Health and Human Services Newsletter | April/May 2019










From Congress

04/30/2019 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee continued their streak of holding hearings on rising prescription drug costs. The House Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Prescription Drug Coverage in the Medicare Program.” Committee members brought in witnesses to testify about prescription drug cost specifically in Medicare Part D and Part B programs. They also provided recommendations on how these programs can reduce costs and increase price transparency.

05/20/2019 – The Senate passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (S. 1379) by a voice vote. The legislation is working to strengthen public health emergency preparedness among other countermeasures. The House will now need to pass the bill again because the most recent House version had included legislation on over-the-counter prescription drug safety.

05/20/2019 – Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation that would raise the minimum purchasing age for tobacco from 18 to 21. McConnell, Kaine and other Senate members have cited rising concerns about young people starting to smoke at earlier ages. Policymakers and public health stakeholders have seen this increase due to a higher use of vaping products among younger people, and the fact that many children under the age of 18 are able to buy tobacco products from peers who turn 18 while still in high school.

05/23/2019 – Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released draft legislation to reduce health care costs. The bill contains several proposals to reduce costs and increase pricing transparency across a variety of health care sectors. The HELP committee is expected to review later this month or in July.

From the Administration

04/2019 – Following President Donald Trump’s announcement to reduce HIV infections by 3,000 per year by 2030, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has launched a new webpage outlining the initiative. This will be a 10-year program starting in 2020 and will focus on, 48 counties, Washington, D.C., San Juan, Puerto Rico and seven states with substantial rural HIV burden. HRSA’s Ryan White Program and Health Center programs will lead the initiative and its efforts to diagnose, treat, prevent and respond to the epidemic.

5/2019 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released an updated report on the measles outbreak in the United States. From Jan. 1-May 24 there have been 940 individual confirmed cases of measles in 20 states. The majority of people who got the measles were unvaccinated.

5/1/2019 The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a memorandum to the states on “State Flexibilities Related to Custodial and Noncustodial Parents’ Cooperation with State Child Support Agencies” encouraging them to require Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs participants to cooperate with child support programs.

5/10/2019 – The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule, “Housing and Community Development Act 1980: Verification of Eligible Statue.” The comment period for this new rule is open until July 9, 2019. 

05/24/2019 – The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights released a proposal to reverse an Obama administration rule under the Affordable Care Act’s 1557 section. The new rule would reverse protections for transgender individuals and women who have had an abortion, by repealing current language on access requirements. Under the Obama administration language was added that prohibited discrimination based on sex including gender identity and termination of pregnancy. The proposed rule would repeal these definitions. Advocacy groups have been outspoken about the proposed rule and asked HHS to reconsider it.

5/2019 – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) is hosting an interactive in-person and virtual conversation on, “A Conversation on Maternal Health Care in Rural Communities: Charting a Path to Improved Access, Quality and Outcomes” on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. EST.

From The States

05/06/2019 – After months of debate to expand the Medicaid program in Kansas the legislature adjourned without passing an expansion

05/01/2019 – Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed legislation to setup a reinsurance program in the state. The program will help up to 55,000 Montanan’s receiving health insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. The state’s reinsurance program will also help reimburse insurance companies on high-cost claims. The program must be approved by the HHS.

05/03/2019 – Tennessee has passed legislation to implement a Medicaid block grant program. CMS and the Trump administration has been pursing options for states to switch their Medicaid funding to a block grant system. Tennessee is not the first state to consider block granting their program but is the first in approving legislation to seek federal approval.  

05/24/2019 – Maryland became the first state to create a board to study drug costs. The legislation that passed to create "The Prescription Drug Affordability Board,” was also signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. Final legislation was narrower in focus than earlier drafts and will now only apply to state payments for drugs.  The board will also report to the state legislature by Dec. 31, 2020 about drug expenses and policy suggestions for lowering drug list prices.

Spotlight On

Spotlight On:

04/25/2019 – Listen here for NCSL’s podcast episode with Celebrity Chef Hugh Acheson and NCSL Hunger Partnership Co-Chair, Senator Renee Unterman (R-Ga.) about hunger in America.

05/2019 – Read recent NCSL Blog posts on related HHS topics including:

05/10/2019 NCSL recently published LegisBriefs “Helping Mental Health Licenses Go Further,” and “More States Leaning Into Child Care.”

05/2019 Registration for NCSL’s Annual Legislative Summit in Nashville, Tenn. is open! Register now and check out the Health and Human Services Track

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 Margaret Wile,

Funding Announcements

05/2019 – The Office of National Drug Control Policy, HHS and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are accepting applications for FY 2019 Drug-Free Communities Support Program grants. The grants are intended to establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies and federal, state, local and tribal governments working to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth. Deadline to apply is July 9, 2019.

5/30/2019 – HUD is accepting applications for Comprehensive Housing Counseling Grant Program for State Housing Financial Agencies that will provide counseling to tenants and homeowners on property maintenance, financial management and literacy, and other matters that can improve their housing conditions. There will be 250 awards of up to $3 million each. Deadline to apply is July 1, 2019.

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.