Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Save Medicaid PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 15 June 2012 08:00

Restructuring Package Stabilizes Medicaid and

Preserves Care for Most Vulnerable

CHICAGO – June 14, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed into law a package of reforms that will rescue the state’s Medicaid system from the brink of collapse and make the program sustainable for the future, one of his top priorities this legislative session.

The series of new laws reaches the governor’s goal of $2.7 billion in Medicaid savings, which includes $1.6 billion in Medicaid spending reductions, an increase in the price of cigarettes and resulting dollar-for-dollar federal matching funds. The legislation targets fraud and abuse in Medicaid, reduces rates for providers and decreases the burden of smoking on the Medicaid system through a dollar-a-pack increase in the price of cigarettes, which will also prevent children from smoking. The new laws also provide new federal funding for hospitals, and end the long-time practice of balancing the budget by pushing Medicaid bills into the next fiscal year.

During his budget address in February, Governor Quinn called for the fundamental restructuring of Medicaid through $2.7 billion in liability reductions to repair the program’s long-term deficit. To achieve that goal, the governor convened a working group of bipartisan legislators to develop numerous options to reach the savings. In April, the governor laid out a proposal to rescue Medicaid that was informed by the working group, which served as the basis for successful negotiations on the final package of legislation he signed today.

“One of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse,” Governor Quinn said. “I applaud the members of our working group and of the General Assembly, who worked together in a bipartisan manner to tackle a grave crisis. As a result, we preserved our healthcare program that millions of our most vulnerable rely upon.”

As Governor Quinn cited in his budget address, the Medicaid program faced a $2.7 billion budget gap this year and the pile of unpaid bills would have grown to $21 billion by 2017 without a series of difficult but necessary reforms. During his budget address, the Governor called for a combination of eligibility reforms, reductions in optional services, controls on utilization and cuts in provider rates to close the gap.

Governor Quinn assigned Director Julie Hamos of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to craft a Medicaid rescue package in cooperation with a bipartisan Legislative Medicaid Advisory Committee, led by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale).

The Governor signed five pieces of resulting legislation today:

·         SB 2840, sponsored by Sen. Steans and Rep. Feigenholtz:  The "Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together Act" (SMART Act) includes $1.6 billion in 62 spending reductions, utilization controls and provider rate cuts.

·         SB 2194, sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago):  $1 per pack increase in the price of cigarettes provides $350 million and dollar-for-dollar federal matching funds of $350 million for Medicaid; a new hospital assessment program provides $100 million for Medicaid and $480 million for hospitals.

·         HB 5007, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Rep. Currie:  The Cook County Waiver authorizes the Cook County Health & Hospitals System to provide a limited Medicaid coverage to their patients, prior to the Affordable Care Act 2014 implementation, at no cost to the state; also extends the state's moratorium on Medicaid expansion to 2015.

·         SB 3397, sponsored by Sen. Steans and Rep. Currie:  Phases out the long-time practice of balancing the budget by pushing Medicaid bills into the next fiscal year

·         SB 3261, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago): defines charity care for purposes of property tax exemptions for non-profit hospitals.

The SMART Act scales Medicaid to fit available funding sources through spending reductions, utilization controls and provider rate cuts. Its key provisions include:

·         Reducing eligibility for adults in the FamilyCare program to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($30,660 for a family of four).

·         The state’s subsidy for the federal prescription drug (Part D) program, IL Cares Rx, is terminated, but “Extra Help/Low Income Subsidy” provides federal assistance to low-income seniors and people with disabilities eligible for Medicare.

·         New integrity measures will aggressively target client and provider fraud through:

o   Enhanced eligibility verification of income and residency through use of private vendor’s access to national databases for annual redeterminations; and

o   Expanded authority of the HFS Inspector General to deny, suspend and recover overpayments and conduct pre-payment and post-payment provider audits.

·         Eliminates some optional services, such as group psychotherapy and adult chiropractic services, and places utilization control on certain optional services such as adult dental services (restricted to emergencies), adult podiatry services (restricted to diabetics), and adult eyeglasses (limited to 1 every 2 years).

·         Limits are placed on adult and children’s prescriptions to four per month, with additional prescriptions available based on patients’ needs.

·         Most provider groups receive a rate cut of 2.7% except for doctors, dentists, clinics, safety-net hospitals and critical access rural hospitals. Non-exempt hospitals receive a rate cut of 3.5%.  Nursing home cuts average 2.7%, but the homes serving clients who have the highest care needs are being impacted less.

“This has been a difficult process, but I applaud the Governor and my colleagues for addressing the structural deficit in the Medicaid program that has been building up for years,” said Rep. Feigenholtz. “Without making these tough choices, we could not continue to provide the critical services to those who depend on the program most.”

“The Medicaid program had become unsustainable. By taking these actions, we are ensuring that the program will survive in the future and be there to serve the most fragile and vulnerable members of society,” said Sen. Steans. “And we were able to avoid cuts to more vital services by increasing the cost of cigarettes, which will help lower our overall health care costs.”

“The Medicaid system was on the brink of collapse and was threatening financial health of our health care delivery system and state government as a whole,” said HFS Director Julie Hamos. “Now that we have put the program on a sustainable financial path, we can focus on our ultimate goal of transforming the program from one which simply pays medical bills, to one that keeps its clients healthy by coordinating their care and making sure when they do get sick, they get care that is effective and results in better outcomes.”

The dollar-a-pack increase in the price of cigarettes was hailed by healthcare advocates as an important public health measure. The price increase will decrease smoking-related costs to Medicaid, which came to $1.5 billion last year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The organization estimates it will help about 60,000 people quit smoking, prevent 60,000 deaths from smoking-related conditions and keep 80,000 kids from taking up smoking in the first place.

"The price increase for tobacco is a great win for public health because it will do more than just ease the state's Medicaid issues," said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. "The tax increase will help people who want to quit, it will save lives from being lost to tobacco-related illnesses, and it will discourage our youth from starting to smoke. Congratulations to Governor Quinn and all of the law's supporters."

"The American Cancer Society supports Governor Quinn's actions to improve  the health of Illinois residents," said Katherine L. Griem, M.D., President of the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division. "Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer and curtailing and preventing it, especially in our youth, will save thousands of lives."

For more information, go to: http://www2.illinois.gov/hfs/agency/Pages/Budget.aspx

 

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Health care law helps Iowa residents receive care in their communities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Julie Brookhart   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 13:25

Iowa will receive resources made available by the Affordable Care Act – the health care law – to help seniors and people with disabilities live in their communities, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today. These resources will help ensure Iowa residents can choose to live at home rather than in a nursing home or other facility.

The Iowa award, projected at $61.8 million, is a vital component of a broad State-based approach to expand community-based care provided by the Affordable Care Act’s Balancing Incentive Program.

“The health care law is giving many seniors and people with disabilities the freedom to continue to live in their homes and communities, rather than in a nursing home,” said Marilyn Tavenner, CMS acting administrator.  “We are pleased that Iowa is one of many States working to expand community services and supports.”

While federal Medicaid law requires States to pay for institutional care for the elderly or persons with disabilities who may need assistance with their activities of daily living, Medicaid coverage for home or community-based services is optional.  And while all States have opted to provide such coverage, consumer demand frequently exceeds the State’s available resources.

The health care law offers States additional resources through an increase in their federal Medicaid matching rates for home and community-based services, if a State commits to increasing access to these services.  A total of $3 billion is available to States under the Affordable Care Act’s Balancing Incentive Program.

The Administration strongly supports ensuring that people with Medicaid can get the support they need to continue to live in their communities. While most Medicaid dollars for long-term services and supports still go to institutions, the national percentage of Medicaid spending on home and community-based services has more than doubled from 20 percent in 1995 to 43 percent in 2009.

States are eligible for the Balancing Incentive Program if less than 50 percent of their total long-term care spending goes toward home and community-based services.  The enhanced Medicaid payments must be spent increasing the availability of home and community-based services for Medicaid beneficiaries with long-term needs.  The Iowa Department of Human Services Balancing Incentive Program, in partnership with community organizations throughout the State, plans to further develop the systems of community-based care that serve seniors and individuals with behavioral health needs, physical disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.

For more information on the Balancing Incentive Program please visit: http://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-Topics/Long-Term-Services-and-Support/Balancing/Balancing-Incentive-Program.html

 

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In Iowa’s Interest: More Than 160,000 Medicare Beneficiaries Access Free Preventive Services under Health Reform PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 08:22

by Senator Tom Harkin

Many Iowans know that in crafting the Affordable Care Act – the landmark health reform law – one of my primary goals as Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was to increase access to preventive care. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of preventive services, both in reducing chronic disease and in lowering health care costs. Well, according to new data released this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Iowans on Medicare are taking advantage of these new opportunities to access preventive care.

In just the first five months of 2012, the Affordable Care Act has helped 164,636 Iowans with original Medicare receive at least one preventive service at no cost to them. This also includes 10,841 who have taken advantage of the free Annual Wellness Visit provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Nationally, more than 14 million seniors have received at least one preventive service, including 1.1 million who benefited from the Annual Wellness Visit.

Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive benefits are offered free of charge to beneficiaries, with no deductible or co-pay, so that cost is no longer a barrier for seniors who want to stay healthy and treat problems early. The law also added an important new service for people with Medicare – an Annual Wellness Visit with the doctor of their choice – at no cost to the beneficiary.

What this means is that Iowans on Medicare can access cancer screenings, mammograms, and other preventive services to help them stay healthy and lower their health care costs by giving them the tools to take charge of their own health and prevent health problems. I encourage all eligible Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of these new benefits.

To learn more about Medicare-covered preventive services, please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/65-older/medicare-preventive-services/index.html.

To learn what screenings, vaccinations and other preventive services doctors recommend, please visit the myhealthfinder tool at www.healthfinder.gov.

 
I'm Your Prostate, It's Time We Met PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Skip Lockwood   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 07:37

Hello America,

 

This is your prostate.

 

I'm here to tell you that I'm sick and tired of being ignored. I may not look great in a bikini, but I'm just as susceptible to cancer as breasts, and now I'm demanding some attention. ZERO's been working damn hard to make testing and education available to millions of prostate-oblivious men, and I'm here to help. I'll be making my debut in New York this week, telling people exactly who I am, where I live, and how to treat me right.

 

To kick off Father's Day weekend in the Big Apple, Skip Lockwood, CEO of ZERO, is going to be on the Today Show this Thursday, helping me preach my cantankerous gospel to end prostate cancer. Later on, I'll be at the ZERO testing van with a posse of 13 pro-prostate picketers, informing every passing man that I'm not a happy gland when I'm ignored. And to hit it home, I'm going to tell everyone that the 3rd Sunday in June is no longer Father's Day. It's Prostate Day.

 

To celebrate my new holiday, me and some of the other glands down where the sun-don't-shine put together a few videos that make me look like a movie star. Click here to check 'em out on my new ZERO homepage, and while you're there, share them with your friends. Then print and send uncle Max a Prostate Day card. The more people that hear my voice, the closer we get to keeping me healthy, and maybe then I'll shut up.

 

Don't let me be ignored!

 

Your Prostate



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Iowa Seniors Staying Healthy with Health Care Law PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Matt Sinovic   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 07:12

More than 37% of Iowa seniors have received preventive services at no cost

DES MOINES, IOWA – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced that the Affordable Care Act helped 164,636 Iowa seniors with Medicare get at least one preventive service at no cost to them during the first five months of 2012. This includes 10,841 who have taken advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit that is available to seniors through the law.

In total, more than 37% of Iowa seniors with Medicare have taken advantage of this benefit that is part of the 2010 health care reform law.

Prior to 2011, people with Medicare faced cost-sharing for many preventive benefits such as cancer screenings. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive benefits are offered free of charge to beneficiaries, with no deductible or co-pay, so that cost is no longer a barrier for seniors who want to stay healthy and treat problems early. The law also added an important new service for people with Medicare — an Annual Wellness Visit with the doctor of their choice— at no cost to beneficiaries.

“Iowa seniors are staying healthy thanks to the Affordable Care Act,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “This is proof-positive that the health care law is having a positive impact for Iowa’s communities. These are real people who are seeing tangible health benefits as a result of the law. Our goal is to get information about the law to every Iowa senior so that we can bring the percentage of Medicare recipients receiving free preventive care services up to one hundred.”

For more information on Medicare-covered preventive services, please visit:
http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/65-older/medicare-preventive-services/index.html.

To learn what screenings, vaccinations and other preventive services doctors recommend for you and those you care about, please visit the myhealthfinder tool at www.healthfinder.gov.

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