06/28/2018 – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education bill. The overall funding amount in the bill was $179.3 billion. The bill funds a variety of health and human service programs and agencies including: $39.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH); $1.6 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA); $3.7 billion to deal with the opioid crisis; and $1.63 billion for Community Health Centers (CHCs).
07/11/2018 – After a 13-hour markup, the House Appropriations passed its FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education spending. Overall funding for the bill is $177.1 billion. Health and human services program funding in the bill includes: $6.9 billion for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); $38.3 billion for NIH; $5.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); and $3.85 billion for substance use including opioid and heroin use with $1 billion going toward state opioid response grants. The House Labor-HHS-Education bill is typically one of the hardest appropriations bills to pass.
07/17/2018 – The House Ways and Means Committee held two hearings looking at ways to reform Medicare. The first looked at ways to combat fraud in the program, and the other reviewing proposals to update the Stark Law, which could facilitate new payment structures based on quality of care rather than services ordered for Medicare. Making changes to the Stark Law also have become a priority for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
07/24/2018 – The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act and related opioid issues. The FFPSA allows Title IV-E funds to be used for substance abuse treatment (among other services) to prevent children from entering the foster care system. The Department of Health and Human Services will release guidance by Oct. 1, 2018, to help states implement the new law.
07/18/2018 – The House and Senate head to conference on the Farm Bill. The House and Senate will have to resolve difference in changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The House bill would require able-bodied beneficiaries of SNAP to work 20 hours a week to get support. The Senate bill contains no work requirements.
06/2018 –The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, along with state and federal law enforcement agencies, worked together in one of the largest health care fraud takedowns. The HHS Inspector General’s Office and its partner agencies charged more than 600 defendants in 58 federal districts with participating in a variety of health fraud schemes, including large-scale opioid over-prescribing, involving almost $2 billion in losses.
07/02/2018 – CMS released a proposed rule on Home Health Payments for 2019. The rule proposes to update the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model for 2019 and would revise the current home health prospective payment system. This would include changing a payment from 60-day episodes of care to 30-day episodes for 2020. The rule would also increase Medicare payments to home health agencies by 2.1 percent or $400 million in 2019.
07/07/2018—The Maine Legislature headed back for a special session to address several unresolved issues, including funding to address the opioid crisis and the voter-approved Medicaid expansion. On the latter, Maine Governor Paul LaPage (R), who wants a long-term plan to pay for the expansion, vetoed a bill passed in the regular session that included the use of a one-time surplus and tobacco settlement funds to pay for the Medicaid changes.
07/15/2018— The Department of Health and Human Services has updated its plan to address children and families who were separated at the border. A U.S. District judge recently instructed the agency to follow all orders laid out by the court and to fulfill its deadline of reuniting all eligible children by July 26. The Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice also released the Tri-Department Plan for State II of Family Reunification. HHS is using DNA testing to verify parentage for most children. This new plan will add other methods to verify the children’s parents, especially in cases with older children who have better communication skills and can reliably work with caseworkers in identifying family members.
07/17/2018 – A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that will allow the administration to cut $1.6 billion from a federal drug discount program. The case involved the American Hospital Association and other hospital groups in a challenge to the planned reductions to the 340B drug discount program. The ruling allows HHS to proceed with a Medicare rule intended to reduce payments to providers for certain drugs by nearly 30 percent.
07/09/2018—In a master’s project at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University a survey went out to all 50 states and the District of Columbia asking questions about their treatment plans for inmates with hepatitis C. Of the 49 states that responded, the survey found across the U.S. at least 144,000 inmates, or roughly 97 percent of inmates, who have hepatitis C, are not receiving treatment. Most of the states cited high drug costs as the main reason for denying treatment to inmates. There have been several new hepatitis C drugs released in the last few years that speed up the duration of the treatment but with a higher cost, sometimes costing up to $90,000 for the treatment. State prison officials are saying if they treat all hepatitis C positive inmates it could break their entire pharmaceutical budget, and pressure state legislatures to find the funds from other state accounts.
07/18/2018 – SAMSHA announced $5 million funding opportunity to establish a Center of Excellence Related to Protected Health Information for Mental and Substance Use Disorder. The purpose is to develop and disseminate training, technical assistance, and educational resources for healthcare practitioners, families, individuals, states, and communities on various privacy laws and regulations as they relate to information about mental and substance use disorders. View the funding announcement here.
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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 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.