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Legislative Report District 13

Health care was just one of the topics covered in depth at the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Louisville, Ky., July 25-28. With dozens of sessions each day on a variety of subjects, legislators and staff had to choose which to attend. I focused on health care, including implementation of the new reform law.

Presentations covered key provisions of the new law and state responsibilities to enact them, including details on the requirement to set up health insurance exchanges to provide choices to consumers. Supply of medical professionals is a big issue, not only because of anticipated additional demand on the system, but because of the age of the current workforce. Public health, including chronic disease prevention, has a big role in reducing costs and increasing wellness. For example, it is better to help a patient control diabetes than to amputate a gangrenous leg. Fiscal implications of health care reform are a critical issue to all states, particularly because of the deficit budgets in most states.

Establishing medical homes to provide patient-centered care is seen as one option for better outcomes. Technology has an enormous role to play, not only in handling records, but also in providing access to specialty care for those in rural areas. Home visiting programs for families with very young children also offer better outcomes. CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) has been re-authorized by the federal government, but has not been funded for the last few years of the program, so states must determine what to do to continue the coverage.

Changing the Course of Delinquency was one session which focused on ways to better deal with foster children, juvenile delinquents, teen parents, and dropouts to improve their lives through prevention and early intervention. Constitutional issues were reviewed by a Vanderbilt law professor to better inform us about the points anticipated to be made by both the 21 states suing the federal government and by the Department of Justice. It was a very interesting and well-done presentation.

Other programs included tax policies, human trafficking, banking regulation, military support, credit and debit cards regulation, career and technical education, environmental issues, federal budget updates, internet regulation, energy issues including grids and clean energy, U.S. Supreme Court decisions with federalism implications, rural road safety, K-12 improvements, distracted driving, prison spending, creating jobs, and more. I would have liked to have heard those, too, but stayed with the health programs.

The information that is provided for legislators at NCSL meetings is very valuable to policymakers and to the state, because it would be nearly impossible for us to gather all of the information on our own that is provided for us there. We also learn what is working or not working in other states and can avoid making mistakes at home, as we address the same concerns. It was a valuable experience, not only for me to be better educated, but for what I can bring to our legislative deliberations.