On July 5, 2016, Hawaii became the third state to require all public and private health insurance providers to cover 12 months’ worth of contraceptives at one time. Other states introduced similar legislation in 2016. Research has shown that this change could have enormous effects.

Kaiser Family Foundation has posted an excellent web panel discussion on drug pricing. Representatives from Pfizer, a large international pharmaceutical company; Express Scripts, and Aetna, a major health insurance carrier, talk with Larry Levitt, a Kaiser senior vice president.

A comparison of U.S. Census data for 2013 and 2014, released in early 2016, shows that a greater portion of Americans in each state had health insurance in the more recent year. Nearly 8.5 million individuals gained health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014. In 2014, all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to increase access to affordable insurance were in place for states. Some states, however, decided not to expand income eligibility for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 was the prerogative of the states, not Congress. The states that showed the greatest increase in coverage between 2013 and 2014 were states that expanded Medicaid income eligibility.

The Small Business Health Care Relief Act of 2016 (H.R.5447) was proposed by Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) to expand employer healthcare options for small businesses. Cosponsored by 22 Democrats and 37 Republicans, the legislation recently passed the House and was referred to the Senate Calendar as General Order 526.

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Minnesota was an early adopter of the use of health care homes, and a five-year study of their impact shows promising results for any state looking to reduce health costs and improve patient outcomes.
“Given how much is spent for Medicaid, Medicare and dually eligible enrollees, you can create large savings and bend the cost curve,” says Douglas Wholey, a professor of health policy at the University of Minnesota and the study’s lead evaluator.

Gov. Matt Bevin, elected in November 2015 and who had pledged during his campaign to eliminate Medicaid expansion which brought health coverage to 400,000 previously uninsured individuals, announced yesterday his plan to transform Kentucky’s Medicaid system through an 1115 waiver. The new waiver will cover almost all the Medicaid enrollees eligible under the pre-expansion rules as well as all the newly eligible under the expansion rules.

Bevin said his plan is an opportunity “to come up with what is going to be truly a transformative and sustainable and fantastic program,” according The Courier-Journal coverage of the press conference. He pledged to both save money—$2.2 billion in combined state and federal funding over the next five years—and reduce the number of Medicaid enrollees—86,000 people by 2021 by moving them to private insurance.  

According to two recent studies, states that chose to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act have experienced budget savings, revenue gains, and stronger hospitals as a result.

An informational bulletin was released June 1, 2016,  by federal Medicaid officials to inform states how to use Medicaid funds to help states and territorities to prevent, detect and respond to the Zika virus.

For instance, states could choose to cover the costs of over-the-counter insect repellants if prescribed by a health care professional. Additional family planning counseling can be a tool to prevent the spread of the Zika virus and...

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Illinois is leading the way in adopting Medicaid payment reforms to increase access to long-acting reversible contraception, known as LARCs. LARCs — intrauterine devices, or IUDs, and subdermal contraceptive implants — are highly effective forms of birth control, with a pregnancy rate of less than 1 percent within the first year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
In comparison, oral contraceptive pills have a pregnancy rate of 9 percent and male condoms have a pregnancy rate of 18 percent in the first year. The LARC devices are effective for three to 10 years. Two years ago, Illinois began implementation of a Family Planning Action Plan. It, in part, increased provider rates and required health plans in the state to submit their family planning policies (including referral policies) with the state.

Zubik v. Burwell, involving religious nonprofit objections to providing notice objecting to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control mandate, does not directly affect state and local government. But it is one piece of a litigation puzzle over this law; most of the puzzle pieces do affect state and local government. In a three-page unauthored opinion the Court did not rule on the merits of the case leaving the lower courts to “resolve any outstanding issues.”

The ACA regulations requires employers offering health insurance to cover certain contraceptives unless employers object on religious grounds. Religious nonprofits claim that submitting a form to their insurer or the federal government saying they object to providing contraception coverage on religious grounds violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  

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