Gov. Mike Pence announced today federal approval of his state’s Medicaid waiver to expand eligibility to all persons with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the Indy Star newspaper.

Pence has lobbied hard for what he calls HIP 2.0, expanding a smaller consumer-driven health plan called Healthy Indiana Plan, rather than expand the traditional Medicaid program.

“The expanded and updated HIP 2.0 is based on a program that has been serving 60,000 low-income Hoosiers in our state for seven years,” said Governor Pence in a press release. “It is a proven model for Medicaid reform across the nation.”

Up to 350,000 people will be eligible according to the press release. The state will start taking applications today, Jan. 27, for coverage to begin on Feb. 1, 2015.

New Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, will ask the legislature to continue to fund the private option Medicaid expansion through the end of 2016, according to the Arkansas Times. Then he intends to come up with a new plan for 2017 and beyond.

Gov. Hutchinson alluded to Section 1332 waivers, sometimes called waivers on steroids, that will be available to states in 2017 to implement wholesale reforms of Medicaid while releasing an approved state from many, if not all, of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Calling his proposal Insure Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam said yestereday he is requesting an amendment to the state’s TennCare demonstration project for a two year pilot project to cover as many as 200,000 low-income individuals under the Medicaid expansion available through the Affordable Care Act, according to numerous press reports.

Apparently having health insurance matters. Not as many people die.

That is the chief finding of a new health study that looked at mortality in Massachusetts following the enactment of health reform in 2006 that resulted in nearly universal health insurance coverage in that state.

Today’s New York Times summarized the study which was published online Monday in the ...

With the looming deadline for choosing health insurance quickly approaching, Yahoo News recently put out some enrollment figures by state. The idea was to contrast each state's projected enrollees by February 28th with the actual number of enrollees by March 1st. The numbers reveal a wide disparity between the states.

The federal government has approved a Medicare waiver for Maryland intended to reduce hospital spending, Stateline reports today. Maryland is already the only state to set uniform prices for all hospitals. The same medical procedure costs the same in every hospital in the state regardless of the insurer, including Medicare and Medicaid. This has been true since 1974.

The Medicare waiver is how Maryland can set Medicare hospital rates – otherwise it would be subject to federal rules on rates. If the waiver succeeds in holding down costs, Maryland will continue to set its own Medicare hospital rates, currently higher than those in other states.

Yesterday, new data was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that show over 3.6 million Americans have completed applications for health insurance coverage in the federal exchange and the state-based exchanges run by 14 states and the District of Columbia. 

Applicants who have made it to the finish line include nearly 365,000 who have selected a marketplace plan and 803,000 who have been determined eligible for Medicaid or CHIP (for children) coverage.

On June 20-22, 45 CSG members gathered in Washington, D.C. for the second annual Medicaid Policy Academy to learn more about Medicaid and how states can improve health outcomes for enrollees and, at the same time, run a more cost efficient program. Attendees had been nominated for attendance by health committee chairs in their home states as "rising stars" who were either new to positions of leadership on Medicaid policy or were likely to soon assume these positions.

In the world of politics, there are few simple problems and fewer simple solutions. However, some problems are more complex than others, as well as their corresponding solutions. Whether or not to build a certain bridge may invoke varying arguments for or against the project, but when the decision is made, there are a limited number of options for how to move forward. Not so with healthcare in America. There may be some tenets most Americans can agree upon but, beyond that, the solutions become more complicated. For instance, most agree that every American needs access to healthcare, in some form or fashion, but how to accomplish that is where the water gets murky. More precisely, unlike building a bridge, each answer to the problem comes with its own set of positive and negative economic and public health consequences.

Despite Massachusetts' ability to provide nearly universal health care coverge, the state has had issues maintaining control of health care cost growth. Nonetheless, the state has passed legislation to address this matter specifically. The recent health care costs bill aims to save $200 billion over the next fifteen years.

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