes to Georgia's mental health system, officials said when psychiatric beds are not immediately available, patients must wait in EDs until a transfer is possible. The Journal-Constitution reports that some patients with acute mental illnesses must wait in EDs for up to three days before they are admitted to a state-run mental hospital.
In addition, some psychiatric hospitals refuse to admit transferred patients, including children, and send them back to the EDs, officials told the commission. Officials say the delays can worsen overall congestion and wait times in EDs across the state (Judd/Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/28).
New York state lawmakers, led by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D), said they would pass a law that ensures health insurers use quality-of-care measures and not only cost in their physician ranking systems, the AP/Albany Times Union reports.
Cuomo developed a model code for physician ranking systems, and six insurers, including UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, have agreed to adopt it. Four of the insurers said they would apply the code to their ranking systems nationwide.
Under the code, insurers must disclose their ranking criteria to physicians and consumers and must base their rankings on established national standards.
Insurers also must retain a monitor to oversee compliance with the agreement. Cuomo's effort received support from leaders of physician and consumer groups (Matthews, AP/Albany Times Union, 11/27).
More than 16,000 children have enrolled in CoverKids, Tennesee's version of SCHIP, since the program's launch on March 26, the AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.
Dean Flener -- a spokesperson for Cover Tennessee, the state's program for the uninsured -- said the state is on track to reach its goal of covering 40,000 children by fiscal year 2009. Legislators have allocated $63 million to pay for the program's first three years.
The state also is preparing to offer coverage for more small-business employees. The workers' program, which currently covers adults who work at businesses with no more than 25 employees, will expand to cover uninsured adults at businesses with up to 50 employees. In addition, employees who work for businesses that do not provide coverage will be eligible for the program (Johnson, AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal, 11/26).
More than 850,000 of Texas' 1.5 million uninsured children are eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid but are not enrolled in the programs, Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins said Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman reports.
Of those children, 75% qualify for Medicaid coverage and the rest qualify for SCHIP. The figures are based on an analysis of census data by the state HHS.
Hawkins said the state has initiated new efforts to enroll eligible children. He added that a model used in Houston, which uses the city's 17 largest churches to help people enroll in the programs, could be expanded statewide (MacLaggan, Austin American-Statesman, 11/28).