On May 24, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an advance copy of a proposed rule to weaken its regulations implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in health programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The proposed rule would narrow protections for all people experiencing discrimination under the law, eliminate protections for LGBTQ people, and roll back protections for people with limited English proficiency, among other impacts. The Arc is reviewing the proposed rule and will provide further analysis.
On May 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R.987, which reverses administrative actions weakening the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It rescinds the Department of Health and Human Services regulation expanding the use of short-term limited-duration insurance (STLDI). STLDI plans are not required to cover people pre-existing conditions, and can charge higher premiums based on age, gender, or health status. Additionally, it restores funding for consumer outreach and education programs and the Navigator Program, which were cut by the Administration.
On May 1, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and 14 other co-sponsors introduced the Medicare for America Act (H.R.2452). The bill expands Medicare to cover all persons not covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. Additionally, it expands Medicare’s benefit package to include long term services and supports (LTSS), among other things. The Arc supports including provisions to cover LTSS in any comprehensive health reform proposal.
On May 1, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population (HEADs UP) Act of 2019 (H.R. 2417). This bill would declare people with DD a medically underserved population (MUP). People with DD face a shortage of primary care providers, as well as higher infant mortality rates, higher poverty rates, and shorter life expectancy than the general population. The MUP designation comes with increased access to resources from 25 different government programs, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Community Health Centers, loan repayment and training programs under Health Resources and Services Administration Workforce Development and Training Programs, and preference in research within agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. The Arc supports this bill.
On April 10, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 14 other Senators introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019 (S.1129) which expands Medicare to cover all residents. It also eliminates all out-of-pocket costs for all benefits except prescription drugs and expands benefits to include home and community-based long term services and supports (LTSS), among other things. The Arc supports including provisions to address the need for LTSS in any comprehensive health reform proposal.
Correction: The original title of this article inaccurately stated that this bill was introduced in the House. The Arc regrets this error.
On March 25, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stating it agreed with the ruling of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas in United States v. Texas invalidating the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). In this case, the lower court ruled that as a result of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provision reducing the individual mandate penalty to $0, the mandate was unconstitutional. Furthermore, the lower court ruled that the entire ACA was invalid as a result. The DOJ had previously argued in District Court that only the individual mandate and pre-existing condition protections should be invalidated, while the rest of the law should remain intact. The Arc strongly supports fully overturning the District Court ruling and has signed onto an amicus brief.
On February 28, Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019, which expands Medicare to cover all residents. It also eliminates all out-of-pocket costs for all benefits except prescription drugs and expands benefits to include long term services and supports (LTSS), among other things. The Arc supports including provisions to address the need for LTSS in any comprehensive health reform proposal.
On February 13, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee held a hearing on proposed legislation that would reverse current administration policies on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as the reduction in funding for programs that assist with enrollment and the regulation allowing wider use of short-term limited duration health insurance plans. Witnesses included Grace-Marie Turner, President, Galen Institute; Katie Keith, Associate Research Professor and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University; and Jessica K. Altman, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Visit the Committee website for testimony and archived video of the hearing.
On December 14, a federal judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional as a result of the provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that removed the penalty for individuals who do not purchase health insurance. The ruling further argued that the entire law was invalid because the provision requiring people to purchase health insurance was unconstitutional. The decision is likely to be appealed and the law remains in place as the case makes its way through the judicial process. The decision came the day before open enrollment ended in most states. It is estimated that, if the decision stands, more than 17 million people would lose health insurance. Many of the law’s most popular provisions would end, including the protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to cover their children until age 26, eliminating annual and lifetime limits on coverage, and other provisions. The ACA provides many critical protections for people with disabilities and The Arc will continue to support the law.
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 to 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, 2018.