Clip files / Local news from the states

This column features selected short items about state health care policy.

Health care plan in works to offer up big changes

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana will have a detailed health care plan to present to federal officials by mid-October, outlining major changes in the way such care is delivered and paid for in the New Orleans area, Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary Fred Cerise says. The goal of the plan, which will be crafted in cooperation with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, is to create a "medical home" for the poor by revising the rigid rules that govern the Medicaid program. Cerise said the redesigned system could lead to the program being expanded to cover more people, but also might require poor people to pay for a portion of their care in exchange for having greater flexibility and access to more primary and preventive care.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, 6/13/06

Bredesen Signs Health Care Legislation

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed health care legislation designed to help cover Tennessee's more than 600,000 uninsured workers. Bredesen made the program, Cover Tennessee, his top priority this session, and the General Assembly passed the legislation shortly before adjourning. "These uninsured are an issue we can no longer ignore," Bredesen said. The plan is optional and offers low-income workers a chance to buy basic subsidized health insurance, giving employers an option to help pay part of the premium. Employers would have an incentive to opt in because the state's insurance plan will cost less than others. The average monthly premium will be $150 for basic insurance under the plan. The state will pay $50, employers will have the option to contribute another $50, and employees pay the rest. Cover Tennessee also includes a plan to cover children and a program for adults who can't get insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition. There's also a state-sponsored pharmacy assistance program and an effort to reduce obesity and diabetes. The state estimates that 100,000 adults, 75,000 children and 15,000 chronically ill residents will enroll in the plan within three years. The entire program is expected to cost the state $350 million over that time.

People who make less than 2½ times the federal poverty level — $24,500 for an individual or $50,000 for a family of four — would be eligible for most of the Cover Tennessee proposal. Bredesen said he expects the plan's coverage to begin in early 2007, although several details have yet to be ironed out, including which insurance companies will participate. The legislation calls for at least two companies to offer coverage. Bredesen has described Cover Tennessee as an alternative to the mandatory universal health program passed by Massachusetts.

Newsday/AP, 6/12/06