A task force of Idaho lawmakers is moving forward with a plan to reshape immunization coverage for children. The plan would create a universal pool for buying immunizations that would be funded by assessments on health insurance providers.
“I think this is an important step forward for our kids and our immunization program,” Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said.
The universal vaccine pool would be run by a new independent government agency, the Idaho Immunization Assessment Board. That board would assess fees from all insurers based on the number of children they cover. Under federal rules, a state-run universal pool can buy children’s vaccines for cheaper than if providers buy them separately.
The new immunization buying plan needs to be approved by lawmakers before the end of January, when special funding from Gov. Butch Otter for buying vaccines expires. Last spring, Otter called for ending state funding for the old immunizations program that covered some uninsured and underinsured children.
Insurance companies, state health agencies, doctors, and other stakeholders joined lawmakers on the task force come up with the draft plan to set up the new immunization buying board. Many expressed support for the new plan at a meeting Thursday.
“This provides a great opportunity to be able to allow for improved access to vaccines, especially in rural Idaho,” said Dr. Perry Brown of Boise, a member of Idaho chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It does it in a manner that is fiscally responsible… There’s widespread support for facilitating a single pool of vaccines.”
“I’m incredibly pleased and surprised that we’ve gotten this far,” said Dr. Christine Hahn. “This is a steppingstone to start improving our immunization rates.”
The new assessment board for immunizations would start in February and last until 2013. It won’t send out assessments to insurance companies until April. The board will rely on federal grants to buy vaccines until then.
For more, read IdahoReporter’s story on the immunization program from earlier this month.
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