Health Issues In State Of State Addresses
The following highlightshealth issues mentioned in governors' recent state of the state addresses.
- Arizona: In her Jan. 14 speech, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) proposed creating a program called "KidsShare," which she said would allow families "to buy health insurance for their children at the parents' cost, with no subsidy from the state's general fund." She also proposed extending to 25 years old the age that young adults can remain on their parents' insurance, provided that it would be cost-neutral for taxpayers. She asked lawmakers to "require that insurance companies supply the state with timely, accurate information about their plans and the sticker prices for their coverage," adding that the state should then "publicize this information in a clear, consumer-friendly way." Napolitano also proposed increasing the number of benefits counselors available to the state's more than 600,000 veterans, and tripling state funding to recruit physicians, dentists and nurse practitioners to work in underserved areas. She also said the state should pay more money to nursing homes that provide the highest-quality care. Napolitano said the state's health care system should be "simple and smart," adding, "The proposals I've outlined today... move Arizona forward toward an accessible, affordable and high-quality health care system" (Napolitano speech text, 1/14).
- Delaware: In her Jan. 17 speech, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) announced that the state's cancer rate has declined by four times the national rate and that the death rate has declined by twice the nation's rate, which she attributes to funding the recommendations of the Delaware Advisory Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality. Minner proposed increasing funding for a state program that provides cancer treatment for the uninsured from one year of treatment to two years, and she proposed providing at no cost the human papillomavirus vaccine to uninsured girls between ages nine and 17. She also said that she will continue to fund the implementation of the recommendations from the state's Infant Mortality Task Force. Minner said that in February the state will launch an employee health care initiative called DelaWell, which will provide state employees with a "comprehensive educational and lifestyle plan." In addition, Minner proposed funding an initiative to combat childhood obesity by providing a "fitness-gram" for fourth-grade students to "inform parents of their child's vital health statistics." She also proposed a 45-cent cigarette tax increase and said that she has appropriated $1 million to implement the recommendations of the Health Disparities Task Force. Minner noted that the state's Medicaid program "is one of our state's major success stories" because it has been able to "meet the growing demand" without "restricting eligibility or reducing services" (Minner speech text, 1/17).
- Georgia: In his Jan. 16 speech, Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) announced a new partnership between the state and Shriners Hospital that will allow children in PeachCare, the state's version of SCHIP, with "serious and cost-prohibitive orthopedic needs" to be treated in the hospital at no cost. Perdue also said that the state will invest $17 million in the Health Insurance Partnership to help small businesses purchase health coverage for employees. In addition, Perdue said that his budget recommendations will include $53 million to strengthen the state's trauma network, which will be partially funded by increasing fines on reckless drivers (Perdue speech text, 1/16).
- Iowa: In his Jan. 15 speech, Gov. Chet Culver (D) said the state should "take up the challenge of making health care affordable and accessible to all Iowans." He said a report submitted by the Iowa Affordable Health Care Commission includes some "immediate steps we need to take," adding that the state should "expand pooling options for associations, small businesses and organizations in an effort to reduce the cost of group rates"; allow children to be covered by their parents' health plans up to age 25; "eliminate exclusions and waiting periods" for people switching from group coverage to individual plans; "cap long-term insurance rate increases" at 12% annually; "set the standard for electronic medical records and telemedicine"; and address the health care needs of seniors. In addition, Culver said the state should extend health coverage to an additional 7,500 uninsured children. Culver also said that a task force will be appointed to make recommendations by March on how to address the state's nursing shortage. According to Culver, the "most effective health care reform lies in the area of prevention, wellness and chronic disease management." He said that his budget plan includes more funding for preventive screenings and that he would sign legislation banning smoking "at the local level." In addition, Culver proposed a "new state employees' wellness initiative" and "chronic disease management program." For children, he proposed a "minimum standard for physical activity" in Iowa schools and "efforts to promote healthier school meals" (Culver speech text, 1/15).
- Missouri: In his Jan. 15 speech, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) said that he "will not rest until every Missourian has access to affordable care." He said that the state has "sought, and found, solutions that work" to fix the health care system, including strengthening the "safety net by creating Mo HealthNet." Blunt continued, "HealthNet empowers participants through personalized care in a health care home, and, for the first time in Missouri history, guarantees access to primary and preventative care." Blunt also said the Insure Missouri program, which starts next month, will make "health insurance more affordable for working Missourians." He said that when the program is fully implemented, "Insure Missouri will offer access to care for nearly 200,000 Missourians" (Blunt speech text, 1/15).
- Nebraska: In his Jan. 15 speech, Gov. Dave Heineman (R) said lawmakers are "in the process" of implementing changes from legislation that includes the "comprehensive restructuring of the Department of Health and Human Services designed to make the system more effective, more efficient and more accountable." He also said that the state will receive "a pilot technology grant ... to better coordinate patient records, to improve a patient's health and to moderate health costs." In addition, Heineman discussed the importance of preventive health, saying obesity is a problem that "needs to be addressed in our schools, in our workplaces, in our homes and in our communities." Heineman said, "As we reform and improve our health insurance program for state employees, I will be recommending that we focus on prevention and wellness," which will result in "improved employee health, increased productivity and lower future health care costs" (Heineman speech text, 1/15).
- New Mexico: In his Jan. 15 speech, Gov. Bill Richardson (D) said the state should "focus on the biggest challenges we face," including ensuring "that every New Mexican will have health coverage." According to Richardson, 20% of state residents are uninsured. Richardson said, "The time for universal health care coverage is now," adding that his "'Health Solutions New Mexico Plan' lays out a commonsense and pragmatic approach to address our health care challenges." The plan would require "that at least 85%" of private insurer premiums "be spent directly on care." The plan also "calls on individuals and employers alike to obtain health coverage" and would provide assistance to those who cannot afford it, he said, adding, "If a company wants to do business with the state, they must offer health insurance to their employees." Richardson said the plan "calls for a shift from paper to electronic medical records and transactions," and under the plan, a "new Health Coverage Authority will act as a single point of accountability, making sure dollars go to health care, not administration." Richardson said he will propose several initiatives to "strengthen our health care providers" in rural and border counties. He requested increased funding to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Richardson called for the completion of a "world-class cancer research center" and recommended creating the first dental school in the state to address the "state's gaps in oral health care" (Richardson speech text, 1/15).
- South Carolina: In his Jan. 16 speech, Gov. Mark Sanford (R) called on state lawmakers to "pass the small-business health care bill in the first 30 days of the session," adding, "It is a step in the right direction in making health care more available and affordable to small businesses and the people who work there." Sanford said lawmakers also should act on legislation that would "address the more than $20 billion in unfunded retiree benefits and health care promises owed by South Carolina's government." In addition, Sanford said changes to the state's Medicaid program "will foster innovation as private companies compete within Medicaid to drive down prices and improve quality." He noted that South Carolina also is the "only state in the nation offering health savings accounts for Medicaid" beneficiaries (Sanford speech text, 1/16).
- Washington: In her Jan. 15 speech, Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) said a bill to expand health coverage and lower health care costs, which she signed into law during the last legislative session, is "seeing real results." She said that a state prescription drug discount program launched in 2007 "has saved more than 70,000 people an average of $33 per prescription, and an overall savings for them of more than $2 million." Gregoire asked state lawmakers "to provide funding and legislation to protect" state residents and "ensure competent, qualified health care professionals are serving them." She proposed "national criminal background checks for all out-of-state applicants who want to be licensed health care providers in Washington" state and "more timely investigations of complaints against health care providers." Gregoire also called on lawmakers to "approve a new, online database" that physicians and pharmacists can use to track prescription drugs patients receive. In addition, she recommended "training more nurses in hospitals to help patients and creat[ing] more good, skilled nursing jobs" to address a projected statewide shortage of nurses in 2008 (Gregoire speech text, 1/15).
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