Thursday, March 5, 2015

March web quiz on CT employer coverage

Test your knowledge of employer coverage trends in CT. Take the March CT Health Policy Webquiz.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 – new health care price shopping tool

A cool new tool, Guroo -- from the Health Care Cost Institute, allows price comparisons for a wide array of treatment bundles across the US. For example, average prices for a colonoscopy for preventive screening across the US, in CT and New Haven are $2,288, $2,851 and $2,730 respectively. However that New Haven consumer can save, on average, $100 by travelling to Bridgeport and $627 if they are willing to travel to Springfield for the procedure. The site also breaks out the bundle into the physician and facility portions of the price, with the average cost and range of prices. The site also explains what the procedure entails, how to prepare (important for a colonoscopy), and questions to ask your provider. A great consumer tool but also an important advance for price transparency, and hopefully cost control.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CT health reform progress still stalled

CT’s progress toward health reform remains stalled yet again this month. The March meter moved down from last month slightly to 29.0%. Medicaid quality measures and public input were highlights. But placing Medicaid’s successes and reform planning in jeopardy, and SIM ethics challenges dragged progress down. The CT health reform progress meter is part of the CT Health Reform Dashboard.

Monday, March 2, 2015

CTHPP testimony opposing Governor’s budget cuts to Medicaid

Testimony to the Appropriations Committee at Friday’s hearing from the CT Health Policy Project focused on the Governor’s cuts to Medicaid. Topping the list of concerns is the proposal to cut coverage for 34,000 working parents and pregnant women. The last time CT cut HUSKY parents in 2003, the impact was devastating to many CT working families. Our report, In Their Own Words, chronicled the impact on eight typical HUSKY working families including Elizabeth from New Haven. Elizabeth worked full-time but as a long-term “temporary” employee and so, was not qualified for health benefits. When she lost HUSKY, she was no longer able to afford the medication that was controlling her high blood pressure. A few months later she had a costly heart attack, and consequently re-qualified for HUSKY as medically needy but only for six months. After the six months ended, her coverage ended again, and she could no longer afford both the original medication and others she needed to heal. Within a month she had another, very serious heart attack. She again qualified for HUSKY and, thankfully, she was still covered when the state restored funding the next year. That year was far more costly for the state than it would have been to just keeping Elizabeth continually covered, but the damage done to her heart and to her family will last.

Friday, February 27, 2015

CSG ERC is on Facebook

CT’s regional, multi-branch state policymaker support organization, CSG/ERC, is now on Facebook. The Council of State Government’s Eastern Region provides state policymakers with the latest information on critical policy topics, skill building, leadership training, and opportunities to exchange ideas and best practices with colleagues from around the region. CSG/ERC’s Health Policy Committee is chaired by CT’s Sen. Terry Gerratana. CSG/ERC’s Facebook page will facilitate resource sharing for busy policymakers across the region.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Advocates call on SIM to adopt state Code of Ethics

A letter was sent yesterday from independent consumer advocates to SIM leadership calling for SIM to follow CT’s Public Officials and State Employees Guide to the Code of Ethics, to protect the integrity of both SIM contracting and larger health reform efforts in our state. The advocates are asking for these protections now, before major procurements and the details of health reform are set in place, avoiding ethical concerns in the future and allowing reform to move forward confident that conflicted interests will not drive policy. The Affordable Care Act and SIM grant offer historic opportunities to reform our health system but also come with great responsibilities. Effective reform requires confidence and trust across all stakeholders. A strong ethics policy, that avoids even the perception of impropriety, is critical to success. Since 1977, the Code has covered all state contracting and procurements for public funds ensuring governmental integrity. The letter outlines previous examples of divergence from the Code that reduced credibility and harmed the public’s trust in CT state health policymaking. The letter also offers successful models to engage all voices, including those who will participate in SIM’s reforms, while maintaining independent decision making.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

H&R Block report finds half of ACA subsidy recipients will have to pay IRS back; uninsured penalties average $172

A new analysis by H&R Block finds that 52% of taxpayers nationally who received subsidies last year to purchase coverage in the exchanges will owe the IRS an average of $530 for overpayments. The “settlement” is to reconcile insurance subsides paid based on estimated earnings during the year with actual earnings. On the positive side, about a third of filers over-estimated their incomes and will receive refunds averaging $365. The authors also found that the average penalty for being uninsured was $172, higher than the flat $95 per uninsured adult fee. Those penalties are scheduled to increase for next year’s taxes. Many of the filers did not understand their potential liability, that they were receiving a government subsidy, and virtually everyone was confused. Just because it wasn’t complicated enough, only half of households were covered under the same plan, requiring “multiple tax return impacts.” A companion report gives a nice explanation of the tax implications for consumers, with helpful examples.