Debra Miller

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This session focused on a key feature of the Affordable Care Act – health insurance exchanges – that states must begin operating by Jan. 1, 2014. But for states, “January 1, 2014, is tomorrow,” said Jason Helgerson, Medicaid director for Wisconsin and principal project sponsor for the state’s BadgerCare Plus.  These exchanges, said Jon Kingsdale, former executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority in Massachusetts, essentially do five things: determine eligibility for public subsidy; enroll unsubsidized market segments, specify plan designs and cost-sharing; rate, contract and sell health plans; and provide education and outreach.

These insurance plans were created in summer 2010 as part of federal health reform to bridge the gap for adults with pre-existing conditions until 2014 when insurers will be prohibited from excluding them from coverage. 27 states run their own plans, and in 23 states and D.C., the federal government administers the programs. As of November 2010, more than 8,000 had enrolled. The federal government has announced lower premiums in 2011 to encourage more enrollment.

Premature birth is the number one killer of American newborns, according to the March of Dimes. The latest health policy Facts & Figures from CSG goes one step further in its analysis and looks at the disparities in premature births for African-American and Hispanic women compared to white women.

The U.S. ranked behind 29 other nations in infant mortality in 2005. Experts believe the poor U.S. ranking is due in large part to disparities that continue to exist among various racial and ethnic groups, especially African-Americans. African-American babies are more than twice as likely to die in their first year as white babies. Low birth-weight and pre-term births are risk factors for infant mortality, but there is little consensus about why babies are born too soon or too small, or why racial and ethnic disparities persist.

The Texas Tribune and the NY Times have reported that Representative Warren Chisum, a candidate for Texas House Speaker, said of Medicaid this week, “This system is bankrupting our state. We need to get out of it. And with the budget shortfall we’re anticipating, we may have to act this year.” And in Arizona, the newly elected president of the state senate, Russell Pearce, is pushing to reject federal funding for that state’s Medicaid program.

Voters in Arizona and Oklahoma had the chance—and took it—to reject one of the main provisions of the federal health reform bill, requiring everyone to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty beginning in 2014. The vote was not close in either state—55 percent of voters in Arizona rejected the individual mandate to purchase health insurance and a whopping 64 percent in Oklahoma did the same.

Voters in Arizona and Oklahoma had the chance – and took it - to reject one of the main provisions of the federal health reform bill, requiring health insurance or facing a tax penalty beginning in 2014. But in Colorado, the voters defeated a similar provision.

Colorado, Arizona and Oklahoma voters will have a chance to vote against one of the main provisions of the federal health reform bill, requiring health insurance or facing a tax penalty beginning in 2014.

In Colorado voters will choose whether or not the state can require residents to purchase health insurance and participate in the health care industry. Some in the insurance industry say that...

At a Saturday, December 4, session at the CSG 2010 National Conference policy experts from around the country will discuss how some states have implemented innovative comprehensive programs to address this elusive policy goal.  Presenters include Vernon Smith, consultant to NGA and other national groups, and Jason Helgerson, Wisconsin Medicaid Director.

According to American Medical News, early indications are that relatively few employers are dropping mental health coverage as they go into open enrollment for the 2011 calendar year.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, passed in 2008 but fully in effect in 2011, requires companies that offer mental health benefits to restrict them no further than they do physical health coverage.

According to the 2010 Employer Health...

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