States Continue Moving to Expand Coverage
Conventional wisdom suggests an economic downturn puts the lid on state health access reform processes. Not true everywhere -- from today's Kaiser Health Policy Report:
The New Mexico House on Tuesday voted 56-6 to approve a bill (HB 147) that would create a Health Care Authority to develop a plan by January 2009 for "accessible and affordable" health care for all state residents. The measure now moves to the state Senate. The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Danice Picraux (D), would create the 11-member Health Care Authority, comprising the state insurance superintendent, five members appointed by the governor and five members appointed by the Legislature. All decisions by the committee would need to be supported by at least seven of the authority's members. If the bill is approved by the state Senate, the Health Care Authority would take over the New Mexico Health Policy Commission and its budget in July. The commission's executive director would serve as the interim head of the authority. Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has asked lawmakers to pass separate legislation that would require all state residents to obtain health insurance, expand government programs and require businesses to contribute to the cost of health care. That bill remains in committee. Richardson spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said that "another study is unacceptable to the 400,000 New Mexicans who need access to quality health care now".
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) on Tuesday released a $28.3 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2009 that includes $500 million to provide health coverage for uninsured state residents. The proposal also would provide prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries and autism services for adults. The budget proposal includes a 10-cent-per-pack increase to the state cigarette tax to fund health care initiatives. Republican lawmakers said that Rendell's plan does not effectively reduce spending.
A Minnesota task force on Tuesday recommended that the state require all residents to obtain health coverage and that the state use savings from reducing inefficiencies and insurers' administrative costs to extend health coverage to the uninsured. The task force, which was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), also recommended paying physicians based on patients' health outcomes and not visits or procedures, and challenged state residents to reduce smoking and binge drinking and to halt the state's obesity rate. The task force estimates that adopting the recommendations could reduce Minnesota's health care spending by 14% by 2011 and by nearly 20% in 2015. The savings are based on progress in prevention, payment, quality and cost and would be achieved through several initiatives, such as creating healthy living programs, using preventive care and switching to electronic health records by 2010. Pawlenty praised the report's "comprehensive fashion" and said it is a "framework" for improving the state's health care system, but he said he disagreed with the health insurance mandate and further penalties on smokers. Pawlenty said that the insurance mandate would place fines or criminal penalties on low-income residents who cannot afford health insurance and that the state already has "hit the smokers hard enough".