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 In 2018, it would have repealed the law’s Medicaid expansion and its subsidies to help low and middle-income individuals buy health coverage through the new insurance exchanges.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.

Health Care – House of Representatives Approves Reconciliation Bill Repealing Parts of Health Care Law

Last Friday, in a vote of 240 to 189, the House of Representatives approved a bill which, if enacted, would repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These would include the individual responsibility provisions, employer responsibility provisions, as well as the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This legislation would also reverse taxes on medical device manufacturers and high cost health insurance plans. Additionally, the bill prohibits federal funding of Planned Parenthood for one year. The bill will now be sent to the Senate. It is a reconciliation bill which can pass the Senate with a simple majority. The President has announced that he would veto the legislation.

Supreme Court Upheld Affordable Care Act (ACA) Provision

The U. S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) again in deciding King v. Burwell. The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, said that Congress intended for federal subsidies to be available in every state, regardless of whether the state created its own marketplace.   The Arc applauded the decision as a major victory for people with disabilities and others who need access to affordable health care.

The ACA is important to people with disabilities. It expanded coverage and reformed insurance to end discrimination against people with disabilities and enhance access to health care. The private health insurance marketplaces allow individuals or small businesses to shop for coverage and potentially receive subsidies to help offset the cost of insurance. The subsidies are key to ensuring affordable coverage. The health insurance reforms, the protections from high premium increases or out-of-pocket costs, and the coverage of “essential health benefits”, including mental health care and rehabilitative/habilitative services and devices, help assure that people with disabilities have affordable health care that meets their needs. To read The Arc’s statement visit our blog.

Congress Adjusts Medicare Reimbursement

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a permanent fix to the reimbursement rates for Medicare providers, sending the measure to be signed by President Obama. If Congress had not acted, Medicare health care providers faced a 21% cut to their reimbursement. In addition to permanently fixing the reimbursement problem, the legislation extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, and extends the therapy cap exceptions process.  Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) offered an amendment to eliminate the therapy caps. The amendment failed by two votes to reach the 60 vote threshold needed to be included in the legislation.  The bill also permanently extends the Qualified Individual (QI) program under the Medicare program, which helps low-income Medicare beneficiaries pay for premiums and permanently extends the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program, which helps families on Medicaid maintain their coverage for one year as they transition from welfare to work.

House Passes Bi-Partisan Medicare Fix

By an overwhelming margin, the House passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act, which would change the way Medicare reimburses physicians and would extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years.   The bipartisan bill passed 392-37.  The Senate is planning to take up the measure when it returns in two weeks.  If Congress does not act, Medicare providers face a 21% cut in their reimbursement for medical care provided to eligible Medicare beneficiaries.   The bill also would make permanent a program to help low income Medicare beneficiaries pay for premiums and would permanently expand a Medicaid provision that helps families on Medicaid maintain their coverage for one year as they transition from temporary assistance to work.  The bill also would extend the therapy cap exceptions process and the Family –to-Family Health Information Centers for two years.  The Arc supports making these provisions permanent as well as a longer extension of CHIP.