Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico Officials Discuss Efforts To Expand Health Coverage
Summaries of news abouthealth coverage developments in Kansas, Missouri and New Mexico appear below.
- Kansas: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) on Thursday said state legislators should approve the 21 recommendations made by the Kansas Health Policy Authority and a 50-cents-per-pack cigarette tax increase to fund the changes, the Wichita Eagle reports. Sebelius said the package of recommendations "seeks to really transform a system of health care and not just focus on health insurance." The panel has recommended that the state ban smoking in public places; collect and publicize information on health care costs and quality; and establish "medical homes" that would coordinate patient care for state programs such as Medicare and HealthWave, the state's version of SCHIP (Koranda, Wichita Eagle, 1/11). According to Sebelius, a cigarette tax increase is the only available means of funding the package, which would cost an estimated $227 million over five years. The tax increase would generate an estimated $61 million annually (Klepper, Kansas City Star, 1/10). The state Legislature begins its 2008 session on Monday (Carpenter, Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/11).
- Missouri: The Missouri House Special Committee on Health Care Transformation will hold 23 hearings over the next six weeks to evaluate Gov. Matt Blunt's (R) plan to enroll thousands of working parents in no-cost health insurance plans later this year and discuss other ways to aid the uninsured, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Blunt's Insure Missouri plan would cover about 54,431 working parents with incomes below the federal poverty level. According to estimates, the plan could cost nearly $600 million by 2010, $47 million of which would be funded by the state. Blunt has asked the Legislature for $43 million in funding for the program next year. The program is scheduled to begin on March 14. State Rep. Rob Schaaf (R) and other legislators say they have questions about how the program would work and how it would affect MO HealthNet. Schaaf said the hearings will focus on all areas of the plan, from demographics of the uninsured to federal funding (Young, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/11).
- New Mexico: New Mexico lawmakers on Wednesday proposed alternatives to Gov. Bill Richardson's (D) plan to expand health coverage to all state residents, the AP/Las Cruces Sun-News reports. Richardson's plan would cover all state residents through a combination of existing private and expanded government programs. The plan would require that all state residents obtain health coverage by 2010. One of the proposals is to establish a single-payer system that would provide near-universal coverage by guaranteeing a benefits package similar to the one provided to state employees, which allows people to choose their own physicians. State Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort (R) proposed legislation that would expand services at college health centers and require that college students have catastrophic health coverage. In addition, state Sen. Dave Feldman (D) proposed the creation of an independent health care authority to recommend a plan to the state Legislature by 2009 (Baker, AP/Las Cruces Sun-News, 1/9).
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