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  States Launch their Own Health Care reforms

COMMENTARY:

States Launch their Own Health Care reforms

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 9 February 2010

Some of these initiatives are for the good. Some are bad. In either case they’re bound to make matters at the federal level more complicated with members of Congress rushing around trying to harmonize state and federal policy.

For those of you totally fed up with health care reform,now threatening to drag on with Obama’s tiresome face-to-face debate theatrics, some small relief may come from the states which have begun to take reform into their own hands. Some of these initiatives are for the good. Some are bad. In either case they’re bound to make matters at the federal level more complicated with members of Congress rushing around trying to harmonize state and federal policy.

Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report posted a starting list of some initiatives this morning and they’re well worth taking a look at. They run the gamut from a Dem proposal in California for a single payer system to self-insurance in Philadelphia.

“State lawmakers in at least three dozen states are pushing ahead with a series of measures aimed at pre-empting whatever might come out of Washington,” reports Politico. On the left, Democrats in the California Senate recently approved a measure to establish a state-run, single-payer health care system favored by liberals on Capitol Hill. And on the right, conservatives in Virginia and other states are pushing legislation to stave off federal efforts to mandate that individuals secure insurance coverage or require businesses to provide it – Politico.

“The Missouri Senate spent nearly all of its session time Monday on resolutions that would urge the state’s attorney general to sue the federal government for legislation that may never see the light of day in the U.S. Congress,” says the Daily Missourian. The legislation would urge the state attorney general to join with “other state attorneys general in threatening a lawsuit against the federal government if a version of the health care reform is passed into law. The attorneys general, led by Henry McMaster of South Carolina, have said they would sue over a provision inserted into the U.S. Senate version of health reform that was designed to win the support of conservative U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.” That language would have exempted Nebraska on a permanent basis “from funding the expansion of Medicaid that would be required under the proposed bill” Columbia Missourian [bad link]

Modern Healthcare, on the rise of uninsured residents in Minnesota: “Less than 60% of Minnesotans had health insurance through an employer in 2009, which contributed to a notable increase in the number of residents without insurance in a state that typically has rates of coverage higher than national averages, a new study indicates. Authors of the Minnesota Health Access Survey said the results likely will serve as a preview of other state and national surveys because Minnesota is one of the first states to report academic findings on the rate of uninsured people for 2009.” The survey “found that the number of Minnesotans without insurance increased by 106,000 between 2007 and 2009, leaving the state’s uninsured rate at 9.1%, compared with 7.2% two years earlier.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on efforts by the “Law Enforcement Health Benefits Inc., which oversees health-care benefits for Philadelphia police. LEHB and its administrator, Thomas Lamb, are roundly praised for aggressively reining in costs. ... Even so, LEHB’s efforts cannot offset city health-care costs that are high relative to other employers’, mostly because Philadelphia employees pay little out of their own pockets. That leaves taxpayers shouldering health-care costs that jumped 123 percent from 2001 to 2008, a period in which city revenue rose only 38 percent. ... Starting in July, Lamb will be at the forefront of a new effort to control medical costs known as self-insurance. Instead of paying a premium to its insurer, Independence Blue Cross, LEHB, using city funds, will now pay claims as they come in. The city hopes to save about $5 million in fiscal 2001 because of the switch to self-insurance.”

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports a legislative effort “to rescue a state-run health care program for the poor took its first hesitant step Monday toward becoming law.” The measure, advanced by Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, is estimated to cost roughly $320 million and “would restore coverage, now set to expire at the end of March, for those earning less than $7,800 a year.” A companion measure is moving through the House. “The bill is on a fast track as one of the big early tests of the 2010 session. It passed out of the Senate’s Economic Development and Housing Budget Division on Monday, will be heard in the Senate’s Finance Committee today and is headed toward a vote Thursday on the floor of the Senate.”

Kansas Health Institute reports that, “Kansas is going to need more doctors to meet the growing needs of an aging population, officials here say. Meanwhile, the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita has been successful training doctors who choose to remain in the state. Almost half its graduates have stayed in Kansas; the national average for retaining medical school graduates is 29 percent. With the aim of turning out more graduates, university officials here have long wanted to convert the Wichita campus to a four-year school. It’s a two-year program, now.”


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found at JamesRidgeway.net and at his newest web site, Solitary Watch.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on February 3, 2010.
 

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