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Federal Health Policy Update for Tuesday, April 27

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27.

The White House

COVID-19

Health Policy News

Congress

  • The New Democrat Coalition is a group of 94 mostly centrist Democrats working to bridge the gap between left and right on health care by offering proposals that seek to build on the policy infrastructure that currently exists rather than replacing it.  The coalition has written to President Biden with its list of policy recommendations that it asks him to incorporate into the American Families Plan.  Learn more about the New Democrat Coalition here and learn more about the health care policies it espouses in its recent letter to President Biden.
  • A group of 17 Democratic senators has written to President Biden asking him to pursue expansion of Medicare in his soon-to-be-unveiled American Families

Federal Health Policy Update for Tuesday, April 20

The following is the latest health policy news from the federal government as of 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20.

Congress

  • This afternoon Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) put a hold on the president’s nomination of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to be CMS administrator in response to the administration’s decision to revoke a Medicaid waiver the previous administration granted to his state.

The White House

COVID-19

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

COVID-19

  • CMS has issued section 1135 waivers to Colorado, Maine, and Tennessee.  1135 waivers give states greater flexibility to serve their Medicaid beneficiaries during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19

Recession Taking its Toll on States

State Medicaid programs are feeling the effects of the current recession, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service.

According to the brief report, state Medicaid enrollment and costs have risen since the COVID-19 pandemic began and states expect them to continue rising into their 2021 fiscal years.  State efforts to reduce spending are limited by provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided additional federal Medicaid matching funds to the states to assist them with their Medicaid costs during the COVID-19 pandemic but impose maintenance-of-effort requirements in exchange for continued state access to the enhanced federal matching funds.

Learn more about how the COVID-19 public health emergency is affecting state Medicaid programs in the Congressional Research Service report “Impact of the Recession on Medicaid.”

Health Care Workers Inadequately Protected by March Legislation

Many health care workers sickened by COVID-19 are not receiving the paid sick leave anticipated by a federal law passed in March, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, new protections were to be established to ensure that health care workers and others had access to additional paid sick leave for COVID-19-related illnesses.  According to the OIG, however, the Labor Department’s stated exemptions to the March law are overly broad, leaving as many as nine million health care workers without the paid sick leave protections Congress envisioned when it passed the law in March.

The OIG attributed the problem in part to the overly broad interpretation of the March law and in part to inadequate on-site enforcement of requirements by the department’s Wage and Hours Division as the division did more of its work remotely in response to the pandemic.

To address these shortcomings, the OIG recommended changes in the enabling regulations and a revised approach to enforcement.  The Labor Department has agreed with these recommendations.

Learn more about the problems with the law’s implementation, the OIG’s findings, and the Labor Department’s expected response …

A Look at Surprise Medical Bill Legislation

While Congress’s decision this week to put off addressing the surprise medical bill challenge until next year has disappointed many, that decision did not reflect any lack of ideas for what to do.

At last count, various parts of Congress were considering four major surprise medical bill proposals:  one from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, one from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one from the House Ways and Means Committee, and a compromise proposal from the Senate HELP and House Energy and Commerce committees.  Some have been around for some time while one emerged only in the past week.

The Commonwealth Fund has prepared a summary of the four proposals that includes a chart that compares where they stand on six major aspects of surprise billing legislation:

  • The medical settings to which the legislation would apply.
  • Whether they hold consumers harmless for surprise bills.
  • Whether they ban balance-billing.
  • How – or if – they establish standard rates.
  • How they resolve disputes between insurers and providers.
  • How they interact with existing state surprise medical bill laws.

Learn more from the Commonwealth Fund report “Update on Federal Surprise Billing Legislation: Understanding a Flurry of New Proposals.”