The Governor of Maryland has vetoed a measure to fund the state's fledgling Prescription Drug Affordability Board, reports Maryland Matters. Senate Bill 669 and House Bill 1095 would set up a funding source for the panel, which was created in 2019 and began meeting for the first time in 2020. The board was established by lawmakers to identify ways of reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Governor Hogan vetoed this funding, but the 2019 legislation that created the board guarantees it will receive state funds in the form of a loan on July 1. The board has until December 31 to identify a way to fund its operations and to repay the loan from the general fund starting next year.
In the past six months, California state authorities have fined more than a dozen drug makers a total of $17.5 million for failing to report price hikes as required by law, according to STAT. The fines underscore an ongoing struggle between the state and the pharmaceutical industry over disclosing price increases, an issue that has galvanized consumer advocates and lawmakers around the country as they seek to control prescription drug costs. The California law requiring drug makers to provide advance notice of price hikes and explain the reasons for any increases, implemented in January 2019, has served as a model for other states exploring ways to respond to rising drug prices.
Food stamp recipients in Texas will be allowed to use their benefits to order groceries online and have them delivered to their door, according to The Dallas Morning News. Food stamps help about 1.4 million eligible low-income households in Texas with benefits worth nearly $5 billion a year. However, the state is still awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service on its recent request to let people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program use their Lone Star Cards to buy carryout or delivered food from restaurants.
Virginia legislators are implementing new policies to bolster the state’s healthcare workforce in response to the pandemic, according to a press release from the Governor’s office. It is estimated that up to 30,000 additional workers are needed in Virginia’s hospitals, long-term care facilities, and public health departments, should a surge occur. The executive order allows hospitals, nursing facilities, and dialysis facilities to have out-of-state licensees provide in-state care and Virginia-licensed nurse practitioners with two or more years of clinical experience to practice without a collaborative agreement.
The Montana Hospital Association has issued a conservative estimate that the COVID-19 impact on its hospitals in the first three weeks would be around $100 million, reports The Missoulian. A 2019 study found that Montana’s hospitals are responsible for around $4.7 billion worth of annual Gross Domestic Product. The combination of canceled elective procedures and people avoiding doctors’ offices is having a real depressive effect on hospital revenue. Earlier in April, Montana’s Congressional delegation announced that Montana hospitals altogether would receive about $111.5 million from the program set up by the CARES Act.
Vermont is requiring commercial health insurers to waive cost-sharing requirements—such as co-payments, coinsurances or deductibles —for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, according to an official press release. The emergency regulation applies to fully funded health insurance plans, such as plans sold on the exchange or to large-group employers. Consistent with existing Department of Financial Regulation rules, insurers will be required to cover out-of-network services for members if in-network providers are unavailable.
New Jersey’s hospitals and healthcare professionals responding to the coronavirus are now largely protected from legal liability if a patient is injured or dies while under their care during the current pandemic crisis, reports NJ Spotlight. The new law, retroactive to March 9, is designed to ensure that there are no impediments to providing medical treatment to COVID-19 patients, but many lawmakers raised questions about the lack pf public input on the bill, its broad scope of immunity and the impact it could have on communities of color that are suffering disproportionately in the pandemic.
The Governor of Minnesota signed into law the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act to provide relief to residents struggling to afford their insulin, reports the Office of the Governor. The bill contains emergency and long-term components, which take effect on July 1, 2020. The emergency provisions allow eligible individuals in urgent need of insulin to go to their pharmacy once in a 12-month period and receive a one-time, 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 co-pay. The long-term program requires manufacturers to provide insulin to eligible individuals for up to one year, with the option to renew annually. Insulin will be available in 90-day increments for a co-pay of no more than $50.
As coronavirus spreads into rural Oklahoma, hospitals serving those communities face difficulties that go beyond those of their metropolitan counterparts, reports The Oklahoman. Rural hospitals less likely to receive shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) -- a concern not only for staff safety but potentially leading to debilitating workforce shortages if providers fall ill. Moreover, the COVID-19 outbreak comes at a time when rural hospitals are struggling financially due to declining rural populations and rising costs, among other factors.
The Minnesota Hospital Association says healthcare systems and medical centers across the state are facing a financial hit of $2.9 billion over the next 90 days due to COVID-19, reports the Star Tribune. The biggest factor is that hospitals and health systems are seeing a decline of $2.8 billion in revenue due to postponed elective surgeries that help preserve scarce supplies needed for handling COVID-19 patients. Minnesota hospitals and health systems are collectively losing $31 million in revenue per day from reduced patient volumes, the association says.