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Archive: ACA

Capitol Connector
Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Trump Administration Unveils More Options for States to Bypass ACA

December 6, 2018 | ACA | Waivers/SPAs | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Late last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced four new Section 1332 state innovation waiver concepts for states to make changes to their individual insurance markets (fact sheet). The new waiver concepts build on the recently issued CMS guidance on Section 1332 waivers, under which CMS aims to strengthen states’ authority to shape their health insurance markets. The Administrator stated in her keynote address at the States and Nation Policy Summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that it was a mistake to federalize so much of health care policy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and that the new concepts are “designed to illustrate how states can waive certain ACA provisions under section 1332 of the law and develop alternatives to the ACA’s otherwise one-size-fits-all approach.”

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Health Care Emerges as Top Issue in Midterms

November 8, 2018 | ACA | Medicaid | Mental Health | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

With historic levels of voter turnout, Tuesday’s midterm election results saw Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate. Health care emerged as a clear priority for voters and Medicaid expansion proved to be a big winner on election night. With power now divided in Congress, the next two years could feature intense political gridlock or force bipartisan compromise. Right now, one thing is clear – the 2018 midterms will send one of the largest classes of freshmen Members to Washington in recent history – and with them come new advocacy opportunities for the National Council and its members.

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Final Rule Expands Health Plans Exempt from Affordable Care Act

August 2, 2018 | ACA | Parity | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Beginning in October, bare-bones, short-term health plans that are exempt from critical coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will become more widespread in the insurance market. A final rule issued this week by the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury would permit the sale of limited health coverage plans that expose consumers to more risks and potentially larger medical bills when seeking critical care. The National Council strongly opposes any moves that undermine the availability of comprehensive coverage, including mental health and addiction benefits offered at parity.

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Administration Continues Pushing for Medicaid Work Requirements

August 2, 2018 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

The Trump Administration intends to continue approving states’ requests to institute work requirements on Medicaid enrollees, despite a recent court ruling that set such efforts back. In an address last week, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said the administration is ‘undeterred’ after a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements last month. This move invalidated the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) approval of an 1115 Medicaid waiver to redefine eligibility for the public program in Kentucky.

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Trump Administration Finalizes Association Health Plan Rule

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Trump Administration released a final rule that would allow small businesses and trade groups to band together to purchase health insurance, known as “association health plans”. This move is strongly opposed by the National Council because it will expose more consumers to limited coverage health plans, including plans that lack mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) benefits. This final rule is the result of a 2017 executive order President Trump signed that directed federal agencies to loosen restrictions on association health plans (AHPs) and short-term health insurance to create less comprehensive coverage options.

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New Report Shows Mental Health/SUD Parity At Risk

June 20, 2018 | ACA | Parity | Comments

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recently released a report “Mental Health Parity at Risk” highlighting disparities in health coverage for behavioral health services. Parity ensures that patients have access to health plans that cover mental health and substance use disorder treatment, in addition to medical/surgical services, and that they are not charged more for using such services. The report finds that parity was very weak prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) consumer protections, which limited consumers’ access to treatment. The report underscores how current efforts to weaken the individual insurance market could mean returning to a time when Americans with behavioral health conditions could be denied coverage or offered coverage that excludes services they need.

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Trump Administration Declines to Defend ACA, Urges Repeal of Pre-existing Conditions Protections

June 14, 2018 | ACA | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has declined to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from a challenge by 20 GOP-led states, and instead asked a Texas court to invalidate many of the law’s key insurance reforms, including its prohibition against discriminating against persons with pre-existing conditions. The Texas court will likely render a decision in the coming months. Legal experts suggest that this decision does not put the law into immediate jeopardy as any decision handed down by the court will likely be challenged and appealed to the Supreme Court.

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Marketplace Stabilization Package Stalls Amid Rising Premiums

March 29, 2018 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Samantha Sears

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

After seven months of bipartisan negotiation, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders abandoned efforts to stabilize the individual insurance market for this year. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) had been working since the fall on legislation to restore cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers – key payments that lower the cost of health insurance on the individual market.

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Budget Update: FY2018 Budget Not Finalized Yet, Deadline Looms

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

As the March 23rd government funding deadline inches closer, members of the House and Senate continue their slow move toward a bipartisan agreement on spending levels for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018. At the time of this writing, text of the spending bill is not expected until next week and lawmakers are likely to leave town for the weekend. Congress has until March 23rd to approve a budget deal to avert another government shutdown.

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HHS Releases Rule on Short-Term Health Plans

February 22, 2018 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Trump Administration issued a proposed rule to expand the availability of short-term health insurance coverage. This move would expose more consumers to limited coverage health plans, including plans that lack mental health and substance use disorder benefits. The proposed rule comes from an executive order President Trump signed in October 2017 that directed federal agencies to loosen restrictions on short-term health insurance and association health plans to create less comprehensive coverage options.

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Trump Talks ACA, Drug Prices and Opioids During SOTU

February 1, 2018 | ACA | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union address to tout repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, reiterate his promise to reduce prescription drug prices and vow to address the opioid epidemic with an enhanced focus on criminal justice. Although the speech lacked health care specifics, the address did serve to highlight President Trump’s most pressing health care priorities heading into his second year as Commander-In-Chief.

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Senate Approves Azar as HHS Secretary

January 25, 2018 | ACA | Medicaid | Medicare | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Senate voted to confirm former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday. Six Democrats and Independent Sen. Angus King (I-ME) joined all but one Republican Senator in supporting Azar. As the nation’s top health official, Azar will oversee critical health programs like Medicaid and Medicare and take over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Azar’s confirmation gives HHS its first permanent leader since September, when former Secretary Tom Price resigned due to a scandal regarding his use of public funds for travel.

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Congress Set to Pass Another Funding Extension To Avoid Shutdown

January 18, 2018 | ACA | Children and Youth | Federal Budget | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

For the fourth time in as many months, Congress is faced with another government funding deadline. With a potential shutdown looming, Congress is expected to pass another short-term spending bill today that would keep the government open until mid-February. On the health care front, the spending deal would renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and delay some Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes. The stopgap spending bill has passed the House, but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

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Leaked Memo Details Trump Administration’s ACA Plans

January 18, 2018 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

A Trump Administration memo detailing plans to dismantle provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through executive action was made public last week. Released by Senate Democrats, the one-page document lists ten possible points of action to follow up on the President’s 2017 Executive Order to reduce the “economic burden” of the ACA. A number of the initiatives have already been enacted, while others, including weakening the essential health benefits requirement, are currently being considered.

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Trump Administration Aims to Expand Association and Short-Term Health Plans

January 11, 2018 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last week, the Trump Administration proposed new rules that would allow small businesses and trade groups to band together to purchase health insurance. This move would open the door to limited coverage health plans, including plans that lack mental health and substance use disorder benefits. The proposed rules come from an executive order President Trump signed earlier this year that directed federal agencies to loosen restrictions on short-term health insurance and association plans to create less comprehensive coverage options.

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What to Watch for in Health Care in 2018

January 4, 2018 | ACA | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Medicare | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week following a holiday break. Neither chamber starts the new year with a clean slate, however, as Congress faces deadlines on government funding and a host of individual programs after voting to delay those decisions at the end of last month. Congress has less than three weeks to avert another government shutdown as well as sort through several competing health care priorities. Here is a preview of what to watch for in early 2018.

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Congress Passes Tax Reform, Repeals ACA Individual Mandate

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

This week both the House and Senate passed a revised version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), sending tax reform to President Trump’s desk to become law. The TCJA will have major implications for the nation’s health care system through its repeal of the individual mandate and by adding $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit, which will likely limit what Congress will be able to spend on both discretionary and mandatory health programs, such as Medicaid, in the future. The National Council is deeply disturbed by the negative impact that will result from the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

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Republican Leaders Nearing Final Tax Deal, Release New Funding Bill

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, Republican leaders in Congress announced that they had brokered a deal amongst themselves on their sweeping tax reform plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Republican leaders plan to bring the bill to the floor of the House and Senate next week and hope to have it signed into law by the New Year. House appropriators also introduced a spending bill to keep the government open until January 19th. The bill includes several health care measures, but is expected to undergo substantial revision to pass in the Senate.

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Senate Readies Vote on Tax Reform Bill

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Back from the Thanksgiving recess, the Senate is nearing a vote on its tax reform package – potentially by week’s end. The bill was approved out of committee along a party-line vote earlier this week and on Wednesday night, the Senate voted 52-48 to bring the bill to the floor and begin debate. The National Council has made clear its opposition to this package as it includes provisions that would be detrimental to community behavioral health organizations and Americans’ access to mental health and addiction care.

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Senate Plans Vote on Repeal of Individual Mandate, Tax Reform

November 21, 2017 | ACA | Nonprofits/Charitable Giving | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) has announced that the Senate will vote on its tax reform bill, which includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate, next week. The bill could negatively impact mental health and addiction organizations in numerous ways by increasing health care costs and narrowing coverage, reducing charitable giving, and eliminating the medical expense deduction. With members of Congress back home in their districts, now is a key time for advocates to voice their concerns about this harmful legislation.

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