The Nevada Legislature approved immense cuts to the state’s health and education budgets on July 19th in an effort to rebalance the state budget amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and plummeting revenue projections, reports the Associated Press. The revised budget passed through both the state Senate and Assembly after days and nights of deliberation in the part-time Legislature, which the Nevada governor convened for an unscheduled special legislative session on July 8 to address a projected $1.2 billion revenue shortfall. The plan cuts more than $500 million from the state budget, with the largest reductions hitting the Department of Health and Human Services and the K-12 education system, including cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates and specialty care programs and funding allocated to the state’s most underperforming schools. The Nevada governor said in a statement he intends to sign the bill.
Following a handful of other states, New Hampshire has passed a law to set up prescription drug importation programs with Canada, reports Healio News. The omnibus bill also puts a $30 price cap on monthly insulin copays for those with state-regulated commercial health insurance. Proponents of the measure believe it will create transparency in drug pricing and help New Hampshire residents get access to lower-cost prescription drugs, namely insulin.
A new Georgia law protects patients from surprise medical bills in an emergency or when they receive care at an in-network healthcare facility but are treated by an out-of-network provider (such as an anesthesiologist), according to Community Catalyst. Patients will pay no more than they would have if the care had been received in-network, and providers cannot bill a patient for any additional amount, Arnold Ventures reports. However, Georgia’s bill extends only to state-regulated health insurance plans and certain public plans (such as the state employee health plan).
Amid a spike in coronavirus cases across Oklahoma, COVID-19 data from Tulsa County suggests that people of color, particularly Asian and Latinx people, are being disproportionately harmed by the virus, according to The Black Wall Street Times. Despite national data indicating that non-Hispanic Black and Indigenous Americans are 5 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than non-Hispanic White Americans, local data shows that Black and Indigenous people in Tulsa County have disproportionately low rates of COVID-19 infection. A potential explanation for the discrepancy could be increased access to testing and treatment for COVID-19 for some racial and ethnic groups over others.
Like many states, Kansas has experimented with a variety of strategies to expand its workforce capacity to care for patients with COVID, a blog by the Kansas Health Institute describes. Kansas’ efforts have included: expanding scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants; expediting the process for inactive or retired physicians to receive licensure to assist with COVID; and allowing early graduations from state medical schools so senior medical students can enter the workforce.
Illinois has renewed the Hospital Assessment Program and enacted the Health Care Affordability Act, according to WISC/WRSP. The Hospital Assessment Program has provided $450 million in additional funding for hospitals since the last assessment in 2016, with priority going to hospitals that serve large numbers of Medicaid patients. The Health Care Affordability Act eliminates and loosens requirements for Medicaid access and helps families enroll in and maintain coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Program and the ALL KIDS Act.
Colorado has four new health insurance laws focused on improving access and affordability for state residents, reports Summit Daily. The first law creates the Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise, which extends Colorado’s reinsurance program for five years and expands coverage to those who were initially left out. The law also aims to provide more access to insurance for low-income people who receive federal subsidies, as the program caused those individuals to spend more on health insurance than they had before. The second law deals with reimbursement for telehealth services and requires that insurance carriers cover telehealth visits for behavioral, mental and physical healthcare. The state has also simplified the health insurance enrollment process by enabling people to enroll while filing their taxes and allowing working adults with disabilities over the age of 65 to participate in the Medicaid buy-in program.
Insurance companies regulated by New York state have requested a premium increases averaging 11.5 percent due to the COVID-19 crisis, reports WSKG. Meanwhile, the number of claims submitted by patients during the Spring declined significantly, with elective surgeries across the state cancelled or postponed and people avoiding doctor’s offices and hospitals. Some insurance companies may have to issue rebates to premium holders. In past years, the state Department of Financial Services, which approves rate changes, hasn’t granted the increases that insurers have requested, but has granted premium hikes at lower rates.
New Jersey teachers will participate in a reformed health benefits system that supporters say is designed to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, reduce the cost for educators and protect the quality of their healthcare, reports NJ Spotlight. The new law seeks to reduce taxpayer costs for teacher benefits by at least $300 million by reducing the number of health plans options and shifting from an employee-contribution system tied to premium price to one linked to earnings. Teachers will have access to three plans in which premium costs are tied to salary.
The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has approved its first permanent telehealth policy, having previously approved the same policy on an interim basis in March 2020, reports JD Supra. The policy provides that a ‘face-to-face encounter’ is not a pre-requisite for a telehealth visit and that the same standard of care applies in both in-person and telehealth encounters. This permanent policy change is one of the first state actions to make permanent some of the temporary measures that were put in place to facilitate telemedicine use during the COVID-19 pandemic.