Health – House Leadership Announces Plans to Resurrect Health Care Bill

On April 6, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent a letter to House Republicans prior to their two-week recess announcing that the House has resumed its work on the American Health Care Act. The House Rules Committee approved an amendment to create a $15 billion risk sharing program. Additionally, members are considering eliminating requirements that insurers offer certain benefits such as habilitation services as well as eliminating the prohibition of charging higher premiums to beneficiaries with chronic health conditions. McCarthy stated that they may end the recess early if they achieve a consensus among enough members to pass the bill. See The Arc’s Action Alert for more information including how to fight back.

Health/Medicaid – House Speaker Cancels Vote Bill to Repeal Affordable Care Act and Cut Medicaid

On March 24, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that there will not be a vote on H.R.1628, the American Health Care Act because he lacked the votes to pass the bill. It is not expected that another bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act will be considered in the near future. In the days before the bill was pulled, several changes were made including allowing a Medicaid block grant, adding incentives for states to institute work requirements, eliminating the requirement that health plans cover basic health services, and ending the extra funding for the Medicaid expansion earlier. The Arc opposed H.R.1628 because it would have cut and capped federal spending in the Medicaid program which jeopardizes services for people with I/DD and their families. The Arc also opposed using cuts in the Medicaid program to pay for the repeal of the ACA, including the repeal of the taxes it imposed. The replacement plan provided inadequate and unaffordable health insurance, and about 24 million people would lose their health insurance by 2024. The Arc and its members, along with members of numerous human service coalitions representing beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid program, view the decision to pull the AHCA as a victory for people who need health care and their families. The Arc appreciates the work of those who voiced their opinions through weeks of emailing, phone calls, and town hall meetings and helped make this happen.

Health/Medicaid – House Committees Markup Bill to Cap Medicaid and Repeal the ACA

On March 8 and 9, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a markup of the Medicaid and other provisions of the American Health Care Act, those parts of the repeal and replace bill over which the Committee has jurisdiction. The bill will fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program by altering the current federal/state partnership and cost reimbursement structure and replacing it with a per capita cap. This will significantly limit federal funding to the states now and into the future. In addition, the bill will begin the process of repealing major sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On the same days, the House Ways and Means Committee held a markup repealing the tax provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and making other changes.

These Committee markups are part of the budget reconciliation process which allows only certain revenue and spending provisions to be included. The Committee bills will be combined into one bill by the House Budget Committee, possibly as early as this week. We understand that the plan is to have the bill ready for a vote by the full House of Representatives before the end of March. The Senate Majority Leader has indicated that he hopes to schedule a vote on the House bill before the mid-April recess. If passed by the Congress, the legislative direction the House leadership is considering would have devastating impacts on people with disabilities and their families. The Arc will continue to convey our concerns to Congress about the impact of the repeal of the ACA and restructuring of Medicaid. Visit the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committee web sites for more information or to access archived video of the markups.

Health/Medicaid – Senate Committee Votes to Approve Verma Nomination

On March 2, the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-12 to recommend that the full Senate confirm Seema Verma as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the Department of Health and Human Services. CMS oversees both Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a health insurance program for Social Security beneficiaries. Medicaid is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low-income individuals. Both programs serve people with disabilities. In addition to medical care, Medicaid also covers long term supports and services such as residential support, home and community based services, personal assistance, respite care, supported living, assistive technology, and supported employment.

Health/Medicaid – House Committees May Markup Bill to Cap Medicaid and Repeal the ACA This Week

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Ways and Means Committee are each expected to begin markup of a bill that will fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program by altering the current federal/state partnership and cost reimbursement structure and replacing it with a per capita cap. This will significantly limit federal funding to the states now and into the future. In addition, the bill will begin the process of repealing major sections of the Affordable Care Act. These Committee markups are part of the budget reconciliation process which allows only certain revenue and spending provisions to be included. The Committee bills are expected to move quickly and be combined into one bill by the House Budget Committee. We understand that the plan is to have the bill ready for a vote by the full House of Representatives before the end of March. The Senate Majority Leader has indicated that he hopes to schedule a vote on the House bill before the mid-April recess. The bill development has been controversial because no official version is available for public review. The draft bill has been very closely held and some Members of Congress have publicly complained about not being able to obtain a copy of the bill. However, based on leaked earlier versions, The Arc believes that, if passed by the Congress, the legislative direction the House leadership is considering would have devastating impacts on people with disabilities and their families. The Arc will continue to convey our concerns about the impact of the repeal of the ACA and restructuring of Medicaid to Congress.

Health Care – House Releases Outline of ACA Repeal

In advance of the President’s Day recess, the House Majority Leadership released an outline of a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and restructure and cut the Medicaid program. The outline indicates that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would be repealed. While states that have already accepted Medicaid expansion would be grandfathered, the federal match rate would be reduced from 90 percent to the state’s traditional rate, reducing the incentive for states to continue the program. It would allow for an unspecified transition period, and then states that chose to keep the program open to new adult enrollees would be reimbursed at their traditional rate.

The plan would further destabilize the Medicaid program by reducing and capping federal spending. The proposal, known as a per capita cap/allotment, is a financing tool that will dramatically cut Medicaid funding. Unlike the current funding system, the amount provided under a per capita cap will not automatically increase when the cost of providing covered services to eligible individuals goes up. The intent of the per capita cap is to reduce federal spending by restructuring the program and significantly cutting the cost to the federal government. It is unlikely that states will be able to achieve these cuts without scaling back benefits, reducing reimbursement rates, or shifting costs to beneficiaries. Furthermore, states will no longer receive a federal match beyond the cap for changes that increase costs, such as increasing direct support professional wages. States would have the option to accept the per capita cap approach or a block grant (which would also have many of the same features).

The savings from the Medicaid per capita cap would help pay for the tax cuts included in the proposed plan. The outline proposes repealing the taxes on corporations and providers that helped pay for the ACA and the provisions that helped make health insurance affordable to the individual. The ACA replacement plan would combine a universal, refundable health care tax credit, based on age rather than income, to purchase insurance, changes to health savings accounts, and state funding for high risk pools or other projects. Health savings accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts, tied to high-deductible plans.

The bottom line is that during the week of February 27 the House is expected to begin legislative action on a proposal to restructure the Medicaid program in a manner which will undermine the federal/state partnership upon which it has been built. If successful, this restructuring would result in cost savings to the federal government that will shift costs to the states and to individuals and their families. It will also ultimately reduce the availability of supports and services to people with disabilities in the community and through the health care system. Read The Arc’s statement on the plan here.

Health – Senate Approves Tom Price as HHS Secretary

On February 10, the Senate confirmed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price by a vote of 52-47. HHS is the cabinet level department that administers most federal health and social service programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act programs, Developmental Disabilities Act programs, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Additionally, it oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Health/Medicaid – Senate to Hold Confirmation Hearing for CMS Administrator Nominee

On February 16, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Seema Verma to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS oversees both Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a health insurance program for Social Security beneficiaries. Medicaid is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low-income individuals. Both programs serve people with disabilities. In addition to medical care, Medicaid also covers long term supports and services such as residential support, personal assistance, respite care, supported living, assistive technology, and supported employment. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing.

Health – Senate Committee Approves Nominee to Head HHS

On February 1, the Senate Finance Committee voted to favorably report the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS is the cabinet level department that administers most federal health and social service programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act programs, Developmental Disabilities Act programs, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Additionally, it oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. Visit the Committeeweb site for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.

Health – Senate Finance Committee to Hold Hearing on HHS Secretary Nominee

On January 23, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS is the cabinet level department that administers most federal health and social service programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act programs, Developmental Disabilities Act programs, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Additionally, it oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. Visit the Finance Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its hearing January 18. Visit the HELP Committeeweb site for more information or to access archived video of the hearing.