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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.

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 Pellitt

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 Pellitt

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 Pellitt

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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HHS Secretary Tom Price Resigns

October 5, 2017 | ACA | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Dr. Tom Price stepped down as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last Friday, following controversial use of government funds to charter private jets for official travel. Dr. Don J. Wright, most recently the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, has been designated by President Trump as the Acting Secretary of HHS until a permanent replacement can be identified. Eric D. Hargan was confirmed by the Senate to take on the role of Deputy Secretary of HHS on Wednesday.

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Senate Will Not Vote on Graham-Cassidy, Will Move to Tax Reform

September 28, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Project Assistant

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) announced that the Senate would not be voting on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill before September 30. This news came after a GOP-only lunch where it was clear the bill did not have the 50 needed votes to secure passage. Senators Susan Collins (ME), John McCain (AZ) and Rand Paul (KY) all came out against the bill earlier this week. In a press conference following the announcement, Leader McConnell said the chamber will now shift its focus to tax reform.

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GOP Health Care Bill Marches Forward in Senate

September 21, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Project Assistant

The latest plan from the GOP to cap Medicaid and cut expansion is moving in the Senate with a committee hearing and a floor vote by the end of next week. The bill – authored by Senators Graham (R-SC), Cassidy (R-LA), Heller (R-NV) and Johnson (R-WI) – would turn critical federal funding for Medicaid into per capita caps or block grants for states, leaving cash-strapped states with fewer resources for critical care like mental health and addiction services.

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Congress Faces Sept. 30th Deadline to Pass Health Reform

September 7, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Senate Parliamentarian ruled last week that the special budgeting rules under which Congress has tried to pass health care legislation will expire at the end of the fiscal year, September 30. This is the latest win for advocates working to protect the Affordable Care Act and preserve Medicaid as it currently exists. President Trump, with Congress back in session this week, is reportedly urging one more try at passing health care legislation.

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Cutting ACA Subsidies Would Hike Premiums by 20 Percent, CBO says

August 17, 2017 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates a 20 percent increase in health insurance premiums for low income individuals who purchase insurance through an exchange should the Trump Administration end cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies. The CBO report, projecting the effects of ending these ACA payments, comes after months of President Trump threatening to end the CSR payments to insurers. The Administration has made the payments for August and is currently deciding whether make them again in September.

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Lawmakers Consider Options on Health Care After “Skinny” Repeal Failure

August 3, 2017 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Amid last week’s failed Senate health care vote, members of Congress continued to weigh potential paths forward on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While it remains unclear exactly what shape the next health reform proposal will take, there appears to be bipartisan support for a measure that addresses stabilizing the individual insurance market in the immediate future. Neither chamber is expected to vote on any major health care measure before September.

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Senate Fails to Pass “Skinny” ACA Repeal

July 28, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

In the early hours of Friday morning, the Senate failed to advance its “skinny” Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill. The bill would have served as a substitute to effectively replace the underlying House-passed health care legislation and move the debate to a conference committee with the House. The measure was defeated by a 49-51 vote with three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John McCain (R-AZ) — joining all 48 Democrats in opposing the bill. The National Council thanks all Senators who opposed this dangerous proposal and other repeal votes from earlier in the week. We also thank and commend all advocates who contacted their Senators to vote “NO” on the bill.

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