Other States

Two cents on the MA election…

Darn Red Sox fans. The Massachusetts Senate election has now been won by an opponent of health reform. But was health reform what the election was about? Yes, in part. It was also about the economy, bank bailouts, unemployment, the conviction record of that state’s attorney general, and (strangely) what team Curt Shilling roots for. Don’t get me wrong, it was also about health reform, although it was in the state where the bill least mattered, since they had already put in place some (though not all) of the reforms, from regulating insurers so there are no denials for pre-existing conditions, to affordability subsidies so low- and moderate-income people can better afford coverage. Let’s remember that the rest of the […] Read More

All eyes on Massachusetts…

What is it about the Bay State? It was there that a 2006 reform got people talking again about health reform in a big way. (Maine and California got some attention in 2003 for reforms, but not as much.) The Massachusetts law was widely scrutinized (including by us at Health Access), either as a reform to emulate or to indicate what was missing. So it is strange that the election in that state tomorrow for U.S. Senate matters so much. After all, Massachusetts voters already have had a very similar health reform for a couple of years, and have shown no sign of seeking to repeal it. The concern is that if the Democrat loses, then supporters of health reform […] Read More

The Worst $650 Cookie Ever!

My colleague, Beth Capell, has already posted her impressions from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) meeting that we attended last week in San Francisco. It was so not what I expected that I thought I would add my reaction as well. During my federal career at The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration, I was responsible for holding public hearings on public policy issues according to federal requirements. The NAIC meeting had no resemblance to any official public hearing that I’ve ever attended. The entire premise is that a public hearing is designed to be a venue for informed expert testimony, but also a forum for probing follow-up questions of the policy experts […] Read More

A Cautionary Tale for California…

Indiana’s generally well-regarded Republican governor who formerly served as President George Bush’s Director of Management and Budget, pulled the plug on October 16 on their effort to “modernize” the state’s system of delivering welfare services. This was a similar result in Indiana to an effort to privatize welfare in the state of Texas which was a failure, and was cancelled in 2007 after a huge expenditure of Texas state funds. The Indiana governor acknowledged that he continued to favor privatization of some state government functions. However, the systems changes he implemented resulted in too many errors and left too many deserving people waiting for too long for help they desperately needed. State legislators were inundated with complaints from their constituents. […] Read More

Healthier from health reform?

Does expanding health coverage actuall improve people’s health? This is not as obvious an answer as you might think. Frankly, health reform is more about improving our economic health, rather than their personal health. Health care and coverage often comes after people are sick… it ensures that people get care but also that they don’t fall into medical debt or bankruptcy for seeking such care. The focus of H.R.3200 and other health reform proposals is to provide economic security to families. That said, the Wall Street Journal Health Blog had a revealing post a few weeks ago that does give a few concrete examples of how these health reforms can actually help our health. They interviewed John Auerbach, the commissioner […] Read More

On another ballot….

There’s lots of important ballot measures on the California ballot, but one for health advocates to watch is in Arizona. In Arizona, there’s Proposition 101, which would block future universal health coverage efforts in that state, according to Jacob Goldstein of the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. The initiative, as a constitutional amendment, states that it would: “Prohibits laws that: restrict person’s choice of private health care systems or private plans; interfere with person’s or entity’s right to pay directly for lawful medical services; impose a penalty or fine for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participating in any health care system or plan.” While phrased as “choice,” in actuality it would prohibit even basic regulation […] Read More

Coast to coast consumer protections…

Congratulations to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who just signed a law to prevent hospitals overcharging the uninsured. Previously in 2006, both California and New York passed comprehensive legislation to prohibit hospitals from overcharging those who don’t have an insurer or government program to negotiate for them, and as a result, get charged more 3-4 times or more of what insurance companies or public program pay for the exact same service. The New Jersey bill, described by ace health reporter Lindy Washburn of the Bergen Record, would limit charges to 15% above Medicare rates. More information about the California law–AB774 (Chan)–is on the Health Access website. We continue to be active in making sure the law is enforced, that patients […] Read More

Mega problems with mini-coverage…

Last week had a startling article by Julie Appleby at the USA Today about the result of a 36-state investigation of HealthMarkets, resulting in a $20 million settlement, for duping lots of health care consumers into buying substandard health coverage. The investigation, prompted by numerous complaints, found that insurer HealthMarkets failed to properly train its sales agents, who didn’t always fully disclose the limits of its health policies to consumers and sometimes did not pay for medical services promptly. HealthMarkets, owned by three private-equity firms including the Blackstone Group, has about 612,000 policyholders in 44 states through its subsidiaries: Mega Life and Health Insurance, Mid-West National Life Insurance and Chesapeake Life Insurance. The company sells an array of plans, many […] Read More

Progress report

Ezra Klein has a good update on what’s going on with the Massachusetts plan here. Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

Healthy blogging…

Those interested in health policy should be subscribed to the news summary that the Kaiser Family Foundation puts out on a daily basis. Now, those summaries will often include a health policy blog roundup, which will be another way to keep up-to-date. Here’s several gold nuggets they found from panning the blogosphere about McCain’s health plan: Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters examines presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) health care plan and whether it could increase the number of uninsured residents by destabilizing the employer-based health care system. Robert Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review builds off of Paduda’s post to argue that McCain’s market-based plan reforms might work well for some voters, as long […] Read More