States Prepare to Address Health Care in 2001
As states begin new legislative sessions, many are gearing up to consider a variety of health care-related issues. The following is a brief summary of some of the proposals:
- Connecticut: Without providing any details, Gov. John Rowland (R) last week mentioned the possibility of adding a tax cut for the state's hospitals to his budget proposal during an interview with a local television station. While the state is projecting a $400 million budget surplus, Connecticut hospitals are "curtail[ing]" services because of low reimbursement rates and high costs (Haar, Hartford Courant, 1/6).
- Colorado: To meet "state budgetary constraints," the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which manages the state's Medicaid program, is proposing $19 million in cuts for hospital reimbursement, a $2.8 million decrease in HMO payments and a $1 million reduction in wages for physicians' assistants and nurse practitioners. The agency is also considering doubling the Medicaid co-payment for prescriptions to $1 for generic drugs and $1 to $2 for brand name drugs (Austin, Denver Post, 1/4). In addition, the state Legislature is considering "[n]umerous prescription drug bills," an income tax credit for employers who offer medical savings accounts and revisions to the state's physician credentialing process (Perrault, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 1/7).
- Georgia: During the state's 40-day legislative session that began Jan. 8, lawmakers will consider establishing state-funded assisted living services for elderly Georgians who do not require nursing home care. Other proposals include increasing screening outreach and coverage for osteoporosis and ovarian and colon cancer. While no legislation has been drafted, plans include requiring insurance companies to cover such testing, appropriating funds to cover testing for low-income or uninsured individuals or having doctors distribute information on the importance of the screenings (Cook, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/8).
- Maine: Last week, some state legislators and health advocates criticized Gov. Angus King's (I) proposed two-year budget, which would cut $2 million from a prescription drug program. Other proposed cuts include: $2.2 million in grants to "fight smoking and promote a healthy lifestyle," $2.5 million in antismoking funds, $2.1 million for home visits to help parents of newborns and $330,000 for dental clinics. King said the budget cuts would keep "cash-strapped" Medicaid "in the black" by transferring the savings from the Fund for a Healthy Maine to Medicaid (AP/Foster's Daily Democrat, 1/5).
- New York: A proposal to allow workers with mental or physical disabilities to buy insurance through Medicaid with premiums based on a sliding scale of income is expected to pass the state Legislature this year. Gov. George Pataki (R) is pushing the proposal, but did not indicate the amount of funding he will appropriate for it in his budget. The plan "stalled" in the state Senate but passed the state Assembly last year (Benjamin, Albany Times Union, 1/5).
- Wisconsin: Legislators are expected to "pump" $14.4 million into BadgerCare, the state's health care program for low income persons. Both parties have called the program one of the "top priorities," as it has proven "more popular than initially expected" USA Today, 1/8). Previous funding for BadgerCare projected a maximum enrollment of 67,500 by July; currently, 74,521 state residents are enrolled in the program (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1/9).
- Texas: Much of the Texas Legislature's 140-day session, beginning Jan. 9, is expected to be spent "fine-tuning" some of the programs and laws passed in the 1999 session, such as increasing enrollment in the state's Medicaid and CHIP programs. In addition, legislators will consider a bill that would place teachers into a "state-funded insurance pool" to reduce health care costs. Such a program is expected to cost as much as $3.2 billion. Other pending legislation would prevent patients' medical records from being made public without their consent (Moritz/Dyer, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 1/8).
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