Health/Budget & Appropriations – House Committee Approves Major Cuts to Health Programs

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has approved H.R. 4725, the Common Sense Savings Act of 2016. This bill, introduced by Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA), makes major cuts to Medicaid and other health programs, many of which will negatively impact our community. These cuts are achieved by including certain one-time, lump-sum payments in determining income eligibility, such as: lottery winnings, damages received in a law suit or settlement, and inheritance; shifting certain Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program costs to states; and repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Health Care:  National Council on Disability Releases Affordable Care Act (ACA) Report

On February 2, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released, “Monitoring and Enforcing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for People with Disabilities”. This is the final report in a three-part series on ACA and describes key legal protections in the ACA. NCD is an independent federal agency that makes policy recommendations to Congress and the Administration.

Health Care:  House Fails to Override Veto of ACA Changes

On February 2, The House voted 241-186 to override the veto of H.R. 3762, “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act” which repeals substantial parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The vote was short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Among the provisions that would have been repealed are the penalties used to enforce the mandates that most individuals have health coverage and that large employers offer it to their workers. In 2018, it would have repealed the law’s Medicaid expansion and its subsidies to help low and middle-income individuals buy health coverage through the new insurance exchanges. A number of the taxes used to help offset the cost of the health law would also have been repealed.

Health Care – CMS to Issue Final Rules on Certain Provisions of the Affordable Care Act

On February 2, 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will publish final rules regarding Section 6407 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and Section 504 of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). These provisions require a “face-to-face” encounter for an initial order of Medicaid home health services and allow other professionals, working under the supervision of a physician, to perform the “face-to-face” visit for the purpose of obtaining medical supplies, equipment, and appliances.The rule makes a number of other clarifying changes and becomes effective on July 1, 2016. If you would like to review the rule, you may do so here.

Health Care – House Passes and President Obama Vetoes Health Care Legislation

On January 6th, the House voted 240-181 to pass H.R. 3762, “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act” which repeals substantial parts of the Affordable Care Act. On January 8th President Obama vetoed the legislation.

The package, which the Senate passed in December, would have removed the penalties used to enforce the mandates that most individuals have health coverage and large employers offer it to their workers. In 2018, it would have repealed the law’s Medicaid expansion and its subsidies to help low and middle-income individuals buy health coverage through the new insurance exchanges.

The measure also would have scrapped a lengthy list of taxes used to help offset the cost of the health law, including the taxes on medical devices, health insurers and so-called “Cadillac” employer-sponsored health plans that will receive temporary suspensions under the year-end funding and tax package. In addition, the package would have stopped most federal money from flowing to Planned Parenthood for one year and boost funding for community health centers.

Health – Congress Delays Implementation of Harmful Complex Wheelchair Components Proposal

On December 18, The House and Senate passed S. 2425, the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act.” The bill includes, among other bipartisan Medicare provisions, a one-year delay preventing CMS from inappropriately restricting access to critical complex wheelchair components, which was slated to begin on January 1, 2016. The one year delay will allow advocates time to fix the barriers facing individuals with significant disabilities who need access to specialized technology. The President is expected to sign the legislation.

Health Care — Open Enrollment Began November 1st

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the health care website).  During “open enrollment”, a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state.  There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available for people with low and moderate income.  It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan and determine if it will continue to meet the needs of the person or to select a better plan.  Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan.  Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income.

Health Care – Senate Passes Legislation Repealing Key Provisions of the Affordable Care Act

On Thursday, December 3, the Senate voted on a budget reconciliation bill that would repeal key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and numerous Medicaid provisions authorized by the law.  A budget reconciliation bill requires only a simple majority to pass in the Senate.  The Senate bill is broader than the House bill that repealed the Prevention Trust Fund, the employer and individual responsibility provisions, various tax provisions, and suspends funding for Planned Parenthood among other provisions.

 

The Senate bill rolls back the Medicaid expansion to adults up to 133% of poverty, the extra federal matching funds provided to the states for the expansion, and the extra federal matching funds for the Community First Choice Option, among numerous other provisions.  The Community First Choice Option gives states an extra 6 percent of federal matching funds to states that take the option to provide comprehensive community-based services as an alternative to facility based services.  The provisions would become effective in two years.

 

The bill would also remove the subsidies and tax credits that make the health insurance available in the private marketplaces affordable.  Various tax provisions that helped finance the law would also be repealed.  The Senate also considered an additional 18 amendments, with the majority being defeated.  The amendment to permanently repeal the tax on high value health insurance passed 90 – 10.

 

The House is expected to pass the legislation early this week.  The President has stated that he will veto the bill.

Health Care – Legislation Introduced to Protect Access to Complex Rehabilitative Technology

Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to prevent Medicare from changing the way it pays for some complex rehabilitative technology (CRT).  CRT includes individually configured, manual and power wheelchair systems, adaptive seating systems, alternative positioning systems, and other mobility devices that require evaluation, fitting, design, adjustment, and programming.  The House bill (H.R. 3229) was introduced by Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and the Senate bill (S. 2196) by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) as original co-sponsors.  In January 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to apply competitive bidding to CRT accessories which will likely create access problems for people with disabilities.  For more information and to take action to support the legislation, take action now!

Health Care—Open Enrollment Begins November 1st

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the health care website). During “open enrollment”, a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available for low and moderate income. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace, to look at the plan and determine if it will continue to meet the needs of the person, or select a better plan. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income.