Posts Tagged ‘HHS’
Health Care News
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave seven more states “conditional approval” to operate state-run Obamacare exchanges.
The announcement came two days after the deadline for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to determine which states will be ready to run their own exchanges in 2014. So it appears HHS was dressing up its numbers by granting conditional approval to more states—including ones that, in the end, will likely prove either unwilling or unable to set up state-run exchanges.
A handy summary table compiled by the Kaiser Foundation shows that exactly half (25) of the states are a firm “no.” As for the other half, HHS has so far granted conditional approval to 19 of the 21 states that submitted a blueprint for creating an exchange. The two others are Illinois and Mississippi. Mississippi’s governor wrote Sebelius on December 28 restating his opposition and informing her that Mississippi’s insurance department does not have legal authority to continue pursuing its plan for setting up an exchange on its own. The remaining four states have expressed some interest but have not yet even submitted blueprints.
Health Care News
Governor John Kasich (R) is expected to opt not to set up a state Obamacare exchange. This is the right decision for Ohio. The President’s health care law is unworkable and unsustainable. Rejecting the health insurance exchanges, and equally as important, the Medicaid expansion, are two opportunities states have to push back on this law and instead push forward on a better health reform agenda for Ohio.
These exchanges are used in the law to funnel subsidies to government-controlled health plans. Some proponents of the law will undoubtedly criticize the Governor’s decision. But, there are more practical and sound reasons why opting not to adopt a state exchange is best for the states.
First, under the exchange regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), states would gain no meaningful flexibility or advantage by operating their own exchanges, relative to a federally facilitated exchange. They would simply be acting as vendors to HHS.
Second, states still regulate insurers (including those participating in exchanges) in all matters not otherwise preempted by federal law, regardless of who operates the exchange. States can also regulate exchange “navigators” through state professional licensure statutes, to ensure equal standards/level playing field with other insurance producers, again, regardless of who operates the exchange.
Health Care News
As Congress probes expensive public-relations contracts to market the unpopular Obamacare law to the American public, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced that it has inked a deal worth more than $3 million to promote Obamacare’s “exchanges.”
CMS, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, will pay PR firm Weber Shandwick at least $3.1 million for the new contract, according to a report in PR Week. Weber will promote state-based health care “exchanges” established by Obamacare.
The contract is the second major HHS contract landed by Weber. It inked a $3.4 million deal in 2010 to help Medicare patients spot and prevent fraud.
PR Week reports:
Weber will create a strategic plan with short- and long-term tactics for exchange outreach and education. The agency will also promote early awareness and foster engagement with consumers to help them learn more about coverage that they may be eligible for, as well as to promote upcoming enrollment periods, according to the RFP.
News of this latest PR contract comes on the heels of criticism from congressional Republicans over efforts to market Obamacare through popular television shows. “Americans’ hard-earned money should not be taken by government to subsidize Hollywood and insert propaganda into the popular culture,” a group of lawmakers said of that effort.
Health Care News
Independent federal legal officials have concluded that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated federal law by conducting political activity “in an official capacity,” according to a statement released on Wednesday.
“Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity on February 25, 2012,” the news release from the U.S. Office of Special Council states.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election. A federal employee is permitted to make partisan remarks when speaking in their personal capacity, but not when using their official title or when speaking about agency business.
Health Care News
Lawrence Baker, a Vietnam veteran, thought he was going to die as a drug addict. As an on-and-off user for the past 50 years, Baker had been incarcerated several times. It was only until his latest arrest in 2006 at Cook County Jail in the Chicago suburbs that he decided to stop using drugs. After his release, Baker was determined to maintain his drug-free status.
That’s where Catholic Charities stepped in to help. Baker went to Cooke’s Manor, a home operated by Catholic Charities for men recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“This is one of the best places I’ve ever been,” Baker recounted in story featured on Catholic Charities’ website. “This place is one of the reasons I’m doing so well.”
Baker is now working to get his driver’s license back. He attends self-help groups and has a sponsor to support his sobriety. He’s also in touch with his two children and four grandchildren.
“I want to be a role model to my grandchildren,” he said, “so when my name comes up they can be proud of me.”
It must be a tough job defending Obamacare, but someone’s got to do it. This week, that someone is Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post.
A Decrease in Health Care Costs? Not So Fast
Sebelius says national health expenditures have increased only by about 4 percent annually over the past two years, significantly less than in previous years.
Sure—health care costs did, in fact, slow somewhat over the last few years. But the trend started before Obamacare even became law. The real reason for slowed growth in health care costs, as Administration officials themselves explain, is the poor economic climate.
The House is scheduled to vote today on full repeal of Obamacare. Although many reports are circulating that Congress has already voted on this numerous times, this is only the second time the House will have voted to fully repeal the law.
Heritage has laid out the impacts of Obamacare on the American people—and according to a poll released this week, a majority of Americans agree that Obamacare should be repealed. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took to the pages of The Washington Post this week to re-argue the Administration’s positions, claiming basically the opposite of the havoc Obamacare is wreaking on the U.S. economy and health care system.
As Congress takes up the issue, we present the Top 5 Reasons to Repeal Obamacare:
Federal funds may have illegally supported state and local lobbying efforts as part of a “prevention and wellness” program by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to HHS’s Inspector General.
The IG noted that possibility in a letter to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who first raised concerns about the program. “Grantees may have violated a series of anti-lobbying statutes,” the IG found. Statements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which administered the program, “appear to authorize, or even encourage, grantees to use grant funds for impermissible lobbying,” the IG added.
The CDC program awards grants to states to reduce smoking and obesity. Those grants cannot be used to lobby state or local legislatures, but the IG’s office found “numerous examples of activities that, on their face, may violate anti-lobbying provisions.”
Health Care News
Obamacare’s medical loss ratio (MLR) provision began this year and requires insurers in the individual and small-group markets to spend 80 percent of premiums—85 percent for insurers in the large-group market—on medical claims or quality improvements. If the insurer doesn’t spend the required percentage, it must issue a rebate to consumers.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule that requires insurers to notify rebate recipients that their rebate is all thanks to Obamacare. In the first paragraph it must state, “This letter is to inform you that you will receive a rebate of a portion of your health insurance premiums. This rebate is required by the Affordable Care Act—the health reform law.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the rebates to customers will range from $76 on average for those insured in the small-group market to $14 on average for those in the large-group market.
Health Care News
The contraception mandate has met yet another foe. On Monday, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a complaint against Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius on behalf of Hercules Industries, Inc., a family-owned HVAC manufacturer based in Denver, Colorado.
Hercules Industries is owned by five family members, all practicing Catholics, who seek to operate the business in accordance with their beliefs. As such, the self-insured company’s health plan does not include coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, or sterilization procedures—and had no intention of doing so.
Until Obamacare, that is.
Under the law’s HHS mandate, Hercules will be forced to provide and pay for coverage of all these drugs and services in its company’s health plan, directly violating the owners’ deeply held beliefs. Because the company is a private, for-profit business, it is excluded from the mandate’s narrow religious exemption and, like all non-religious employers, is ineligible for the Administration’s year-long “safe harbor period.”
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