February 24, 2012

February 24 Washington Update & Press Release

Read a press release from the office of Senator Robert Menendez.


Greetings from Washington.  Congress is on recess this week so it's been relatively quiet, but we still have some news to report.

F2F funding.  As you know from last week's report, bills to extend funding for F2Fs for an additional three years - through Federal FY 2015 - were introduced in the House and Senate by Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), respectively.  We now have bill numbers!  The House bill is H.R. 4083 and the Senate bill is S. 2123.  Neither bill has an official short title.  As expected, the House bill was referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate bill was referred to the Finance Committee.  To find the text of bills, cosponsors (including ones added later), and other information, you can go to www.thomas.gov and search by bill number (it is not possible to link directly to the bill pages).

ACTION:  At this point, those of you whose Senators and Representatives have cosponsored the bills should thank them.  You should also contact your Senators and Representatives who have not cosponsored the bills to urge them to do so.   

If you have a personal relationship with the health legislative assistant, or if you recently contacted them about this bill, you can call or email the staffer directly.  If not, then you can email the Member through his/her webpage.  (Remember to send emails in your personal or organizational capacity, not as the F2F.)  Cosponsors and their websites are listed at the end of this report.  You can also call your Members via the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. If families you work with would like to thank their cosponsor Members, they should use the website forms at the links below.

In the near future we will post a letter on the FV website so that family members you work with can also urge their Members to cosponsor the bills.

What happens next?  As explained earlier, the F2F funding bills are not the type of legislation likely to pass as stand-alone bills.  This means that we will have to find another "must-pass" legislative "vehicle" on which our provision can hitch a ride.  Opportunities may arise in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, or early next year.  (Remember, the last F2F extension, in the Affordable Care Act, was not enacted until March, nearly six months into the fiscal year after the funding expired.)  The more cosponsors there are on the bills, the greater the chances that they will get incorporated into a larger piece of legislation and ultimately be enacted.

Medicaid Managed Care for People with Disabilities.  The Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured issued an issue brief about issues to be considered in expanding Medicaid managed care to serve people with disabilities.  This brief might be helpful to those of you trying to influence state policy in this area.  The brief can be found at http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/8278.pdf.

Essential Health Benefits.  The ACA requires that health plans sold through state health insurance Exchanges cover a set of "Essential Health Benefits" (EHB).  In December, the Department of Health and Human Services announced through a "Bulletin" (rather than a formal regulation) that each state will determine its own EHB based on one of four types of "benchmark" plans --

(1) the largest plan by enrollment in any of the three largest small group insurance products in the State's small group market;
(2) any of the largest three State employee health benefit plans by enrollment;
(3) any of the largest three national FEHBP (federal employee) plan options by enrollment; or
(4) the largest insured commercial non-Medicaid Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) operating in the State.

Last Friday, the Department of HHS issued a "Frequently Asked Questions" document to clarify its earlier "Bulletin," which can be found at http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/files/Files2/02172012/ehb-faq-508.pdf.

A good article about the EHB issue can be found at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2011/December/16/essential-benefits-guidance.aspx.

 "Navigators."  The ACA requires state Exchanges provide grants to "Navigators" to help consumers figure out their insurance options. Since F2Fs already perform the navigator function for families of children with special health care needs, it would make sense for Exchanges to identify F2Fs as a special subset of "Navigators" -- and for F2Fs to advocate for such a policy.  This week's blog of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families (CCF) has a post discussing the status of some of the states' efforts to define and establish "Navigators."  See http://theccfblog.org/2012/02/navigating-medicaid-chip-and-the-exchanges.html

Waiver process transparency.  On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an Informational Bulletin outlining the requirements of a new regulation (effective April 27, 2012) designed to promote transparency in the state Medicaid waiver process.  A fact sheet about, and link to, the final rule can be found at http://www.cms.gov/apps/media/press/factsheet.asp?Counter=4284.  The positive aspects of the new rule are discussed in the blog of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families at http://theccfblog.org/2012/02/let-the-sun-shine-section-1115-medicaid-and-chip-waivers-transparency-rule-finally-issued.html.

By the way, you might want to sign up for CCF's informative weekly blog at http://theccfblog.org/.


As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.  And don't forget to thank the Members who cosponsored the F2F funding bills.  (See list below.)  Happy Friday!

Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.

Janis Guerney, Esq.


Below are the email forms to contact cosponsors.  You could instead call your Member's office via the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121

Senators cosponsoring S. 2123:

Kent Conrad (D-ND) www.conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) www.bingaman.senate.gov/contact/
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) www.whitehouse.senate.gov/contact/
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) www.lautenberg.senate.gov/contact/routing.cfm
Olympia Snowe (R-ME) www.snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact?p=email

Representatives cosponsoring H.R. 4083:

Jim Langevin (D-RI)  http://langevin.house.gov/contact/
David Cicilline (D-RI) https://cicilline.house.gov/contact-me/email-me
Chellie Pingree (D-ME) http://pingree.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=700&Itemid=8
Michael Michaud (D-ME)  https://michaud.house.gov/contact-me/email-mike
Eliot Engel (D-NY)  http://engel.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=169&sectiontree=3,169
Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC)  https://forms.house.gov/norton/webforms/issue_subscribe.htm