Health and Human Services Newsletter | January-February 2018


Top Stories

02/03/2018—Nine states and the District of Columbia are considering implementing their own individual insurance mandate after the Affordable Care Act individual mandate was repealed in last year’s tax bill. States considering their own mandate include Connecticut, Maryland, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

02/05/2018—California has established test sites for individuals to detect for fentanyl in a drug purchase. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is being added to heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. The drug has resulted in thousands of deaths in the Midwest and the East Coast, and often users aren’t aware of the drug’s presence. California has set up sites along with needle exchange programs to help users determine if the drug is present, and to bring awareness to the deadliness of fentanyl.

02/09/2018—The bipartisan budget deal that was signed by President Donald Trump includes four additional years of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, funding for community health centers, teaching health centers and the National Health Service Corps, a repeal of Medicare payment cap for therapy services, and a delay of the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital pay cuts. The bill also includes $6 billion for opioids and mental health.

From Congress

1/11/2018—At the request of the House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report about potential cost savings from reauthorizing funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 10 years. CBO found with the recent passage of congress’ tax bill that repealed the individual insurance mandate under the ACA, the CHIP program could now generate savings.

1/24/2018—The U.S. Senate confirmed Alex Azar as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a 55 to 43 vote. Azar recently worked for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. and previously served as General Counsel and Deputy Secretary of HHS under the George W. Bush administration.

From the Administration

12/29/2017—Mississippi received the first decade-long Section 1115 Medicaid waiver extension from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in December. The waiver expands eligibility for certain age groups and reduces Mississippi’s reporting requirements to CMS.

01/23/2018—Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Deputy Administrator Brian Neale announced he would be leaving the agency in February. Neale worked on several major policy changes at CMS in the last year including updating CMS’ policy on states’ ability to include work requirements as a condition for Medicaid eligibility. Neale previously worked for Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana.

01/31/2018—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Administrator Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down after it was discovered she had investments in tobacco stocks. Dr. Fitzgerald stepped down during one of the busiest times for the agency as more Americans have caught the flu than in previous years.

02/06/2018 - Former CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt will lead a group of health care industry stakeholders and advocates, kicking off with a listening tour around the country. The United States of Care will work on what can be done in the states to improve health care. The group plans to spend 2018 developing resources and expertise to support promising state-based initiatives.


01/24/2018—Shortly after CMS approved a Medicaid waiver in Kentucky for Kentucky HEALTH, a Medicaid program with work requirements and coverage lockouts for up to six months, 15 Kentucky Medicaid enrollees filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs are challenging CMS’s authority to issue the work requirement work and the approval of Kentucky’s waiver.

Agency Notices and Funding Announcements

01/24/2018 —The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are accepting applications for up to $52 million in grants under its Treatment for Individuals Experiencing Homeless program. Money can be used to help local providers offer behavioral health and recovery support services for people experiencing homelessness. Grantees will also offer treatment for substance use disorders as needed.

Applications are due March 5, 2018

02/06/2018—Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

Deadline is April 17. Learn more.

A complete list of HHS notices, proposed rules, and final roles and links to the federal register can be read here.

National Stories

Spotlight On:

HHS recognizes Feb. 7 as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. For further information and resources, please visit and check out NCSL’s recent report on reducing health disparities.

01/30/2018 – Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan announced they would be creating a joint health insurance program for all their employees in the United States. It is unclear if this would mean creating an online directory of providers, negotiating drug prices for their plans or develop an online medical advice tool for their employees. Combined the three companies cover 1 million people, a number while significant doesn’t compare to the private insurance market that runs employer plans for tens of millions of Americans.



For more information on NCSL’s Health and Human Services Standing Committee State-Federal Affairs activities, please visit our website, or email Haley Nicholson or Abbie Gruwell.

NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House, and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Jake Lestock | 202-624-8171 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell | 202-624-3569 | Human Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education