Highlight on Nevada: Grants received for summer food and combating Rx drug abuse

Nevada has been granted $2.4 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for summer food purchases for children and almost a million dollars from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to implement data and surveillance components of the state’s strategic action plan to reduce prescription drug abuse.

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) Program provides a monthly benefit on a debit-type card that can be used throughout the summer for food purchases at authorized stores. The Summer EBT Program helps cover a critical gap in food security for children who otherwise receive free meals during the school year. Nevada was one of eight grantees. The following Nevada counties will be served by the grant: Douglas, Lyon, Washoe, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Nye, Pershing, and White Pine.

Nevada’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) received funding from CDC’s Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States program to be used through 2019 to implement data and surveillance components of the strategic action plan of the State of Nevada’s Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse. The data will be used to “tell the story,” direct interventions, and track performance. The project will also allow the implementation of a Prescriber Score Card program to assist in the identification of high-risk prescribing activity by geographic area and provider specialty. The Prescriber Score Card Program will help to inform and educate prescribers on their habits and ultimately serve to support policy and resource decisions by the state.

According to Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, Nevada has the fourth highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 20.7 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities.  The same report indicates that the number of drug overdose deaths in Nevada increased by 80 percent since 1999 when the rate was 11.5 per 100,000.  In addition, the 2013 Nevada Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that 19.4 percent of high school respondents reported that they have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Nevada also ranks very high among the states in prescribing patterns for highly addictive opioid drugs:

  • second highest for hydrocodone;
  • second highest for oxycodone;
  • fourth highest for methadone; and
  • seventh highest for codeine.

Nevada’s participation in the CDC’s Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States program is part of the CDC’s efforts to scale up prevention activities as part of a national response to the opioid overdose epidemic. A total of 29 states participate in the program.

State Governors Elect Not to Implement Parts of PPACA

After the United States Supreme Court’s ruling last week that states cannot be forced to expand their Medicaid programs to receive federal funding, states are given the tough decision to make whether they will indeed expand their Medicaid rolls as suggested by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148).

Thus far, five states have made it clear that as a result of last week’s decision, they do not plan to expand their Medicaid programs: Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

All of those five states, which have Republican governors, participated in the lawsuit against the bill, which was the subject of last week’s ruling. In addition, six states have publicly raised doubt as to whether they will participate: Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas. Currently, only ten states have affirmatively pledged to participate in Medicaid expansion, which leaves nearly two-thirds of the states in question.

Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker issued a statement on the same day the Supreme Court released their decision on PPACA, indicating, “Wisconsin will not take any action to implement ObamaCare.” (Obama Care is a casual term commonly used to refer to PPACA and its provisions.) Walker emphasized his concerns that the bill would cost his state’s tax payers to “pay more money for less healthcare” and that both quality of and access to care would be reduced under the bill. He expressed his hope that this year’s elections would ultimately result in the repeal of the bill at a federal level.

Governor Bobby Jindall of Louisiana announced that his state will not be expanding its Medicaid program in response to PPACA; nor will it be setting up private health insurance exchanges called for by the bill. Under the provisions of PPACA, if Louisiana or any other state fails to establish a fully operable exchange by January 1, 2014, the federal government will implement an exchange for that state. Jindall agreed that reform of the health care system is necessary, but that an “expensive, unsustainable entitlement program is not the solution to our problems.”

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott similarly announced that his state will neither set up exchanges nor expand its Medicaid rolls to comply with PPACA. Approximately 20 percent of Florida residents are uninsured, however, Scott pointed out that it would cost Florida taxpayers $1.9 billion to add those residents to the Medicaid program. He raised concern over the rapidly increasing Medicaid program in the state, which he said is growing “three and a half times as fast as Florida’s general revenue.”

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared that her state will opt out of expanding its Medicaid program and that block grants, which offer flexibility to states as to how they will use the money, offer the best solution to state-specific problems. She referred to PPACA’s changes as a “broken system that further ties our hands.”

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi “is not inclined to drastically expand Medicaid” as called for by PPACA. He explained that such an expansion, which would add nearly 400,000 residents to the program, would cost the state nearly $1.7 billion over ten years. He maintained that “(t)rue health care reform should look at reducing costs for services not increasing the burden on taxpayers.”

From the News Desk

This week CMS announced that qualified employers, insurance groups, and consumer groups will be able to utilize Medicare data to create report cards to measure the quality standards of physicians and hospitals, pursuant to Section 10332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148). Elsewhere: