November 06, 2013

November 5 Washington DC Update


Washington DC Update 11/05/13 

{Don’t forget to check out the Family Voices/NCFPP ACA webpage and ACA blog!} 

Greetings from Washington, where the ACA continues to get front-page attention. The President has been defending the law, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is busy trying to fix the www.healthcare.gov website, and opponents of the law are publicizing policy cancellations and premium increases experienced by some of their constituents. Read more below.

UPCOMING WEBINARS AND CALLS 

Department of Labor Home Care rule. The Department of Labor recently issued final regulations, effective in 2015, regarding compensation for home care providers. The Department will be holding webinar sessions to explain the rule, and encourages participants to register for the webinar scheduled for the state where they live. See the “Resources” section below for more information on the rule. 

Northeast Region (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA, WV, PR):  This webinar took place on October 31, but the presentation should be available to download soon.

Western Region (AZ, NV, CA, OR, WA, ID, HI, AK): This webinar took place earlier today, but the presentation should be available to download soon.

Midwest Region (OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, MN, IA, MO, NE, KS): Thursday, November 7, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. Central Time. Click here to register.

Southeast Region (KY, TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS): Tuesday, November 12, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Central. Click here to register

Southwest and Mountain Regions (LA, TX, AR, OK, NM, CO, WY, UT, MT, ND, SD): Thursday, November 14, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Central, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Mountain. Click here to register.

Note: The presentations will be closed-captioned and will be available to download during the webinar. In addition, the entire presentation, including audio, will be available to download soon after each presentation (although the October 31 webinar does not seem to be available yet).

National Health Security Strategy Stakeholder Meetings. On November 7, 2013, 1:00-2:30 pm ET, and November 12, 2013, 1:00-4:00 pm ET. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is holding stakeholder meetings about the development and implementation of the 2014 National Health Security Strategy (NHSS). The meetings will be open to the public and available via webinar. The meeting will be held at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Thomas P. O'Neill Federal Building, 200 C St. SW, Washington, DC 20024. Email NHSS@hhs.gov for more information.

Beyond the Basics. Hold the dateWednesday, November 20th at 2 pm ET—for the next in this series of webinars about the ACA presented by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Topic and registration details will be announced later.

Webinar: Helping Consumers Understand Premium Tax Credits, Avoid Re-payment Obligations, and Select Plans. ONovember 22, 2013, at 3:00 pm ET, Manatt Health Solutions, with support from the State Health Reform Assistance Network (State Network), will present a series of slide presentations to help states and their "assisters" address some of the issues most confusing to consumers in this webinar, titled Plan Selection Assistance. Click here for more information on the webinar series. Click here to register.

IN CONGRESS

ACA Scrutiny. Last week, both the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Marilyn Tavenner, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, were called to testify before two different House committees regarding the numerous problems with the website through which people are supposed to sign up for health insurance pursuant to the ACA, www.healthcare.gov. Each apologized to lawmakers about the problems with the website. Click here, for a re-cap of Ms. Tavenner’s testimony, and here for a story about the Secretary’s testimony. The Secretary will testify before a Senate committee this week.

Critics are also raising concerns about cancellation of current insurance policies and increases in premiums, and calling out the President on his assurances during the health-care-reform debate that people could keep their current health plans. The administration has pointed out that many policies are cancelled or amended each year anyway, and that changes to policies now will bring them into compliance with the standards established by the ACA, including the provision of “essential health benefits.”  A Los Angeles Times article and a blog post by Secertary Sebelius, address the various criticisms leveled by the ACA’s critics. See also this blog post from the Georgetown Center on Children and Families about the reasons consumers are receiving policy cancellation notices, and this FAQ page from the National Partnership for Women and Families.

F2F Funding. The Family Voices policy team is working with key Members of Congress to secure an extension of F2F funding for at least another year, via incorporation of the F2F-funding legislation into a larger bill that is certain to be enacted. It is possible that such a legislative “vehicle” will arise soon. Accordingly, we are seeking more cosponsors of these bills, particularly Senate Republicans, since we would like the bill to be bipartisan and the Senate is most likely to be the place for action on this legislation. If you would like to contact your Representative and/or Senators to urge them to cosponsor one of these bills, you can find their contact information at http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm.

Meanwhile, over 20 national organizations have agreed to sign a letter endorsing the legislation which is being circulated by Family Voices.

Background. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) have introduced bills (S. 423 and H.R. 564) to extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs) at the current level of $5 million per year through FY 2016. The Senate bill currently is cosponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Christopher Coons (D-DE). The House bill is cosponsored by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI).

U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and proponent of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), will convene a hearing on the treaty on Tuesday, November 5, at 2:30 PM ET. The hearing will be webcast from the committee website, where a witness list is also available. A second hearing is expected on November 12.

As with other treaties, the Senate must ratify the CRPD for the U.S. to have full participation in implementation decisions. In December, ratification failed in a close vote, but now the outlook may be different. At this time, many disability advocacy groups are asking that constituents contact their Senators to urge that they vote for ratification of the Convention. For more information, see www.disabilitytreaty.org, or the website of the US International Council on Disabilities, which has gathered over 750 endorsements of the treaty from national and state organizations. Family Voices is among them. Others can endorse the treaty by clicking here.

Federal Budget. As explained in earlier updates, a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee is working to negotiate a budget resolution acceptable to both the House (majority Republican) and Senate (majority Democratic). The conference committee is supposed to convey its report to the whole Congress by Friday, December 13.

It is not expected that the committee members will reach a “grand bargain” to make significant changes to the tax code or entitlement programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). Rather, it is hoped, more modestly, that the committee will find a way to mitigate the 2014 sequester cuts in spending. Should an agreement be reached, and adopted by both houses of Congress, it will serve as a blueprint for other committees to write or amend laws to implement it. The current law to fund the government runs through January 15. If another spending bill is not enacted by then, the government will have to shut down again. The current suspension of the debt limit expires on February 7.

ACA NEWS and INFORMATION

[Please see above for information about webinars and teleconferences related to the ACA.]

Spanish-language website delayed. The Spanish-language version of the web portal for the federal marketplaces has been delayed for a second time. It had originally been delayed until October 21st, but CMS official acknowledged last week that the intensive upgrades required to fix enrollment glitches on the main site have postponed work on www.cuidadodesalud.gov, which is currently referring visitors to telephone and in-person assistance options available in Spanish. HHS officials downplayed the significance of the delay, asserting that internal market research has shown that 70 percent of Latino Americans will apply on the English site and that most prefer the more personalized service available through call centers and in-person assisters. So far, more than 41,000 Spanish language calls have been handled by call centers for federal marketplaces.

ACA data will not be be used to prosecute undocumented residents. In an October 25 memo, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated:  "ICE does not use information about such individuals [those applying for health insurance or subsidies] or members of their household that is obtained for purposes of determining eligibility for such coverage as the basis for pursuing a civil immigration enforcement action."  More on this policy and related information can be found in this blog post from the Georgetown Center on Children and Families.

OTHER NEWS

National Council on Disability yearly report. As explained in this press release, the National Council on Disability (NCD)—an independent federal agency that recommends disability policy to the President, Congress, and other federal agencies—released its yearly report on the nation’s progress in achieving equality of opportunity, independent living, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency for the estimated 57 million Americans with disabilities. The report highlights federal achievements from August 2012 to September 2013 and identifies areas where changes in public policy and additional steps are needed. For more information or to obtain a copy of the report, please contact Public Affairs Specialist Lawrence Carter-Long at 202-272-2112 or 202-272-2074 TTY. The full report, a comprehensive executive summary, and overview of highlights are available here.

SSI recipients to get an inflation adjustment this year. As reported in Disability Scoop, monthly payments will increase by 1.5 percent in 2014 for people with disabilities receiving benefits from Social Security, including Supplemental Security Income. The maximum federal benefit for an individual receiving SSI will rise from $710 per month to $721. In states that add additional payments, actual payments could exceed these caps.

FEATURED RESOURCES

ACA Resources

Get Covered Calculator.”  Get Covered America, has released a “Get Covered Calculator,” which provides estimates of how much a family will have to spend to get insurance coverage based on the number of people in the household, the family income, and location.

Health Law Answers. The AARP has developed a “Health Law Answers” webpage through which someone can determine what the health care law has to offer to him or her. The AARP web materials on the ACA also include, among other resources, humorous e-cards to urge one’s adult children to buy health insurance. (“Get health insurance so I can stop pestering you to sign up and start pressuring you to get married!”)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Individual Market. The National Women’s Law Center released “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Individual Market,” which address consumer protections in the individual market, when to shop for coverage, and when you must have coverage. These questions and answers should help people understand the new protections and health plan options available to them should they receive a notice that their current insurance plan does not meet the standards of the ACA.

From SAMHSA: "Getting Ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace" Toolkit. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed an online toolkit to help behavioral health organizations prepare for open enrollment. This toolkit explains the health care law and how it helps people with mental and substance use disorders; outlines how to use the Health Insurance Marketplace; and includes ideas and materials to help get the word out to uninsured individuals in the community. (The toolkit is an automated, narrated presentation, so make sure your computer's speakers are turned on, and set your computer to allow pop-up windows to appear on your screen.)

Worth repeating:

NEW BLOG from Family Voices!  The first installment of the Family Voices ACA monthly blog, written by  Lauren Agoratus—the mother of a child with multiple disabilities, the NJ Coordinator for Family Voices, and the southern coordinator in her state's Family-to-Family Health Information Center—is about How People with Disabilities can Access the Marketplace under Healthcare Reform. This blog posting discusses lifetime caps, essential health benefits, tiered plans, accessibility standards, health plan options for special needs, and more.

Family Voices/NCFPP Webpage on the ACA. Family Voices and the National Center for Family/Professional Partnerships (NCFPP) have a frequently updated and searchable ACA resource page which can be found at http://www.fv-ncfpp.org/tools-and-resources/aca/. This page offers information for both families and family leaders to help them understand the ACA's impact on CYSHCN and their families, and to help others to understand it as well. We welcome suggestions for resources to post on the webpage. Please send your ideas to pcurran@familyvoices.org.

Indiana Family Voices ACA guide. Indiana’s Family Voices has created this resource guide to answer basic questions about purchasing insurance under the ACA and to help families choose the most suitable insurance plan for them and their children with special health care needs.

Follow HHS. ACA information is available from HHS via Facebook, Google +, and Twitter.

Other Resources

Regulations on compensation of home care workers. The Department of Labor has a webpage on the final regulation regarding compensation of home care workers, which includes Frequently Asked Questions and other resources. In addition, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a new fact sheet on the companionship exemptions in the final regulations. The new regulations become effective in January 2015. The fact sheet entitled, Federal Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for Home Care Workers, outlines the major regulatory changes made to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and their effects on workers, the industry, and the states. NELP explains the two major changes made to the companionship regulations. First, the definition of exempt “companionship services” has been narrowed to cover primarily “fellowship and protection.”  Second, all home care aides employed by third-party agencies (i.e., a home care agency or a state intermediary) are covered by the new rules, which include extending federal minimum wage and overtime protections to this workforce. Click here for more information on the final rules: history, summary, anticipated impact and additional resources.

National Family Caregivers Month 2013. November is National Family Caregivers Month. This year's theme is Family CaregiversNow More Than Ever!  A media toolkit is available for download. The toolkit includes:

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If you have any suggestions about how to make the Update more useful to you, please let us know!  Does it provide the right amount of information?  What parts are helpful and not so helpful?  And, as always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Yours truly,

THE FAMILY VOICES POLICY TEAM

Janis Guerney, Esq.

202-546-0558 

jguerney@familyvoices.org  

Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.

202-333-2770 

blehmann@familyvoices.org  

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