Bipartisan Health Care Bill Draws 24 Sponsors, Both Dem and GOP

The latest effort to kick start health care for 2018 — a bipartisan bill to restore insurance company subsidies for low-income Americans — has drawn 24 sponsors in the U.S. Senate from both sides of the aisle, evenly divided, but still faces stiff opposition in the House of Representatives amid mixed signals from the White House.

obamacare-subsidies-ended

The ACA marketplaces open Nov. 1.

The bill, crafted by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington and GOP Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, would restore the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers participating in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces for two years, plus give states more flexibility in crafting policy standards and open up the catastrophic health insurance market to everyone.

The announcement of the two dozen sponsors of the Alexander-Murray bill came on the heels of a new poll showing strong public support for restarting the payments to insurers.

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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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SCOTUS to Resolve EEOC and DOJ Split on Sexual Orientation Issue?

An upcoming potential Supreme Court case, which will require reviewing a decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, could help reconcile the different opinions by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding sexual orientation and whether it is protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Possible Sexual Orientation case at the Supreme Court

At least, that’s the hope of Acting EEOC Chair Victoria Lipnic, who told a gathering of attorneys this week: “It is certainly an unusual position for the federal government to have these different interpretations.” To wit:

The EEOC holds that sexual orientation is protected under the law’s category of sex, and the DOJ — reversing an Obama-era opinion — says the statute does not because it lacks the specific language of sexual orientation. Since 2013, the EEOC has argued its position on sexual orientation and civil rights. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions just this month argued the opposite in a memo to his attorneys and agents.

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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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ICE Plans to Increase Worksite Inspections by ‘4 or 5 Times’

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ICE agents carrying out an inspection.

In a major shift from the Obama administration and its focus, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now looking to deport workers it discovers who lack legal immigration documents to work in the United States. The vehicle for this will be worksite inspections of a company’s I-9, employment verification forms on file.

Moreover, according to Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan,  the agency will increase the amount of time spent on “worksite enforcement” by “four or five times” this year. He further said that the deportation policy was designed to “remove the magnets” that attract foreign nationals to come to the U.S. seeking unauthorized work.

Rather than deport workers, the Obama-era enforcement agency looked to criminally prosecute employers who used unauthorized workers as a business model, mistreated workers, engaged in human smuggling or trafficking, engaged in identity and benefit fraud, laundered money, or participated in other criminal conduct.

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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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Bipartisan Deal Announced for Cost-Sharing Payments to Obamacare Insurers

Senators Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) today announced they have reached agreement on a bipartisan bill that will fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers serving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Obamacare) marketplaces for two years.

partisan-deal-cost-sharing-payments-obamacareThe CSRs — totaling $7 billion a year — were ended last week by President Trump, who called the payments illegal because Congress had never authorized them.

CSRs are allowed under the ACA to defray costs for low- to middle-income consumers on the Obamacare exchanges. Without them, insurers have consistently warned of as high as a 25-percent increase in premiums. Some increases have already been incorporated for the 2018 open enrollment period, which commences Nov. 1 and closes Dec. 15 this year.

“The uncertainty and the dysfunction cannot continue,” Senator Murray told reporters in announcing the deal.

In addition, the two politicos announced that the deal would give states “more flexibility in the variety of choices they can give to consumers,” signaling somewhat of a shift toward allowing states more say-so in Obamacare.

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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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DOL Announces Members of Task Force on Appenticeship Expansion

Following President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order “Expanding Apprenticeships in America,” Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today announced members of the President’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. The Task Force — representing companies, trade and industry groups, educational institutions, and labor unions — brings to the table substantial workforce development experience in addressing the nation’s skills gap.apprentice-on-the-job

“Expanding apprenticeships will help Americans learn the skills they need to fill jobs that are open right now and in the future. I am pleased to see business leaders, unions, educational institutions, and industry groups come together to help the American worker,” said Secretary Acosta. “The members of the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion will provide varied perspectives that will help guide the administration’s strategy on growing apprenticeship programs nationwide. I am grateful for their participation in this important effort.”

To help more Americans obtain relevant skills and family-sustaining jobs, President Trump issued an Executive Order “Expanding Apprenticeships in America.” Apprenticeships provide paid, relevant workplace experiences and opportunities to develop skills that job creators demand. Hundreds of companies—big and small, across industries—have shown an interest in apprenticeships since President Trump signed his Executive Order.

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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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Trump Ends Subsidies to Obamacare Insurers

Confirming what a federal judge had already ruled, President Trump has ended cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies participating in the Obamacare marketplaces because the payments were never authorized by the House of Representatives, where all spending must be originated and authorized.obamacare-subsidies-ended

“Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,” the White House said in a statement. “In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments.”

Though the House never authorized CSR payments, the Obama administration — and the Trump White House until Oct. 12, 2017 — made the $7 billion-a-year payments anyway.

The Obama administration had appealed the ruling that the payments were unconstitutional, but President Trump’s action ends that appeal. However, another federal judge has ruled that 17 states and the District of Columbia could continue the lawsuit even if the Trump administration pulled out of the appeal since the end of the payments would directly affect residents.

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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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Trump Issues Executive Order to ‘Fix’ Obamacare

As anticipated, President Trump today signed an Executive Order that, once fully implemented, will give consumers new options for health insurance and expand employer-funder Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).president-trump-signs-executive-order-HRAs

The executive action orders the Department of Labor (DOL) to look into ways of expanding Association Health Plans (AHPs) that can sell policies across state lines and not be subject to the stringent requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Association accounts can be formed by trade and professional associations or by community organizations. Before AHPs can become fully functional, however, regulations will need to be drawn up and public commentary periods held.

Today’s order also looks to expand the use of short-term health insurance plans, typically used by people between jobs. The Obama administration reduced the allowed duration of these policies from 364 days to three months, but Trump looks to restore the old standard. Since these policies are already being sold, insurance companies could quickly ramp up and expand coverage.

What makes both of these new options potentially much more affordable than policies sold on the ACA marketplaces is that they are not subject to the essential health benefits requirement of Obamacare.

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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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Gen. Kelly’s Aide to Be Nominated for DHS Secretary Position

kirstjien-nielsen-nominated-for-dhs-secretary

Kirstjen Nielsen

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen, longtime aide to Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, will be nominated to be the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the White House announced Oct. 11.

In a statement on WhiteHouse.gov, the administration said of Nielsen:

Ms. Nielsen has extensive professional experience in the areas of homeland security policy and strategy, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and emergency management. She is the first nominee for this position to have previously worked within the Department of Homeland Security, having served there in two administrations, first as senior legislative policy director for Transportation and Security Administration under President George W. Bush and then as Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff under President Trump.

If confirmed, Nielsen, 45, will take over for Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, who raised some eyebrows when she described the Puerto Rico hurricane as “a good news story.” Duke took over when Gen. Kelley departed for the White House on July 31.

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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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Hargan Named New Acting HHS Secretary

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Eric Hargan

Confirmed and sworn in just a week ago as the number two executive at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Eric Hargan, has now been named the department’s acting secretary, taking over for Don Wright.

Wright had previously been named acting secretary by President Trump following the Sept. 29 resignation of Tom Price, whose exit was spurred by reports of his running up a tab of $1 million in using charter airlines and military aircraft as his primary mode of air transportation.

In a statement, Wright praised Hargan and noted that he “brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership experience to HHS. His commitment to public service and vast experience in the healthcare field will help guide the department as we advance President Trump’s agenda on behalf of the American people.”

Hargan was most recently an attorney with Greenberg Traurig’s Chicago office, but he served as deputy secretary for HHS from 2003 to 2007 under the George W. Bush administration. He also served on President Trump’s HHS transition team and was confirmed with the support of seven Democrats, one independent and all Republicans.

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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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Trump Vows to Use His Pen to Fix Obamacare

In what has been rumored for weeks, President Trump is set to move on reforms in the health insurance marketplace Obamacare by using the power of the executive order. He tweeted this morning: “Since Congress can’t get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST.”

president-trump-tweet-on-obamacareOver the weekend, the Wall Street Journal previewed what’s in the presidential works for health care reform: Trump will issue an executive order (or orders) to instruct the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor (DOL) and the Treasury to rewrite Obamacare rules covering association health plans and short-term health insurance policies.

Association plans (could be a trade group or community group) can be sold across state lines and would not fall under the essential health benefits provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They would fall into the category of “skinny” plans and thus be cheaper, and would be open to individuals joining them. Short-term health insurance policies are now limited by regulation to three months in duration, stop-gap insurance in essence. Trump could re-up these plans to 364 days, which is where they stood before Obamacare.

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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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