Trump Administration Aims to Expand Association and Short-Term Health Plans
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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Senate Health Bill: Revised, Dead, Alive Again?
In a whirlwind week on Capitol Hill, the Senate health care plans have gone from revised to dead to alive again. As of this writing, GOP Senators are working together to bridge the divide between the party’s more moderate and conservative wings. It remains to be seen whether there are enough votes to pass the legislation, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote – on something – early next week.
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Senate Health Care Vote Delayed Until After July 4 Recess
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he will not hold a vote on the Senate’s health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA), this week and will instead wait until after the weeklong July 4 recess. McConnell and others are continuing to work quickly to gather the 50 votes needed to pass a bill that guts Medicaid funding by $772 billion over ten years and ends Medicaid expansion. Now is the time for advocates to enhance their efforts while Senators are home during recess to pressure them to “vote NO” on the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
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22 Million People Would Lose Coverage under Senate Health Bill, CBO Says
The Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act will result in huge reductions of Medicaid coverage and funding, according the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis released this week. The Senate health bill, entitled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA), is projected to roll back coverage for 22 million Americans, including 15 million who would lose Medicaid coverage, and cut $772 billion dollars from Medicaid, shifting the burden of health care costs to states. A vote on this legislation is expected after the July 4th recess, giving advocates more time to urge their Senators to “vote NO” on this harmful bill.
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Senate Rushing to Vote on Huge Medicaid Cuts Next Week
On Thursday, the Senate released a draft of its health care bill to gut Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Despite earlier claims that the Senate would create a more “generous” bill, their proposal goes even further to destroy Medicaid and Medicaid expansion. The bill is likely to be amended and scheduled for a vote next week.
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Senate Moving Fast to Cut Medicaid, End Expansion
Senate negotiations on health care, including major changes to Medicaid, are moving forward with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still aiming to hold a vote prior to the July 4 recess. Despite the huge impacts of Medicaid restructuring and funding cuts, Senate leaders have yet to release the text of their bill and, in an extraordinary move, plan to bypass the committee process completely. It is critical that mental health and addiction advocates contact their Senators over the next two weeks and urge them to oppose any health care legislation that cuts Medicaid funding.
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Senate Moves Closer to Vote on ACA Repeal, Medicaid Cuts
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced this week that the Senate will hold a vote on ACA repeal by the end of this month, even though no bill language has yet been introduced or considered by the full Senate. Additionally, the House’s American Health Care Act passed an important procedural hurdle this week, clearing the way for the Senate to pass their own health reform bill with a simple 51 vote majority. These developments elevate the need for more action from National Council advocates to protect Medicaid and behavioral health care.
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Senate Health Care Deliberations Continue, Share Your Concerns Today
Republican Senate members worked over the Memorial Day recess this week in the hopes of finding consensus around their version of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. During this crucial deliberation period, Senate leadership is said to be monitoring public opinion on how it should move forward on health care legislation, making this the perfect time to take action and voice your support of the Medicaid program. This week, the National Council is urging all advocates to capitalize on this opportunity and speak up to protect Medicaid expansion and the Medicaid program from per capita caps or block grants.
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