Editor at Government Health IT
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) on Tuesday published its annual listing of top priorities for the coming year, and healthcare and health IT issues were chief concerns for 2012.
Medicaid efficiency and quality is important area of focus. Not surprisingly, NCSL explains that the current economic turbulence is troubling Medicaid budgets and, as such, nearly every state has engaged in cost-containment in one form or another. “States are not just cutting to meet budget demands,” NCSL points out. “State policymakers – looking toward the 2014 eligibility expansion of Medicaid dictated by the ACA – are exploring innovative ways to improve the value of the Medicaid program.” These include aligning incentives with outcomes, testing new payment models, building new delivery systems such at patient-centered medical homes (PCMH), as well as integration services for patients under both Medicaid and Medicare.
NCSL lists health exchanges of both current varieties – insurance and information – as a “dominant issue for legislative sessions.” More specifically, health insurance exchanges (HIX), for participating states, will be a priority this year as states work toward the January 1, 2013 deadline to have a HIX plan in place – a particularly tricky matter as HIX’s represent the rare opportunity to upgrade state’s IT infrastructure with federal funding but the feds have yet to issue final rules.
On the health information exchange (HIE) front, the issue will be how to get healthcare providers to adopt EHRs. “Essentially, instead of having a different health record at each doctor or provider you visit, an EHR will serve as one file that all of your doctors can see,” NCSL added. In addition to serving as a single patient history, EHRs will form the foundation of HIEs. “By mid-year 2012, every state should have Medicaid EHR Incentive programs in place and will be working toward building an HIE by late 2014 or early 2015 as required by deadlines attached to federal cooperative agreements.”
Priorities for state legislators that are not specific to health or health IT include federal deficit reduction’s impact on states, budgets, jobs and state economies, pensions, elections, criminal justice, education, transportation, environment, among others, and in no particular order.