Tax Policy/Health Care – Senate Expected to Vote on Harmful Tax bill the Week of Nov. 27

The Senate is in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday. When it reconvenes on November 27, it is expected to immediately take up its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on November 16th by a vote of 14-12. The Arc strongly opposes this bill because, like the House bill, it would reduce revenue by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, thereby increasing pressure to cut Medicaid and other programs that benefit people with disabilities, and it provides tax cuts that are heavily skewed toward high income earners and large corporations. However, the Senate bill is even more harmful than the House bill because it would effectively eliminate the health insurance individual mandate currently required by the Affordable Care Act. This repeal would lead to a reduction in the number of people with health coverage by 13 million and increase average health insurance premiums in the individual market by about 10 percent. If the Senate passes the bill quickly, it is possible that the House could immediately follow and pass the Senate version, getting the measure to the President’s desk by the end of the month. Alternatively, the House and Senate could engage in negotiations to compromise over the differences between their two bills; then the negotiated bill would be voted on by both the House and Senate. The goal is final passage before the Christmas recess. Take Action over the Thanksgiving Day recess to stop this harmful and unpopular bill!

Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Continues Through December 15

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find 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 incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. 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. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017.

Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Continues Through December 15

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are 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 incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. 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. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017.

Health Care – House Passes CHIP Funding Extension

On November 3rd, the House of Representatives voted 242-174 to pass the Championing Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 3922), a bill that extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers. It also reauthorizes several public health programs, including a two year extension of the Family to Family Health Information Centers.  This bipartisan bill reauthorizes federal funding for CHIP for the next five years.  CHIP provides low-cost health insurance to roughly 8.9 million children under the age of 18 who do not qualify for Medicaid or have access to private insurance. Current federal funding expired on September 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2017. However, some states have been able to carry over this federal funding and keep their programs running longer than others. While there was bipartisan agreement on the reauthorization of these critical programs, there was a major disagreement about how to pay for the bills.  The provisions to pay for the reauthorizations included a large cut to the Prevention and Public Health fund, an increase in Medicare premiums for high income people, changes to Medicaid third party liability provisions, and changes to the treatment of certain lottery earnings in the Medicaid program. The Arc supports the reauthorizations but has concerns about the funding proposals. Read more here.

Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Begins November 1

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 incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. 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. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post.

Health Care – House Schedules CHIP Reauthorization Vote for This Week

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) this week. While there is bipartisan support for reauthorization of the program, there is disagreement on how to fund it. The current bill funds the program with Medicare and Medicaid changes. The Arc does not support paying for bills in ways that hurt Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries and urges the House of Representatives to continue seeking appropriate funding options with bipartisan support. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post.

Health Care/Rights – Senate Holds Hearing on Wellness Programs

On October 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on “Examining How Healthy Choices Can Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Costs.” Witnesses were Steve Burd, Founder and CEO, Burd Health; Michael F. Roizen, MD, Chief Wellness Officer and Founding Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic; David A. Asch, MD, MBA, John Morgan Professor, Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School, Executive Director, Center for Health Care Innovation, University of Pennsylvania; and Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. In her testimony, Mathis discussed the negative impact that regulations that define programs as “voluntary” when they charge penalties for non-participation have on the rights of people with disabilities. Visit the committee web site to review opening statements and archived video.

Health Care – Senators Release Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Cost Sharing Subsidies

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), along with 22 other co-sponsors (11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, 1 Independent), released a bill to continue cost-sharing reductions payments under the Affordable Care Act for two years. The bill also partially restores federal funding for consumer outreach and enrollment assistance. Additionally, it makes changes to the Section 1332 waiver process, making it easier for states to get waivers of certain parts of the law, provided certain standards are maintained. For more information, read The Arc’s blog post.

Health – President Announces Changes in ACA Implementation

On October 12, President Trump issued an executive order aimed at weakening protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The order instructs agencies to identify and consider ways in which plans can be offered that do not meet the ACA’s requirements. These changes, if implemented, have the potential to drive up the cost of plans that provide adequate benefits and coverage for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. See The Arc’s statement here.

Later that day, the White House announced that it would stop cost-sharing reduction payments. The ACA requires insurance companies to substantially reduce out-of-pocket expenses for beneficiaries with incomes under 250% of the poverty level and provides for reimbursement from the federal government. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this decision is likely to increase the number of uninsured Americans, premiums, and the federal deficit. For more information, see The Arc’s blog post.

Health – Bipartisan Health Bills Move Forward

On October 4, The House Energy and Commerce Committee also approved several bills addressing a variety of issues supported by The Arc including extending funding for community health centers (H.R.3922), a two year extension of the Family to Family Health Information Centers, extending the Medicare Independence at Home Medical Practice Demonstration (H.R.3263) making permanent a provision that allows Medicare coverage for speech generating devices (H.R.2465) and several other bills. Unfortunately, the Committee also voted to reduce $6.35 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund over 10 years. The fund supports many prevention and public health programs throughout the country.