State Policy Hub (4th ed.)

May 14, 2019


Welcome to State Policy Hub. This edition features Florida legislation on short-term health plans and drug reimportation and continued effort on abortion bills, with Alabama attempting to pass the strictest abortion law in the nation, and Montana Governor vetoing the state’s ‘Born Alive’ bill. Washington state governor signed the first public option bill into law, and Maryland passed a first of it kind bill to enroll eligible, uninsured individuals into Medicaid.


Governor Newsome Reverses Course on Providing Health Insurance to Immigrants 

Thursday, May 9

The Governor initially proposed to divert funds from four large counties in order to provide health care coverage to young adults aged 19 to 25 who are in the country illegally. California currently provides coverage to immigrant children up to age 19 through Medi-Cal. These four counties responded to the proposal by emphasizing the need for their public funds to combat the measles outbreak and rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases. The Governor now aims to divert funds from 35 smaller counties for this purpose.


Denver Becomes First City to Decriminalize ‘Magic Mushrooms’

Thursday, May 9

Denver voters narrowly passed the measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. The measure does not legalize the mushrooms, but prevents law enforcement from prosecuting or arresting adults 21 or older from possessing them. The change is expected to go in to effect as soon as next year.


Florida Legislature Passes Opioid-Alternative Bill

Friday, May 3

The bill directs the Florida Department of Health to develop an educational pamphlet on non-opioid alternatives to pain management and require providers to discuss alternatives before prescribing an opioid. The bill now heads to Governor Ron DeSantis for signature.

Florida Short-Term Health Insurance Bill Heads to Governor for Signature

Monday, May 6

The Florida legislature passed a bill that would allow short-term limited duration insurance plans to be sold to individuals and groups. The bill also allows for the establishment of association health plans. Opponents of the bill argue that these plans are not comprehensive and leaves individuals at risk for high costs.

Secretary Azar to Assist Florida in Drug Importation Program

Tuesday, May 7

President Trump directed HHS Secretary Alex Azar to cooperate with Governor DeSantis in creating and reviewing the state’s plan to import drugs. Earlier this year, Florida passed a bill that would give the state until 2020 to submit an import plan for federal approval. During an Oval Office meeting on Monday, May 6, Sec. Azar expressed concern about the possibility of manufacturers limiting supply of drugs if the plan goes in to effect.


State Legislature Set to Debate Single-Payer Health System

Thursday, May 9

The New York State Legislature has scheduled a joint public hearing on the New York Health Act, that would create a single-payer health system. The hearing is set for May 28.


Tennessee to Request Waiver for Medicaid Block Grant

Monday, May 6

Tennessee will formally ask the Trump Administration to fund their newly approved Medicaid program through a block grant system.  The administration has been examining if they legally can approve such a request. Opponents fear that coverage will be cut in the state under a constricted budget.


Texas House Passes Property Tax Bill with Hospital Carve Out

Tuesday, April 30

Texas relies on property taxes to supplement federal funding for rural hospital payments, due to the state’s decision to not expand Medicaid. The House passed a bill that places caps on property taxes, but exempts hospital districts from the cap. This will allow hospital to raise property taxes in their districts to continue to provide services to low-income individuals. The bill now must be reconciled with the Senate version that does not exempt hospital districts from the cap.

Texas Senate Passes Bill Requiring Pre-Abortion Counseling

Friday, May 3

The bill would require that pregnant women receive counseling that includes a pamphlet with information on abortion alternatives, medical risk of abortions, and local support services such as child care and housing and medical assistance. Opponents argue that the bill does not a require a medical professional to conduct the counseling, nor is the information in the pamphlet correct.

Texas House Passes Prescription Drug Price Transparency Bill

Friday, May 10

The bill requires that information be provided by manufacturers, PBMs, and health plans and that the information be published on a website for residents to review. The bill also requires manufacturers to report when the price of a drug has increased 10 percent over one year or 40 percent over 5 years. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.


Kansas Medicaid Expansion Fails in Senate

Thursday, May 2

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly made Medicaid expansion one of her top priorities in this year’s legislative session, and now the issue will have to wait until next year. Some supporters of the expansion hope to pass the bill by holding up the state budget until lawmakers agree. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning did not think expansion funding was prudent when a Kansas Supreme Court case on school funding is unresolved.

 Alabama Senate Delays Effort to Pass Most Restrictive Abortion Law

Thursday, May 9

Two weeks ago, the Alabama House passed a bill that would prohibit abortions at any stage of pregnancy unless the mother’s life was in danger. On May 9, the Senate delayed their vote on the bill until May 14, after a heated debate erupted on the Senate floor. The bill is part of a larger Republican effort for the U.S. Supreme Court to reexamine Roe v. Wade.

Georgia Becomes the Sixth State to Pass ‘Heartbeat Bill’

Tuesday, May 7

The bill prohibits abortions after six weeks, once a fetal heartbeat is able to be detected. Governor Brian Kemp is facing backlash against the bill from women’s health groups and the possibility of a Hollywood boycott in the state. Georgia joins Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota and Ohio as states with this law; all have yet to enact the measure.

Montana Governor Vetoes ‘Born Alive’ Bill

Thursday, May 9

Republican Governor Steve Bullock vetoed the measure that would penalize physicians that do not care for infants after a failed abortion. In his veto letter the Governor stated the bill represents the “divisive national debate that has little to do with the health of infants or women.”

Maryland Bill Aims to Enroll Uninsured Individuals

Monday, May 13

 The first of its kind bill would allow Maryland residents to check a box on their state income tax returns  in order to determine if they qualify free or low-cost health insurance. Those who qualify for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled and individuals who qualify for private insurance will be contacted by the state exchange.

Washington State Governor Signs Public Option Bill into Law

Monday, May 13

 Washington will become the first state to offer a public health insurance plan to its residents. The public option, known as “Cascade Care,” will be available to Washington residents by 2021.


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