Health Policy Updates:
- Tom Price Resigns As Health and Human Services Secretary on Friday, September 29, 2017. Price’s resignation comes after his use of private jets for official and personal business becomes public. Price served as the Health and Human Services Secretary for the last nine months. President Trump has designated Don Wright, MD, MPH as Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services. Although there are many named as potential replacements, a few are familiar faces, such as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Seema Verma and former Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal.
- Repeal and Replace Stalled for Now, but Affordable Care Act (ACA) Still Being Dismantled. Although the GOP failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the administration is still doing whatever they can to restrict access to care. Currently, the mandatory certification course for enrollers working with the federal marketplace is experiencing many technical difficulties and support is dwindling from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This prevents many navigators from certifying and therefore, prevents much-needed assistance in healthcare enrollment. Additionally, HealthCare.gov will undergo maintenance on every Sunday of Open Enrollment between the hours of 12am and 12pm, ET. This further limits the window during which individuals can enroll or assist with enrollment, especially as assistance during community and faith-based events is common. Funding for navigators is also being cut, as well as funding to promote the open enrollment season. As a reminder, open enrollment begins November 1, 2017 and in California, will end on January 31, 2018. The administration is quietly restricting the ACA and drastically making changes that would limit access to coverage; the fight does not end because the Graham-Cassidy bill failed. Instead, it must continue.
- Administration Limits Contraception Coverage Mandate originally provided under the Affordable Care Act. This will allow employers and insurers to claim religious or moral beliefs to avoid the mandate requiring birth control be covered by insurance through preventive car. More information regarding the policies and other key takeaways can be found here. In response, the State of California has filed a lawsuit against the administration, challenging this latest decision.
- Trump to Sign Executive Order Allowing Association Health Plans in another attempt to destroy healthcare. Association health plans would allow individuals to buy insurance outside their states, popular amongst the GOP. President Trump is expected to sign the Executive Order on Thursday.
- CHIP Funding Still in Limbo: Congress allowed CHIP funding to expire 26 days ago and there are reports that they will not consider funding until December; California is expected to run out of funding for CHIP by then. Delaying funding for CHIP is disastrous, with 9 million children at risk nationally and almost 2 million at risk in California alone. Congress currently has two bills that include CHIP funding: H.R. 3921 and S. 1827. A comparison of the two bills can be found here. Please review the California CHIP Advocacy Sheet and continue to urge your representatives to maintain funding for CHIP.
- Bipartisan Health Care Act CBO Score Released: The Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act was proposed by Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D, WA), which attempts to stabilize the marketplace. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate on this Act, which found that the bill will reduce the federal deficit by $3.8 billion in the next ten years without significantly changing the number of people with health insurance coverage.
- Hatch-Brady Proposal an Alternative to Bipartisan Bill Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) proposed an alternative to the bipartisan agreement which would fund the cost-sharing reductions (CSR) for two years and discontinue the individual mandate between 2017-2021. As more information is released on this proposal, we will provide you with updates.
- Federal Budget Updates: The House voted 216-212 in favor of the Senate budget proposal which calls for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest. The House and Senate are expected to release the text of their proposals in the next two weeks and will try to push for a full vote before the Thanksgiving holiday. We will be monitoring the federal budget proposals and will share updates once we have more information.