Access to Health Insurance, Long Term Care Among State Lawmakers’ Top Priorities for 2001
Access to health insurance, CHIP program expansion and caring for a growing elderly population are among the "hot" issues that state lawmakers plan to address in 2001, according to the annual State Health Priorities Survey, conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures Health Policy Tracking Service and released yesterday at a news briefing. Forty-nine states responded to the survey, which has been conducted for the past four years and compiles input from state legislators, legislative staff, governor's offices and executive agencies. Among the findings:
- Access to insurance: Forty-five states said they will "address an expansion of the CHIP program" to parents, and 44 states said review of Medicaid reimbursement rates -- either increasing or decreasing -- was also a priority. Forty-four states said they plan to pursue coverage of the working poor under state-sponsored programs; methods to achieve this goal vary and include direct subsidies and tax credits.
- Managed care: Legislative efforts to regulate managed care organizations are becoming "less intense," giving way to a focus on quality issues. Thirty-nine states said medical record confidentiality was a priority in 2001, while 38 states will "continue to address and refine an independent appeals process" for health plan enrollees; 37 states called health plan liability a priority; and 37 states said implementing health plan report card systems to provide quality information to consumers was needed.
- Mandated benefits: Legislators said they plan to address mandatory coverage of several services, including osteoporosis treatment (26 states), contraceptives (23 states), cervical cancer screening (23 states) and off-label pharmaceuticals (26 states).
- Long term care: State lawmakers continue to worry over the "rising elderly population," working to balance increasing costs for long term care services and care provider retention difficulties against "rapidly rising state Medicaid budgets." The survey found lawmakers' priorities include addressing home and community-based services (46 states), discussion of wages for nursing home staff (44 states), assisted living oversight (39 states), and establishing tax credits or deductions for long term care insurance (39 states).
- Prescription drugs: "In absence of a federal solution," state lawmakers are focusing on providing "pharmaceutical assistance" to the elderly and curbing medication costs. Forty-two states called establishing purchasing pools for prescription drugs a priority in 2001, while 41 states said they hoped to either establish or modify pharmaceutical assistance programs for the elderly.
- Health care facilities: The coming year will likely see continued focus on hospital nurse staffing ratios, with 38 states calling the issue a priority, the NCSL reported. The survey found some policymakers have "linked the issue of health providers shortages with the rise in medical errors and have identified medical errors as an area that will be addressed."