In 2011 state legislative sessions, lawmakers across the nation in search of common-sense solutions found themselves wrestling with dual challenges on almost every issue: historic budget shortfalls and a charged and starkly changed political climate resulting from an historic wave election in 2010 that saw conservatives take control of 20 new chambers. Both of these factors were front and center on health care measures, as responsible lawmakers joined in the face of these challenges to advance the efficient implementation of the Affordable Care Act, protecting the health security of the most vulnerable and advocating loudly for effective reforms in their statehouses, the courts, and the court of public opinion alike.
This week, the US Department of Health and Human Services released a decision stating that birth control will be part of the preventive health care benefits that must be covered under health insurance plans at no cost to consumers. The decision means no out-of-pocket costs, no cost sharing, and no deductible for women who have little to no current access to birth control. The new requirement is part of a comprehensive set of guidelines for women’s preventive care released this week by HHS as part the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover certain preventive services.
New Jersey Governor Christie is joining the conservative wave of scapegoating by proposing to cut the state’s Medicaid program. The Governor is proposing to put critical services for the state’s most vulnerable populations on the chopping block by asking for a waiver from the federal government in order to cut state spending on Medicaid by $300 million. The cuts include long-term care and have the potential to affect up to 1 million people in New Jersey currently receiving Medicaid.
As legislative sessions wrap up around the country, so does the first full legislative opportunity for lawmakers to pass a state-based health exchange since the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law. Over the weekend, the state of Connecticut joined nine other states that have already passed legislation to enact state-based marketplaces to improve the health security of families, a key piece of the federal health law. Connecticut’s exchange legislation is an important step in the right direction, giving options to consumers and extending coverage to many who desperately need it, and it is further evidence of the momentum continuing to build behind implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the states.