Hart Health Strategies provides a comprehensive policy briefing on a weekly basis. This in-depth health policy briefing is sent out at the beginning of each week. The health policy briefing recaps the previous week and previews the week ahead. It alerts clients to upcoming congressional hearings, newly introduced bills, regulatory announcements, and implementation activity related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other health laws.


Ebola Crisis Measures Instituted

Despite the death from Ebola of one airline traveler from Liberia to Texas, the White House announced that the Administration will not take steps to curtail travel from countries with Ebola outbreaks. Nonetheless, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praised the Border and Customs Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the steps they said they will take to monitor the temperatures of travelers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and make them fill out detailed questionnaires when they enter New York’s JFK International, Washington-Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago-O’Hare and the Atlanta international airports. The 3,742 reported deaths from the disease have spurred several Republican members to call for further action, including a travel ban from the affected countries. The seriousness of the situation and the Administration’s release of requested information also led the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the House Armed Services Committee to approve $750 million of the Administration’s $1 billion request for a reprogramming of existing appropriations in the Department of Defense (DoD) budget. At least $750 million of the request has been given final approval given that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved all $1 billion of the requested funds and the Senate Armed Services Committee has released its hold on the request.

"Open Season" on PPACA in More Ways than One

As the federal and state-run health insurance exchanges prepare to open their portals on November 15th for the enrollment of individuals for 2015, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said the Administration is focusing efforts on reducing the number of uninsured and that the “experience will be better” for consumers on HealthCare.gov. In this regard, HHS released a simplified application for new enrollees which reduced the number of computer screens users fill in from 76 to as few as 16. However, individuals will not be given information on the providers and networks that are covered under individual plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also gave notice that individuals whose health insurance was canceled for being non-compliant with the law will continue to be eligible to enroll in catastrophic coverage for plan years beginning on or before Oct. 1, 2016. Even if the Administration’s efforts to encourage coverage prove successful, it is estimated that almost 20 million of the nation’s 30-40 million uninsured may qualify for one or more of the exemptions to the individual mandate and decide to remain uncovered. Republicans continue their efforts as well, in this case to undo all or parts of the law. Led by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and thirteen other Senate Republicans, they sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asking for the House to deny appropriations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) risk corridor program after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that the Administration needs a congressional appropriation to use taxpayer dollars to cover insurance company losses in 2015. A decision on this issue and on the level, length and timing of further appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2015 will have to occur before federal funding provided through the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on December 12th. Republicans were given additional fodder to attack the “affordability” of health insurance under Obamacare when the GAO released more information on the cost of premiums in the individual market in January 2013, thus allowing for a “before and after” the law comparison of premium costs.

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