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March 27, 2013

NEW ITEMS: Medicaid Expansion Briefs, Articles, & Fact Sheets

Visit the Medicaid Expansion page for recently added resources.

March 19, 2013

Minnesota State Legislature Passes Health Insurance Exchange Bill-the Final Stage of Approval

The Minnesota health exchange insurance bill, which confirms the establishment of a state insurance marketplace (previously known as an exchange) in Minnesota, recently passed the State Senate on Monday. The State House had previously passed the bill, and now the last step for enactment into law is Governor Mark Dayton’s signature. Governor Mark Dayton has already declared his support for establishing a state exchange. Minnesota was granted conditional approval for establishing its own state health insurance marketplace by HHS Secretary Sebelius on December 20, 2012. The Minnesota State Legislature was the final stage of approval for establishing the state exchange.

Minnesota’s state exchange is projected to cover 300,000 uninsured, 6,199 of which are American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), who will be able to receive federal subsidies to pay for their healthcare coverage. By 2016, 1.3 million Minnesotan residents will obtain health insurance through the exchanges. Planning is now full force in order to meet the October 1, 2013 deadline for open enrollment, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2014.

March 18, 2013

29 States Get ‘F’ For Price Transparency Laws

Wonder why you can’t get a straight answer on how much a health care procedure will cost you? One big reason: State laws which allow hospitals and other providers to keep costs hidden until they send you the bill.

report card on price transparency released today gives 29 states an “F” and seven states a “D” for policies that keep patients and their families in the dark on prices. The failing grade went to those with practically no transparency requirements.

Only two states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, rate an “A,” and even they could improve their laws, according tothe report by the Catalyst for Payment Reform, a consortium of health care purchasers such as GE, Wal-Mart and The Boeing Company, and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, a nonprofit group seeking to improve health care with evidence-based incentive programs.

The high prices that American health care providers charge, often with little connection to actual costs, have been in the national spotlight since Time magazine devoted its entire March 4 issue to an investigation by Steven Brill.

Most consumers are unaware of the tremendous variation in price. For instance, prices for knee replacement surgery in the same California market can range from $15,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the hospital, with no discernible difference in quality.

High deductible insurance plans are becoming more common, with employers hoping consumers with “skin in the game” will shop around to help keep prices down. But, the authors note, consumers cannot make informed decisions without being able to comparison shop on the basis of either price or quality.

“Consumers deserve to have as much information about the price of their health care as they do about restaurants, cars, and household appliances,” the report says.

The grades reflect the quality and scope of the pricing data that states require and how well they disseminate it — public websites gain high points, for example. The grades also discriminate between ‘charges,’ the prices that hospitals say they charge for services, and what a consumer and her insurance company actually pay for them. There is often little connection between the two. States that require disclosure of actual prices earned higher grades.

The groups plan to update the state report cards annually.

Written by Russ Mitchel, from Kaiser Family Foundation

March 18, 2013

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) welcomes HHS Secretary Sebelius to the twitterverse!

Washington, DC — NIHB was heartened to see that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced her new twitter account under a banner which quoting her making the case for public health:

The biggest change we can make isn’t how we provide health care—it’s when.  Right now, we have a sick care system, and we need to invest in a health care system. – Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Like Secretary Sebelius, NIHB supports a re-envisioning of our current health care system.  Making substantial and meaningful investments in public health means long term financial savings for governments and individuals.  In the current difficult financial environment, NIHB recognizes the important role public health will play in creating new efficiencies, particularly in Indian Country where health care has been consistently underfunded.

More important than the financial benefits, investments in public health improve and save lives! Because Indian Country experiences a disproportionate share of public health related disparities, Indian Country also stands to benefit greatly from public health investments.

Making the case for public health is not always easy; often, the measure of success for public health activity is less apparent than for other types of activity.  For instance, a successful injury prevention program results in a non-event – no injuries.  While this success does not easily capture the spotlight, it does make a tremendous difference to individuals and communities.

Strong and respected voices, like that of Secretary Sebelius, can amplify the quiet success of public health.  NIHB commends the Secretary for her commitment to public health and stands with her as we shift from a sick care system to a health care system – for Indian Country and the nation.

March 11, 2013

Additional States Granted Conditional Approval for Partnership Health Insurance Marketplaces

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, and West Virginia as conditionally approved to operate State Partnership Marketplaces, which will be ready for open enrollment in October 2013. The HHS Secretary has the authority to declare which states meet the criteria to establish either a state or partnership exchange. Conditional approval means that states are on track to meet all Exchange deadlines. To date, 24 states and the District of Columbia have been conditionally approved to partially or fully run their health insurance marketplaces. HHS will continue to provide all states with the flexibility, resources, and time needed to support the establishment of the new health insurance marketplace.