Legislative Session Ends; Small Steps on Health Care

The 2019 legislative session ended at midnight on Wednesday with disappointing results on health care issues.

The Good News: Income eligibility levels for HUSKY A parents were increased modestly from 155% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 160% FPL, as of October 1. The expectation is that about 4,000 more parents will be covered as a result of this change. In 2015, coverage for parents was reduced from 201% FPL to 155% FPL. This modest restoration of coverage is at least a step in the right direction. Children in HUSKY A are still covered up to 201% FPL.

The Disappointing News: HB 7267, which was originally intended to establish a public health insurance choice for small businesses and individuals, was blocked by insurance company opposition. A revised version of the bill would have authorized importation of drugs from Canada, a reinsurance program and some cost containment measures. The revised version passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 112-28 but was never called for a vote in the Senate.

The provisions of HB 7174, which was designed to address prescription drug costs, were rolled into HB 7267.

Other Bills of Interest: Most of the other bills that POCCT was following were not acted on. Two pieces of good news:

  • the language of SB 859, concerning certification of community health workers, was included in the state budget bill (HB 7424, Sec. 160 and 161), along with money for the Department of Public Health to implement the certification program.

  • HB 5521, which tightened language protecting access to insurance by people with preexisting conditions, passed.

The legislature will likely be back before January in special session to deal with bonding, school construction and possibly tolls - but further legislative progress on health care issues will probably have to wait until 2020.

Jane McNichol