Health/Medicaid – Senate Committee Votes to Approve Azar Nomination

On January 17, the Senate Finance Committee voted 15-12 to recommend that the full Senate confirm Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). All Republicans and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) voted in favor. All other Democrats voted against confirmation. 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 Committee web site for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.

Health/Medicaid – Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on HHS Secretary Nomination

On January 9, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Alexander Azar to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). During the hearing, Azar stated that he supported elements of last year’s health care bills, including the repeal of Medicaid expansion and per capita caps on traditional Medicaid. 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 committee web site for more information, including archived video of the hearing.

Health – Labor Department Releases Proposed Rule Expanding Access to ACA Non-Compliant Plans

On January 5, the Employee Benefits Security Administration released a proposed rule expanding the availability of association health plans (AHPs). While these plans are prohibited from discriminating or charging more based on pre-existing conditions, they are not required to cover the essential health benefits generally required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as rehabilitative and habilitative services, and mental health and substance abuse services. This rule has the potential to destabilize the individual and small group health insurance markets, leaving people with disabilities and chronic health condition with skyrocketing premiums.

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.