GOP to Seek ‘Incremental’ Health Care Reform

While Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R.-Wisc.) told Fox Business that the new Republican goal was to seek “incremental” health care reform rather than repeal-and-replace, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R.-Texas) said separately that the employer shared responsibility mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be high on the chopping block.

gop-to-take-incremental-approach-to-health-care-reformBrady said he has already broached his employer mandate idea with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar.

“We’ve discussed that with him as well as committee members, so yeah, there is that discussion, and I’d like to see us make progress there,” Brady said.

The employer shared responsibility provision mandates that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees provide minimum essential health coverage or face a fine for each violation over 30. Brady said he would seek not only repeal of the mandate but forgiveness of any penalties imposed since the mandate took effect in 2015.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HHS Chief Says He Will Uphold the ACA

Health and Human Services (HHS) head Alex Azar, when pressed about the legality of Idaho’s plan to market non-Affordable Care Act (ACA) health policies, affirmed his support for the 2010 legislation that in essence federalizes standards for health insurance.

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HHS Secretary Azar

“I’m not aware that our opinions or views have been solicited,” Azar said. “There are rules, and there’s a rule of law that we need to enforce.”

Azar was questioned by a congressional panel after Democrats denounced as illegal Idaho’s recent move, which utilizes the vehicle of an executive action by Republican Gov. Butch Otter to authorize so-called state-based health plans.

Idaho will begin selling health plans that do not meet all the standards of the ACA in an effort to make insurance more affordable as premiums skyrocket on the federal Obamacare exchange, state officials explained.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Maryland Joins List of States Mandating Paid Sick Leave

Overriding Republican Gov. Pat Hogan’s veto, the Maryland legislature passed a paid-sick-leave law that took effect this past Sunday, but which critics say is so lacking in details that many businessowners are scrambling to figure out their new responsibilities.

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Maryland Capitol

At its simplest level, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act mandates that businesses with 15 or more employees offer up to five days of paid sick leave to deal with illness or issues such as domestic violence, assault or stalking.

Exemptions apply to a long list of employees, including those who regularly work less than 12 hours a week, independent contractors, real estate brokers, construction workers covered by union contracts and anyone under the age of 18.

The governor attempted to delay implementation until the summer so his staff could draw up concrete regulations to ease understanding and compliance by the state’s 107,000 affected businesses. Those firms represent about 78 percent of all Maryland businesses.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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EEOC Announces Strategic Plan to Combat Discrimination and Promote Inclusion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has approved its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. The Strategic Plan serves as a framework for the commission in achieving its mission to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace. Implementation of the new Strategic Plan will begin in February 2018.

eeoc-sets-strategic-plan“Through the plan announced today, the EEOC is taking a significant step toward realizing our vision of respectful and inclusive workplaces with equal opportunity for all,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic.

“I am pleased with the hard work of staff across the agency who provided assistance throughout the development of the plan, and I look forward to its successful implementation. I especially want to thank our Chief Operating Officer, Cynthia Pierre, for leading the work group in developing our plan. I also want to thank the external organizations who provided helpful comments to the agency during the public comment period. I said one year ago that the agency would be committed to increased transparency in development of our policies and procedures, and the process for the Strategic Plan contributed to that goal.”

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Federal Contractors to Be Audited for Affirmative Action Compliance

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) this month sent out 1,000 Corporate Scheduling Announcement Letters (“CSAL”), informing the recipients that their companies would be audited for compliance with affirmative action rules.

ofccp-to-audit-federal-contractorsThe letters are not formal audit announcements, but just a notification that the companies receiving them had been neutrally selected for auditing through the Federal Contractor Scheduling System.

Formal audit letters will be dispatched on March 19. Contractors will then have 30 days to supply the OFCCP with their Affirmative Action Program (“AAP”) and supporting documentation.

CSALs are not required by law, and thus even firms that did not receive one could receive a formal audit notification.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Near Death a Month Ago, CHIP Now Has Guaranteed Life Through 2028

When the federal fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 2017, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) saw its authorization and funding expire. Through late January, several states struggled to keep their CHIP initiatives afloat while Congress failed to agree on permanent funding.

chip-program-reauthorizedThen came the government shutdown. Arising from the ashes of that disaster, a six-year CHIP funding provision was included in the vote to reopen the government and fund it through Feb. 8.

Now that Feb. 8 has come and gone — with another government shutdown (of only a few hours’ duration) — CHIP has seen its fortunes enhanced with a further four-year funding authorization, giving the program life through 2028 — and potentially through three new administrations.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Obamacare Enrollment Tops Out at 11.7 Million

With California being the last state to report its Obamacare enrollment figure for 2018, the final tally for the nationwide effort came in at 11.7 million sign-ups.

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The HealthCare.gov site after end of enrollment.

California was among the last of the 11 states and District of Columbia to close their enrollment on Jan. 31. Earlier, with its exchanges closed on Dec. 15, 2017, Health.Care.gov reported 8.8 million enrollees, just 400,000 short of the previous year’s total whose open enrollment period didn’t close until Jan. 31.

Peak enrollment in Affordable Care Act (ACA) policies came in 2016, with 12.7 million nationwide customers. Enrollment has declined in the two years following that achievement and was down to 12.2 million in 2017. This year’s total was 11,760,533, according to ACAsignups.net.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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NLRB Updates Bench Book to Reflect Recent Procedural Rules

The Judges Division of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued an updated Bench Book, which replaces an earlier version issued in November 2016. This edition of the Bench Book was edited by NLRB Judge Jeffrey Wedekind and substantially revises the previous edition.

nlrb-updates-bench-book-for-trialsThe Bench Book serves as an NLRB Trial Manual, and is designed to provide NLRB judges with a reference guide during unfair labor practice (ULP) hearings. It is also a tool for trial practitioners before the Board because it sets forth Board precedent and other rulings and authorities on certain recurring procedural and evidentiary issues that may arise during a hearing.

The basic sources that govern Board ULP hearings are the National Labor Relations Act (the Act), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Board’s Rules and Regulations and Statements of Procedure, and Board decisions. The Board also applies, so far as practicable, the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), and frequently seeks guidance from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Indiana Joins Kentucky in Requiring Work for Medicaid

On Friday, Feb. 2, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved the Healthy Indiana Plan requiring some 130,000 state residents on Medicaid who aren’t already in compliance to work, enroll in school, undergo job training or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week over eight months each year.

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar

The plan follows closely on the heels of a similar program instituted by Kentucky three weeks ago, shortly after HHS issued guidance on requiring work for Medicaid for the able-bodied.

Exemptions abound, however, including people who are pregnant, some caregivers, the frail, students, people at least 60 years old and those being treated for substance abuse problems.

“Today’s announcement is one significant step in a long legacy of innovation in person-centered health care,” said new HHS Secretary Alex Azar, speaking at an Indiana hospital event on the occasion of the implementation. “Indiana’s vision and ours goes beyond the provision of quality health care. It recognizes that Medicaid can become a pathway out of poverty.”

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Idaho First to Offer State-Based, Non-ACA Health Plans

Without obtaining federal permission, Idaho has announced plans to allow health insurers to offer policies that do not adhere to the standards of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), provided they also offer ACA-eligible plans.

idaho-to-offer-non-aca-health-plansAccording to the Idaho Department of Insurance:

Governor C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little issued Executive Order No. 2018-02 on January 5, 2018, directing the Department of Insurance to seek creative options which will expand Idahoan’s access to insurance and to approve plans meeting state requirements even if not all requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are met, so long as the carrier proposing such a plan also offers exchange-certified plans.

The new plans can exclude pre-existing conditions for up to 12 months unless the insured can prove continuous prior coverage. The plans can also cap services at $1 million, and can have different out-of-pocket maximums for different services — one for prescriptions, another for doctors’ visits and still another for hospitalizations. They can also exclude some of the ACA’s essential health benefits, such as maternity and newborn care.

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NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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