Health and Human Services Newsletter | September/October 2018


From Congress

09/26/2018—Congress passed HR 6, The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, to address opioid misuse, mental health support and prevention resources. Among many other provisions, the bill expands treatment and recovery options outside of Medicare and Medicaid to include medication-assisted treatment and authorizes $8 billion in grants to states for residential treatment programs for pregnant women with substance use disorders.

09/18/2018—A group of bipartisan senators led by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced draft legislation to address patient protections from surprise medical bills. The legislation, Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills Act, would guarantee that patients who receive out-of-network emergency care would only have to pay for the in-network emergency care that is covered under their health plan. Among other provisions in the bill, it would require out-of-network providers to give notice to stabilized patients in emergency the option to be transferred to an in-network provider for any additional non-emergency services. The issue of unexpected medical bill charges continues to be of interest to the Senate and House and could be taken up in the 116th session.   

10/10/2018—The Senate voted on a resolution for disapproval of a rule recently approved by the Department of Treasury, Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services related to short-term, limited duration health insurance. The resolution was led by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and has been seen by other Senate Democrats as a move to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The administration has seen the expansion of the plans as a benefit to younger enrollees and individuals who may be between jobs and not able to afford a marketplace plan. The resolution failed in the Senate by a vote of 50-50.

10/02/2018—Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Tom Marion (R-Penn.) introduced a bill to provide grants to states and organizations to further develop and enhance Kinship Navigator programs. The bill encourages evidence-based evaluation and expanding programs within states. Kinship Navigator programs support extended family caregivers through the foster care system.

From the Administration

10/01/2018—The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a new Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center. SAMHSA has released these resources to help communities, clinicians and policy-makers by providing them with the information and resources they may need for incorporating evidence-based practices into their communities or clinical settings. Resources include: treatment improvement protocols, toolkits, resource guides, clinical practice guidelines and other science-based resources.

10/15/2018—The next open enrollment period for Medicare starts on Oct. 15 and will close on Dec. 7, 2018. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released their final handbook to help guide seniors and disabled populations that are signing up for coverage. Read more information about enrollment and qualifying criteria.    

10/10/2018—President Donald Trump signed a pair of bills banning gag clauses in contracts between pharmacies and insurance companies, the result of a bipartisan effort to increase consumer transparency in medication pricing. The bills were passed almost unanimously in Congress. Currently, pharmacists may be fined or dropped from insurance networks for informing patients about potential.

From The States

10/01/2018—Come November, four states will vote on ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid. The states voting on the expansion include: Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Utah. Medicaid expansion was part of the Affordable Care Act and allowed those living up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line to become eligible for Medicaid. Maine was the first state to introduce and pass a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, a process that has stalled due to concerns from Maine Governor Paul LePage about the future costs. While the federal government pays for initial expansion, eventually any state expanding their program will become responsible for 10 percent of the costs by 2020. 

From The Courts

10/03/2018—Dialysis treatment chain DaVita paid $270 million to settle allegations that certain physicians in its group lied about how sick their patients were to get more money from Medicare Advantage plans, which also resulted in the them receiving higher payments from the federal government. This is part of an ongoing investigation from the Department of Justice into coding practices of the largest health insurance companies.

Spotlight On:

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will award 75 grants to rural communities to facilitate opioid response planning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously identified 220 counties as being at risk of opioid epidemics, and HRSA aims to help high risk rural communities develop plans for opioid use disorder

10/25/2018—The U.S. Department of Agriculture will host a webinar on Oct. 25, on Celebrating National Farm to School Month in Early Child Care and Education Settings (CACFP). The webinar will focus on how CACFP can be implemented many different settings, and to help children with early exposure to nutrition activities. Register for the webinar.

2018 NCSL Capitol Forum

Registration for the NCSL 2018 Capitol Forum is open. This year’s Forum will be held Dec. 5-7 in Washington, D.C. To read the HHS Committee session programming, visit the 2018 Capitol Forum web page.

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
  • 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
  • Molly | 202-624-3584 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education