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State Solutions: Health Care PDF Print E-mail
Written by PT Editors   
Thursday, 18 October 2007
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It may seem like the health care debate is confined to the presidential campaign circuit, but several U.S. states are actually taking action. PT rounds up the states making news with health care policy decisions.

 

  

STATE

SOLUTIONS TO THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS

California

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State Senator Jack Scott’s bill to address safety concerns in pharmaceutical drug products made it through the state senate and through several amendments in the assembly before the legislative session came to a close. Under SB 606, the results of prescription drug tests dating back to 2002 would be made public through a database on the Internet. In addition to addressing concerns over transparency in the clinical drug industry, the information would benefit consumers, Scott claims, allowing them to evaluate drug effectiveness and value. Doctors and consumers alike would find it easier to measure whether a pharmaceutical drug is overpriced or underperforming.

Indiana

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Earlier in the year, the state of Indiana increased its tobacco sales tax to 99.5 cents per pack in order to expand health care access to the uninsured. Under the state’s new Hoosier Healthwise insurance coverage, families with incomes over 250 percent of the poverty level could gain access to health care. And now, Congress is seeking ways to fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and looking to Indiana as an example of effective fund raising through tobacco taxes. The Senate recently passed a bill to increase the tobacco tax from 39 cents per pack to $1. But Senator Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis), claimed analysis had shown that the new SCHIP funds would only generate $60 million in health care funds, while the Hoosier Healthwise, the state’s own publicly-funded healthcare plan, would earn the state $300 million. 

Pennsylvania

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In an attempt to control the rate of health care-acquired infections (HAIs), Governor Ed Rendell signed SB 968, mandating the implementation of infection control plans for all state hospitals, nursing homes and ambulatory surgical facilities. As part of the Governor’s “Prescription for Pennsylvania”, facilities will be awarded financial incentives if they can prove infections have been reduced by 10 percent. In 2005, the state reported 19,000 HAIs, with nearly 2,500 ending in death. National estimates show that 99,000 HAI-related deaths occur annually, with a cost of nearly $6 billion.

Hawaii

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As many states pass legislation against elder abuse, the Aloha State passed three bills to target financial abuses of its aging electorate. Under SB 1400, financial institutions will be required to report elderly financial abuse to the state’s Department of Human Services, who will then notify local law enforcement agencies. Fines of up to $10,000 will be imposed upon mortgage brokers who wrongfully convince the elderly to sign mortgages leading to the loss pf equity or the home itself under HB 1336. And under HB 1306, those committing a securities violation against anyone 62 or older will result in up to $50,000 in fines.

New Hampshire

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HB 921 was recently signed by Governor John Lynch to change a number of New Hampshire’s insurance regulations; chief among them insurance policies for married couples. Under the new measure, divorced spouses will receive the same health care insurance they had while married, for up to three years, or re-marriage. Critics claim that the new benefit can cost several times what the couple’s joint coverage cost, as individuals are required to pay the employer share of premiums. Insurance companies say the new law could raise costs for employers and small businesses.

Wisconsin

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With a statewide shortage of rural pharmacists, lawmakers are currently considering AB 440, which would give financial incentives to recent pharmacy grads to practice in federally designated health professional shortage areas. The bill would allow University of Wisconsin at Madison students a loan forgiveness program that would remove 10 percent of loan repayment in the first four years of service, and up to 20 percent past five years. AB 440 stipulates that the student must commit to at least six years of service, but does not yet address penalties for a student’s failing to fulfill the commitment.

Massachusetts

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A $1 billion initiative has been introduced by Governor Deval Patrick to expand life science research and a stem cell bank to hold “the largest repository of stem cells in the world.” The 10-year bill would authorize $500 million in state bonds for capitol projects, $25 million per year in research grants and workforce training programs, and another $25 million per year in tax incentives for life-science companies. The University of Massachusetts Medical School at Worchester would benefit from allocations for new construction and the expansion of existing facilities.

Connecticut

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With U.S. Lyme disease cases more than doubling since 1991, several New England states have been stepping up preventative measures; the state of Connecticut has recently passed two. HB 5747 would require medical laboratories to report Lyme disease instances to the Department of Public Health (DPH), as this requirement was dropped in 2003, which gave way to misleading public information. The state has also introduced HB 6701, which would establish a state-wide task force to study methods for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease.

Rhode Island

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Two very opposing immigration-related measures have been introduced recently by state legislators in Rhode Island. Senator Juan Pichardo’s SB 415 would allow low-income documented—and undocumented—children to enroll in the state’s Medicaid program, RIte Care. This would effectively sidestep federal mandates, as well as state law. At a very different stance is Representative Richard Singleton, whose HB 5859 requires further verification of legal status before providing any healthcare benefits. The bill stipulates, “Any individual receiving health benefits and/or elderly health care benefits must be a U.S. citizen or have legal immigrant status.”

Texas

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The biggest state in the nation is cracking down on child obesity, becoming the first to pass a law for a comprehensive student fitness program. Under SB 530, the Texas Education Agency will spend $2.5 million on a school testing plan for grades 3-12. Schools will examine student fitness through aerobic endurance, body fat, flexibility and muscle strength tests. The bill will also make 30-minute physical education classes mandatory for elementary school students.

 





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