Report Highlights Health Issues In State Of The State Addresses

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The following highlightshealth issues mentioned in governors' recent state of the state addresses.

  • California: In his Jan. 8 speech, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said that in 2007 the state Legislature took on "tough issues," including the "most comprehensive health care reform in the nation." Schwarzenegger said that "reform is so important" because the health care system in California is "collapsing under its weight, its costs, its gaping holes and its injustices." He said he understands concerns that the state faces a budget deficit and that the proposed health care system overhaul "is maybe too big, or too bold, or expensive," but he added that "sometimes you have to be daring because the need is so great." Schwarzenegger said he is confident that after the state Senate "finishes its deliberation," California residents in November will approve a ballot measure to overhaul the state's health care system (Schwarzenegger speech text, 1/8).
  • Colorado: In his Jan. 10 speech, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) said the state this year must move "ahead with health reform because escalating health care costs impact every family and every business" in Colorado. Ritter said, "On health care, my goal remains the same -- that all Coloradans have access to some basic level of health care." Ritter said that the state Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform will be releasing its final report in a few weeks and that some of its ideas are an "acknowledgement that we must take a staged and thoughtful approach to systemic reform." Ritter also discussed several health care initiatives for 2008, including simplifying, streamlining and modernizing Medicaid applications; enrolling 17,000 more children in Child's Health Plan Plus, the state's version of SCHIP; launching disease management programs; fully funding the Childhood Immunization Information System; and spearheading a collaborative effort to address cost and quality (Ritter speech text, 1/10).
  • Idaho: In his Jan. 7 speech, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) discussed actions lawmakers can take to improve the state's "ability to respond to current and future health care needs," such as "following up on last year's allocation of funding to expand Idaho's nursing school opportunities." Otter said that the state is working with Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield of Idaho, St. Luke's Health System, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Kootenai Medical Center, Health West and others to create a health data exchange -- a "first-of-its kind computer health information sharing system" that will help eliminate "waste and inefficiency" caused by duplication. The system will "take into account the important concerns of patient privacy while helping to make health care better and more consistent throughout Idaho," Otter said (Otter speech text, 1/7).
  • Maine: In his Jan. 9 speech, Gov. John Baldacci (D) proposed forming a collaborative among the Maine State Employees Health Commission, the University of Maine System and the Maine Education Association that would "put their enormous buying power to work to lower prescription drug costs" for state residents and increase the funds available to provide health care to retired teachers. In addition, Baldacci said the state has extended health coverage to "more state residents and more small businesses" through the Dirigo Health program, adding that in 2008 the state will take the "next step" with the program. Baldacci said he supports "legislative efforts to provide meaningful market reform that will make coverage more affordable for individuals," adding that he will work with state lawmakers to "find a new way to fund Dirigo that is less contentious and more sustainable" (Baldacci speech text, 1/9).
  • New Jersey: In his Jan. 8 speech, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) said New Jersey has "made progress" in providing "access to affordable health care for every child" in the state. However, he said "growing debt" is "crowding out our capacity to meet citizens' needs," adding that the crowd out is already apparent by looking at the condition of the state's mental health institutions and hospitals. According to Corzine, in 2008, "any non-recurring revenues or built-up surplus will be exclusively used to pay down debt, make capital investments, or pay off unfunded health care or retirement liabilities." He said the state faces $60 billion in unfunded health care costs for retirees (Corzine speech text, 1/8).
  • New York: In his Jan. 9 speech, Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) said he will propose in his upcoming executive budget that the state "fully fund the expansion" of SCHIP to provide "affordable coverage for every single child" in New York. Spitzer continued, "As we move toward universal health care, we must also take steps to make health care more affordable for every family and every business in New York" by "refocusing our health care system so that it delivers ... more effective, primary and preventive care." Spitzer said he also will propose changing reimbursement rates for health care services so that the state is paying for "the right care in the right setting at the right price." Spitzer also said, "We must bring our health care system out of the digital dark ages," adding, "In 2008, there is no reason that we cannot have secure electronic health records, whether on a card or online." In addition, the state must "address the shortage of doctors in many parts of our state and the epidemic of chronic disease among our children." Spitzer proposed the creation of the "Doctors Across New York" program, which will "offer grants to help repay education loans and find other ways" to encourage physicians to practice in medically underserved areas of the state (Spitzer speech text, 1/9).
  • South Dakota: In his Jan. 8 speech, Gov. Mike Rounds (R) said he will propose legislation "to help people secure a continuation of their health insurance when they leave a job or are no longer a covered dependent." Rounds said he also considered expanding SCHIP income eligibility limits from 200% of the federal poverty level to 250% of the poverty level, but the state does not "have the federal resources" to expand the program "at this time." Rounds said he also plans to introduce a bill that would establish a statewide trauma system, which "could save 80 lives every year." South Dakota is one of six states that does not have a comprehensive statewide trauma system, Rounds said. He also called on state Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman to establish "three working committees that, over the course of the next 12 months, will develop action plans for the policy recommendations" based on a "study conducted of the continuum of care needs of our elderly citizens in South Dakota" (Rounds speech text, 1/8).
  • Virginia: In his Jan. 9 speech, Gov. Tim Kaine (D) said that "due to chronic under-funding and an insufficient focus on the quality of care," the state's "mental health system has not been measuring up to the needs of Virginia's mentally ill." He said the state "must increase funding for additional clinicians and case managers" and "increase support for emergency services" in order to "expand and improve outpatient services." The state also must "do a better job keeping people with mental illnesses from entering the criminal justice system and ... provide better treatment to individuals when they are in jail" (Kaine speech text, 1/9).
  • Vermont: In his Jan. 10 speech, Gov. Jim Douglas (R) noted that the state has the highest percentage of insured children and said that he will "continue to insist that Washington live up to its obligations to our children." Douglas said, "The platform for meaningful progress on health care is the report of the bipartisan Health Care Reform Commission. There are a number of areas where we agree and should act quickly," including eliminating a technicality that allows "insurance companies to deny coverage for small businesses with fewer than 75% of employees under the employer's plan"; providing "coverage to more young adults by allowing parents to keep them on their family plans longer"; adopting a mechanism that can lower the cost of insurance; enhancing the focus on chronic conditions; and helping care physicians acquire electronic health information systems. Douglas asked the state Legislature to "make affordable health care the top priority" in 2008 (Douglas speech text, 1/10).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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