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Archive for the ‘Health Care News’ Category

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) has signed into law a pair of measures intended to make High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) paired with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) more affordable and available in the state’s insurance market.

Critics have called the new laws “little more than a hefty tax break for insurers,” according to the Associated Press. But health finance experts have lauded Georgia’s new policy as the country’s first attempt at a market-based, consumer-directed solution to the nation’s health coverage crisis.

Among other market-based adjustments, the new laws exempt HSAs from state and local premium taxes, which is expected to save consumers and insurers nearly $150 million.

“This legislation encourages more consumer choice by making quality, affordable health care coverage more available,” said Perdue at the bill’s May 10 signing. “More insured citizens means lower costs for all taxpayers, and preventative care means a healthier population. It will also allow small business owners to provide low-cost health insurance to employees and their families.”
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Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) has signed into law a bill requiring insurance companies to develop low-cost health insurance plans and submit them to a state oversight body.

The program, called “Centennial Care Choices,” also creates a legislative panel charged with determining how to make the low-cost plans available to as many people as possible.

The bill is intended to help Coloradans who earn too much to receive Medicaid but aren’t covered by private insurance. Experts are criticizing the move as another inefficient attempt by government to interfere further in the already over-regulated health care market.
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While some estimates of medical tourism have been quite high, suggesting in some cases that millions of people travel for medical purposes, a study released by consulting firm McKinsey & Company finds the number to be much lower, just 60,000 to 85,000 people worldwide each year.

Health policy analysts have questioned the study’s assumptions, however, and even the lower numbers show the search for quality health care has become an international quest.
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A new report by the Washington-based National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation suggests approximately one in four Americans who have no health coverage–nearly 12 million people, half of whom are children–are eligible for public insurance programs but are not enrolled.

The report, “Understanding the Uninsured: Tailoring Policy Solutions for Different Subpopulations,” suggests several possible reasons people don’t enroll in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Medicaid, or similar programs. Those reasons include a lack of awareness about available coverage, the programs’ existence, or how to enroll; difficulty remaining enrolled; and fear of being publicly stigmatized by participation.
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Interest in the Massachusetts health reform plan remains high, as evidenced by the sellout crowd at a recent forum on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform and the Kaiser Family Foundation and televised live by C-SPAN.

I was the lone voice on the panel suggesting caution about the plan, which was implemented in 2006, while “three amigos from Massachusetts,” as the other speakers called themselves, expressed confidence the program is simply experiencing growing pains that can be overcome.

Jon Kingsdale, who heads the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, and other architects and implementers of the Massachusetts reform plan, say support remains strong among political leaders and the business community.
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The state of Tennessee is partnering with AT&T to develop the first statewide electronic health information system in the United States. The system will enable Tennessee-based medical professionals to share patient records and information through a secure network extending across the entire state.

The system will also link to the Tennessee Department of Health, to provide access to its immunization and disease registry, information about death certificate processing, and medical license renewals.

Tennessee and AT&T will spend most of the year working on the system. They hope consumers will begin to see it in practice by the end of 2008, according to Antoine Agassi, director and chair of Gov. Phil Bredesen’s (D) eHealth Council.
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As many as 90,000 eligible children in Maryland are not enrolled in the state’s subsidized health insurance program, according to state estimates, despite several expensive and lengthy marketing campaigns commissioned by the state government.

This element of the uninsured population has now been targeted by another piece of legislation, the Kids First Act (HB 1391), signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on May 22.
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