Health and Human Services Newsletter | February 2018


Top Stories

02/13/2018In his last state of the state address, Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) outlined policy priorities he wanted to take on before he leaves office. Not on the top of his list is implementing the state’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Maine legislators say they aren’t receiving required monthly reports from the LePage administration, which they need to roll out the expansion this July. LePage has continued to push back on lawmakers supporting the expansion saying they haven’t provided responsible funding mechanisms for the expansion. Other states continue to explore a Medicaid expansion most recently in Virginia, where the House agreed to Medicaid expansion with the condition of adding work and volunteer requirements to applicable populations.

02/19/2018—With more states considering applying for Medicaid waivers with the work and volunteer requirements, they look to those with approved waivers to see what implementing these programs would cost. It has been reported that the largest expenses could be in administrative costs including: those for IT, staff training and hiring. While the federal government encourages states that apply for work and engagement waivers to use SNAP and TANF systems as a model, there won’t be federal support to integrate those systems.

02/24/2018—HHS Secretary Alex Azar proposed several measures to increase medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as a way to address the opioid epidemic. Azar stated he would like to increase use of MAT and increase flexibility for MAT studies. The FDA is expected to release guidance for manufacturers and researchers on the development of new drugs and applications.

From Congress

02/15/2018During one of several HHS Budget hearings HHS Secretary Alex Azar was asked by several Democrat members if we was going to investigate a recent move by Idaho regulators to allow the sale of noncompliant ACA health insurance plans. Azar at first said he did not want to launch an official investigation but has since agreed to the requests of several committee members including ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) of the Senate Finance Committee to look into the plans, and report back to Congress in 30 days.

02/22/2018—House and Senate members are holding a series of hearings on the opioid crisis, addressing issues ranging from requiring pain-management education for providers to the role of hospice workers in the disposal of opioid medications. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will examine ways to accelerate the development of less addictive pain relief drugs and expanding telemedicine. On Feb. 27, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the role of technology and data in prevention and treatment.

From the Administration

02/06/2018Last April CMS and HHS issued a rule that would shift responsibilities to states to regulate and monitor medical provider network adequacy. Previously, the federal government participated in rating provider networks, and some states already did their own ratings. The rule went into effect at the beginning of 2018 and will affect 28 states that use a federal health insurance exchange and 11 additional states that coordinate a health insurance exchange in partnership with the federal government.

02/08/2018—Included in the president’s 2019 budget proposal were several reforms around prescription drug pricing. HHS Secretary Alex Azar highlighted some of the proposals that included: Establishing a spending cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs, lowering the price drug makers could receive for new products in the Medicare Part B prescription program from 6 percent to 3 percent and allowing state Medicaid programs to act as private insurance companies and negotiate drug prices on their own.

02/20/2018CMS released a proposed rule that would allow short-term health plans can be used by individuals between coverage altering how long they can be on these plans from three months to a year. The administration has expressed interest in expanding these plans to entice younger and healthier applicants who generally purchase low-cost plans with limited benefit coverage. Critics are pointing to the proposed rule as a way to undermine the ACA.  Final comments for the proposed rule are due on April 23, 2018.

02/23/2018—The USDA published a notice of proposed rulemaking as it considers limiting SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults without dependents. The department is seeking input on potential policy and regulatory changes that may include more stringent work requirements for certain SNAP recipients and make changes to state waivers of work requirements. The comment period for the rule ends April 9, 2017.


02/25/2018Arizona may be subject to fines in a class-action suit over the quality of health care provided to its inmates. The state was required to improve prison health care after a previous settlement, including ensuring newly prescribed medications reach inmates quickly, providing infectious disease consultations, and informing inmates about the results of certain tests within five days.

Agency Notices and Funding Announcements

HHS has launched a resource page for the National Opioids Crisis. The page can help those impacted by the crisis with resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.

2018 NCSL Legislative Summit

Registration is Open for the 2018 NCSL Legislative Summit

NCSL’s 2018 Legislative Summit will take place in Los Angeles, July 30-Aug. 2. Connect with legislative peers and policy innovators and explore the constantly changing work of state legislatures. From skills training to policy deep dives, you'll take home ideas you can put into action in your state.

The NCSL Legislative Summit business meeting, Setting the States’ Agenda, is where NCSL adopts the policy directives and resolutions that guide NCSL’s advocacy before Congress, the White House and federal agencies.

Visit the Summit Registration webpage or for more information.

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.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | 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
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education