- Congress is Back – And Health Care Remains Under Threat
- Administration Continues Sabotage of ACA
- Center for Medicare Advocacy Welcomes Dara Valanejad
As Congress returns from the August recess, members face a full agenda of issues they must tackle ranging from the federal budget, to defense spending, hurricane relief and immigration. And just when we thought it was safe to move on – at least temporarily – from the health care reform date, efforts are underway to revive “repeal and replace.”
While some policymakers are seeking temporary, bipartisan fixes to shore up the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Trump and certain policymakers continue to push for repeal of the ACA, this time through the Cassidy-Graham bill. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this bill “would cause many millions of people to lose coverage, radically restructure and deeply cut Medicaid, increase out-of-pocket costs for individual market consumers, and weaken or eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
Regardless of what Congress may do concerning health reform, as discussed below, the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) is already taking action to undermine the ACA.
Budget & Other Matters
According to news reports, the White House and Congressional leaders have agreed to temporarily raise the nation’s debt limit and to continue to fund the government for 3 months (through December 15, 2017) through a continuing resolution (CR), avoiding a government shutdown fight – for now.
Looking longer term, there are plenty of health care related issues to monitor, including:
- FY 2018 Federal Budget – among other cuts to programs that older adults and individuals with disabilities rely on, deep cuts have been proposed to the Medicaid program, and funding for State Health Insurance and Assistance Programs (SHIPs) is in danger;
- CHIP Reauthorization and Extenders – the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage to almost 9 million children, expires soon; legislation to reauthorize this program will likely be a vehicle for passage of so-called Medicare “extenders” – elements of Medicare law that have traditionally been temporarily extended, including the therapy caps exceptions process and funding for community-based organizations to conduct outreach and enrollment of low-income Medicare beneficiaries; and
- Tax Reform – a stated goal of the president and Congressional leadership, depending on how reform is structured, loss of federal revenue could put added pressure to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Advocates must remain vigilant. The Administration and leaders in Congress have repeatedly made clear their goals of repealing the Affordable Care Act, gutting the Medicaid program by imposing block granting or per-capita caps, and further privatizing Medicare by turning it into a voucher program. These efforts comprise a collective threat to the health care and coverage of millions of Americans.
Separate from any congressional action on health care reform, the Trump administration has once again taken steps to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by decimating the HHS outreach budget. First, the administration significantly shortened the enrollment period, and now the budget used for enrollment outreach is being slashed by 90%. Last year, the Obama administration had a budget of $100 million for outreach activities. Funding for this year’s outreach and enrollment efforts will only be $10 million.
Also facing huge cuts are community organizations that provide enrollment assistance to people who need health coverage. Funding for these organizations, called “navigators,” is being cut from last year’s $63 million to about $37 million for this year. The cuts are part of a consistent pattern by the administration to weaken the ACA and deny millions of people much needed health coverage.
In a recent statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system.” It is again time for us to make our voices heard and protect our care. Outreach and enrollment activities are absolutely critical to ensure individuals and families get the peace of mind that health coverage can bring. The administration must not continue to undermine the ACA and take steps that will depress enrollment for millions of Americans in need of health coverage.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy is delighted to be joined by Dara Valanejad in our Washington, DC office. Mr. Valanejad will focus on nursing home resident rights in partnership with the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC), and on the implementation of the Jimmo settlement – working to ensure fair access to Medicare and care for people with longer-term and debilitating conditions.
Mr. Valanejad is a Law Graduate focusing on nursing home and long term care issues. He graduated cum laude from American University Washington College of Law, where he was a senior staff member of the American University Law Review, a Legal Rhetoric Writing Fellow, and the Director of Career Programming for the Health Law & Policy Student Association. During school, Mr. Valanejad was an intern at the HHS Office of the General Counsel, Public Division; was a Health Policy Fellow at the Center for Medicare Advocacy; and was an intern at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.