Health and Human Services Newsletter | January 2018


From Congress

01/02/2018 – After passing a tax bill that included a reduction in the penalty for not obtaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to $0 beginning in 2019, the legislation has effectively repealed the mandate. Now the Senate continues to discuss several pieces of legislation to address further changes to the ACA. They include a bill proposed earlier this year by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) providing two years of funding to cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, and a possible reintroduction of this summer’s health care overhaul legislation introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

01/02/2018 – Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that he will retire at the end of his term. Hatch is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance. With his departure, there is now speculation as to who will replace him and what shifts this could create in other committees. 

01/02/2018  Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Alex Azar is scheduled for a confirmation hearing with the Senate Committee on Finance on Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. Azar’s hearing was put on hold last year after Congress was addressing budget deadlines.

12/22/2017 – Congress included $2.85 billion for the Children’s Health Insurance Program in its continuing resolution, which funds the federal government through March. Several states had already begun to curtail their programs. The bill also included funding for community health centers.

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.

12/29/2017 – All 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will soon be connected to FirstNet, a nationwide broadband network for first responders. The states agreed ahead of the Dec. 28 deadline to work with FirstNet and AT&T under a 25-year contract to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation for an independent and secure emergency broadband network as the project moves to implementation.

12/31/2017 – CMS announced a rollback of certain financial penalties on nursing homes. During the Obama administration, several new requirements were put in place that included daily fines on nursing home facilities that were in violation of CMS rules. The administration believes the regulations are hindering doctors’ abilities to provide patients the care they need.

01/03/2018 The Office of Head Start released the FY 2018 Head Start Monitoring Protocols. The assessments detail reviews and performance data the office will collect to monitor grantees, and the protocols reflect the new Head Start performance standards.

01/03/2018 The Department of Justice announced that it will end a policy that discourages federal prosecutors from enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where it is legal in some form. It is unclear what affect this will have on states.

01/04/2018The Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed rule to expand association health plans and increase the amount of time an individual can be enrolled in a short-term insurance plans. The administration released a similar proposal last fall after congressional attempts to pass health care reform had come up short, and continues to show interest in expanding different types of health insurance plans.

01/07/2018 – The Trump administration released two proposed rules on Thursday that would allow small businesses to buy health insurance through association health plans (AHPs) and lift the current restrictions on short-term health insurance plans. The plans would retain some of the Affordable Care Act plan constraints, but some would be exempt from lower premiums for pre-existing conditions and other requirements.


01/02/2018 – A U.S. District Judge in D.C. dismissed a case regarding cuts to hospitals participating in the 340B Medicare drug discount program. The case was filed by several groups, including the American Hospital Association (AHA), America’s Essential Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges. The groups filed after it was announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would be reducing 340B reimbursement rates for Part B drugs for certain hospitals. The judge ruled it was too early to see the impacts of the changes since they had not yet taken effect. The hospital groups, along with other hospital and health advocacy groups, are trying to delay the cuts included in Congress’ next budget deal, or in possible Medicare extenders legislation. 

Agency Notices and Funding Announcements

HHS/Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Call for abstracts for the 2018 Healthy Aging Summit. Event to be held in Washington, D.C.

Deadline for abstracts is Feb. 5, 2018. Read more.

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

Health and Human Services Standing Committee Policies

TThe Health and Human Services Standing Committee adopted three policies at the NCSL Capitol Forum in Coronado, California in December. The revised Public Health, Child Welfare, and Nutrition Programs and Assistance policies can be read here.

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