Friday, August 31, 2007

Health nut

The governor unveiled the first of five health care initiatives that are replacing his gigantic proposal to extend state-sponsored health care to all uninsured adults in the state, which failed to win any legislative support. The newer scaled-back version doesn’t have legislative approval, either, but the governor’s assuming some parts of the new plan won’t even need approval from the rulemaking body, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Still, the five different initiatives will need a funding source some day.

The first portion, announced Thursday, expands the governor’s first-term claim to fame, All Kids, to young adults age 19 to 21. The state won’t insure them directly. It’s actually a program offered through Blue Cross and Blue Shield Illinois that covers those young adults who have “pre-existing” major illnesses, which would make them unlikely to get other private insurance plans otherwise. The administration estimates it would help about 7,000 people at a cost of $15 million to the state. This part does not need approval from the legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, according to the administration.

Neither will the state rebate program for families who have private health insurance but who have a hard time paying the monthly premiums. These families make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $61,950 for a family of four. The rebate would amount to 20 percent of their premium costs, maxing out at $1,000 a year.

Another portion would provide breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment to all uninsured women, potentially up to 261,000 people at a cost of $50 million to the state.

Two portions that could need JCAR approval are the expansion of the state-run program FamilyCare, which the governor wants to apply to families up to 400 percent of the poverty level. That’s up from the current 150 percent threshold and would include a family of four making $82,600 a year. The last part aims to help very low-income adults who don’t qualify for Medicaid because they don’t have any dependants in the household. The single adults would get help with primary care, medications and hospital visits.

Krista Donahue, chief of policy at the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, calmed one fear that the governor would ram this through JCAR to enact the plans a.s.a.p. She said the governor will not file emergency rules, which means the portions requiring JCAR approval will have 45 days for public review. She also said there has been no decision to guarantee the state would reimburse participating doctors in a certain amount of time. “The rumor out there that we are going to pay providers who participate in these programs faster is just false,” she said.

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