February 18, 2008

2/18/08 Update from HealthCareMaryland.org


Universal Health Care in Maryland in 2008 - Health Care Maryland.org is working with our friends and allies--other organizations, elected officials, and concerned individuals--to bring high-quality universal health care to Maryland in 2008. We're planning town halls, summits, conferences, and organizing legislative efforts.

Rhode Island Health Care Reform Focuses On Reducing Costs
from Medical News Today Reprinted from http://www.kaisernetwork.org
Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts (D) on Tuesday unveiled a health care reform plan that would require most residents to purchase health coverage and would implement cost-cutting strategies, the Boston Globe reports. Roberts' plan would require all state residents with annual incomes above 400% of the federal poverty level to purchase insurance by July 2009. Businesses that do not provide insurance would be required to pay $1,000 for each uninsured employee, which the state would use to fund insurance products beginning in 2012 if enough funds are collected. The state also would expand Medicaid and SCHIP (Dembner, Boston Globe, 2/13). In addition, the state would establish an agency, HealthHub, to coordinate the purchasing and regulation of health plans (Needham, Providence Journal, 2/13).
NY Attorney General Investigates Health Insurers
from Medical News Today Reprinted from http://www.kaisernetwork.org.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday announced an investigation into whether health insurers systematically have required members to pay excessive fees for services performed by out-of-network health care providers, the New York Times reports. As part of the investigation, Cuomo will file a lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group and subsidiary Ingenix (Abelson, New York Times, 2/13). Cuomo also will file a civil lawsuit against three other UnitedHealth subsidiaries that seeks restitution for consumers. In addition, he has issued subpoenas to 16 other health insurers. The subpoenas seek documents on the processes that the health insurers use to determine reimbursement rates, copies of member complaints and appeals, and communications between members, Ingenix and health insurers (Kerr, Long Island Newsday, 2/13).

The investigation will focus on the process that health insurers use to determine the portion of reimbursements for which they are responsible when members receive services from out-of-network providers. Health insurers pay for a certain percentage of the usual and customary rates for such services, based on an estimate of the cost for such procedures in the same geographic area (New York Times, 2/13).
States go it alone in health care reform
by Dana Blankenhorn | ZDNet
California and New York are both trying to cut their states’ health care costs, and their stories provide a cautionary tale in the national debate. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to push through a grand compromise on reform, but it was finally killed by both parties in the legislature.
The Governator then signed a series of cuts to Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, leading to reimbursements so low most doctors and hospitals no longer accept such patients. The media is now starting to hammer him.
New York, by contrast, is trying a two-prong attack based on what it can control, the state Medicaid contract and the time of the state’s lawyers.
Bills of local interest (Washington County -- excerpts)
From the Herald-Mail.com
Editor's note: This is a list of local bills and resolutions introduced during the Maryland General Assembly's 2008 regular session. For more information, go to http://mlis.state.md.us and click on "Bill Information and Status." Go to the "Bill Number" box to search for the bill.
Health Insurance Costs Stymie Small Businesses
FP Witness Decries Rising Rates
By James Arvantes | AAFP News Now
Washington, D.C.--The rising cost of health insurance has made it difficult for owners of small businesses, including physicians' offices, to provide health care benefits for themselves and their employees. This creates gaps in coverage and fuels the nation's health care crisis, said a family physician who testified before the House Committee on Small Business here on Jan. 23.
Report Lists Key Policy Questions Facing State, National Health Reform, USA
From Medical News Today
A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's State Coverage Initiatives program, State of the States 2008: Rising to the Challenge, outlines 2007 efforts to expand health insurance coverage and find new tools to address health care reform at the state level. While many states made progress, key contributors to uninsurance remain unchecked and historically difficult policy questions remain unanswered.
According to the report, steady increase in the number of uninsured has been a hallmark of the last decade, precipitated by unprecedented declines in employer-based coverage. In 2007 the trend continued and, like last year, was exacerbated when public program funding remained flat, failing yet again to offset new losses. This one-two punch hits children particularly hard, swelling the ranks of uninsured kids by 700,000 in 2006 and accounting for more than one-quarter of the growth in uninsured.
State Legislation Required for Maryland's Howard County Program
From Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report
A Howard County, Md., plan to provide 20,000 uninsured residents with access to health care services will require passage of state legislation because of the program's unique structure, the Washington Post reports. According to draft legislation, the Healthy Howard program would create a "public-private partnership." If the legislation is approved, the program would have a first-year budget of $2.8 million and extend access to care to 2,000 legal county residents. The program would use existing federal programs, local government funds, private donations and user fees to provide primary and specialty care, medications, and lifestyle management, according to county Health Officer Peter Beilenson.

Beneficiaries would pay monthly fees ranging from $50 to $85, which would account for 60% of the program's initial budget. The program also would seek $500,000 from the county in its fiscal year 2009 budget and $700,000 in private funds. According to Beilenson, an important feature of the program is Howard County General Hospital's decision to forgive any existing debt Healthy Howard participants have.
SEIU Members Launch Unprecedented Health Care Campaign
SEIU's Americans for Health Care project, which already has played a key role in passing health care legislation in states like Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts, will continue to recruit and mobilize hundreds of thousands of "Health Care Voters"
By Katherine Torres | Occupational Hazards - Cleveland, OH
The Service Employee's International Union (SEIU) launched a sweeping, $75 million campaign to elect a pro-health care president and Congress and to make health care affordable for all Americans.
"A victory in the voting booth only matters if it translates into real help for the millions of American families who are struggling to make ends meet," said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. "So, our members will be working around the country to elect a new President on November 4 with the mandate to fix our broken health care system. And on November 5, we will hit the ground running to make that mandate a reality."
Universal Health Care Proposed In Md.
from wjz.com Baltimore, MD
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) ― A universal health care plan for Maryland has been proposed by more than 30 Democratic lawmakers. But the plan's sponsors doubt universal health care will be adopted this year. They say they proposed the bill to raise awareness about the need for more people to have health insurance.
Currently Howard County is the nation's only county planning a universal health coverage plan. Lawmakers approved an expensive package last year expanding Medicaid coverage through a higher tobacco tax and other tax hikes. The lead sponsor of the universal health care plan -- Democratic Delegate Karen Montgomery of Montgomery County -- says her plan would cost a lot but would save money over time because fewer people would rely on emergency rooms for their health care.

From Roger Manno's Maryland Report
I introduced HB 29 to address the ongoing crisis of people being denied long-term insurance coverage based on the results of genetic tests in Maryland. Genetic information that reveals that a person has a given marker for a disease (for example, Tay-Sachs disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, or Alzheimer’s disease) but has not yet manifested into the disease or condition, should not be the basis for denial of coverage or discrimination as a preexisting condition.

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