MLA's Weekly Health Care Wrap-Up
Federal Health Care Update
President Opens Door for "Modest" Medicare Reforms in the SOTU
In his State of the Union address, President Obama addressed Medicare reforms briefly, in addition to tax reform, as a means to tackle the looming budget crisis, saying “Those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms… I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission…why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?” Republicans accused the President of “playing politics” with Medicare and asked, “when is the President going to offer his plan to save it?” It remains unclear what appetite Congress will have for significant tax and entitlement reforms this year. Stay tuned.
HHS letter to Senate Appropriations Details Sequester Impact
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski has posted on the Committee website letters from various government agencies detailing the effects of sequester on their departments. In the letter from HHS, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes that “our efforts to protect the health and enhance the well-being of all Americans” will be weakened. She specifically cites the impact on services for families and children, mental health services, the CDC, the FDA and the NIH. While many health safety net programs, including Medicaid, are exempt from the cuts, payments to Medicare providers will be cut by two percent by the sequester. The letter may be found here.
From the States
A complete roundup of this week’s exchange action in the states is available through our State of the States: Health Insurance Exchanges publication here.
North Carolina Will Not Expand Medicaid
Republican Governor Pat McCroy of North Carolina has chosen not to expand Medicaid, citing that the current program is already too troubled. Governor McCroy also said the state will play no role in setting up a health insurance exchange. Read more here.
Wisconsin Rejects Medicaid Expansion
Governor Scott Walker has rejected the expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin proposing instead to remove people from the state’s Medicaid program and place them in the federally-facilitated exchange. Read more here.
MLA Health Care Spotlight
Health Care Reform’s Individual Health Coverage Mandate
MLA’s Employee Benefits team is out with a new client alert examining IRS-issued proposed regulations and Q&As that provide additional guidance on the individual health coverage mandate imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
The client alert is available here.
Calendar: Looking Ahead
The House and Senate will not be in session next week.
Wednesday, February 20
- The American College of Physicians will host a webinar discussing the “State of the Nation’s Health Care.”
Friday, February 22
- The National Governors Association will have a series of meetings including sessions with President Obama to discuss issues affecting their states, including health care.