Appeals Court Rules the ADA Is Not a Leave Entitlement

In a case involving a worker who exhausted his Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 12 weeks of leave and then requested more time off under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the “ADA is an antidiscrimination statute, not a medical-leave entitlement.”

In Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., the court was to determine if the company was in violation of the ADA when it refused to grant additional leave to a worker who, on his last day of FMLA leave, had back surgery and requested three more months off. Instead, the company terminated him and told him he could reapply when he was healthy. He never reapplied but filed a lawsuit for discrimination under the ADA.

The court, in ruling against the plaintiff, further held that the term “reasonable accommodation” is expressly limited to those measures that enable an employee to work on the job, and that an employee who needs long-term medical leave cannot work and thus is not a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA. Therefore, concluded the court, a multi-month leave of absence is beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation.


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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McCain Again Sinks Repeal and Replace

Though the votes haven’t been cast yet, today’s decision by Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) to vote no appears to be the end of the Senate’s latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) is also on the nay record, leaving Sens. Susan Collins (R.-R.I.) and Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska), who lean toward the no vote, to bring 50 needed votes to the table to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would replace Obamacare exchanges and subsidies with block grants to the 50 states. (Senate President Mike Pence would provide the 51st and deciding vote.)

“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case,” McCain said. The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Sept. 25, though it probably won’t be enough to satisfy McCain.

The Republicans have until Sept. 30 to use the reconciliation process to change the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with just 51 votes. After that date, any such bill would be subject to filibuster and thus need 60 votes to pass.

 


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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HRSA Awards $200M for Mental Health and Opioid Addiction Treatment

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded more than $200 million to 1,178 health centers and 13 rural health organizations in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin to increase access to substance abuse and mental health services.

“No corner of our country, from rural areas to urban centers, has escaped the scourge of the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. “The Trump Administration is taking strong, decisive action to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic. These grants from HRSA go directly to local organizations, which are best situated to address substance abuse and mental health issues in their own communities.”

Approximately $200 million will support 1,178 health centers to support expansion and integration of mental health services and substance abuse services. These services focus on the treatment, prevention, and awareness of opioid abuse in the primary care setting by increasing personnel, leveraging health information technology, and providing training.


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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Sen. McCain Signals Reluctant Support for Latest Repeal and Replace Effort

The latest Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare in the form of the Graham-Cassidy bill got a boost on Monday when Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) indicated he might vote yea so long as his state’s governor supported the measure. Later in the day, Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gave his approval of the measure.

Just two months ago, McCain was the third no vote among Senate Republicans that sank the first effort at repeal and replace. If all votes stay the same this time around (if a vote indeed happens), that would give Republicans 50 votes and Vice President Mike Pence could put the measure over the top with his tie-breaking vote as Senate President.

However, time is of the essence, as the Senate Parliamentarian has said the reconciliation process for changing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expires on Sept. 30

McCain has also indicated that he would like to see the measure get a bipartisan hearing, and the Senate Finance Committee has announced it would hold a hearing next week.

Graham-Cassidy does away with subsidies, along with both the individual and business mandates on health insurance, and instead provides block grants to states to institute their own health plans. It also caps Medicaid expansion and does away with some taxes.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is now scoring it, with the likely outcome of predicting millions would go uninsured under the new plan.


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 Issues Guide on Providing Assistance Under the Rehabilitation Act

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the release of a Questions and Answers Guide to assist federal agencies to provide personal assistance services (PAS) under Section 501 the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is available on the EEOC’s website.

In January 2017, the EEOC amended the regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, the law that prohibits the federal government from discriminating in employment based on disability and which requires it to engage in affirmative action for persons with disabilities.

The amended regulations require the provision of PAS to individuals who need them because of certain disabilities. These are services that help persons who because of those disabilities, require assistance to perform basic activities of daily living. This document answers common questions about this provision of the revised regulations.

“This resource is designed to answer questions as federal agencies implement this provision,” said Carlton M. Hadden, director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO).

The public may also receive federal sector information updates and news items via GovDelivery and Twitter.


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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Repeal and Replace Gains New Traction

A new Republican bill that would gut the Affordable Care Act (ACAA) and replace it with block grants to the states to implement their own health care programs — even single-payer — is breathing new life into the “repeal and replace” movement that failed just seven weeks ago.

Already, however, Sens. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) and Susan Collins (R.-R.I.) have bowed out, leaving just 50 Republican senators to pass the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill, with the decisive vote left to Senate President Mike Pence. Last time around, Sens. Paul and Collins indeed voted nay, but they were joined by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, dooming that effort to 49 votes.

McCain, a good friend of Graham’s, said he could be persuaded this time, so long as the bill goes through full hearings in the Senate. Trouble is, the Senate Parliamentarian has told Republicans that their ability to use the reconciliation process (simple majority approval) ends for the ACA on Sept. 30.

Already, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida is promoting the measure in Time magazine:

[I]t includes many of the best revisions in the Senate Republican ‘Better Care Reconciliation Act.’ It repeals Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and subsidies; allows for the expansion of Health Savings Accounts; enables states to reform their Medicaid programs; and eliminates more than $235 billion in taxes.

Specifically, the bill, according to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R.-La.):

  • Repeals Obamacare Individual and Employer Mandates.
  • Repeals the Obamacare Medical Device Tax.
  • Strengthens the ability for states to waive Obamacare regulations.
  • Returns power to the states and patients by equalizing the treatment between Medicaid Expansion and Non-expansion States through an equitable block grant distribution.
  • Protects patients with pre-existing medical conditions.

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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CMS Says 63 Counties to Be Without Obamacare Provider

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has posted an update to its Health Insurance Exchanges Issuer County Map. This map is of projected issuer participation on the Health Insurance Exchanges in 2018 based on the known issuer public announcements through Sept. 13, 2017. Participation is expected to fluctuate and does not represent actual exchange application submissions.Obamacare-Coverage-Map

This map currently shows that nationwide 63 counties are projected to have no issuers, representing over 70,000 Americans in these counties that could be without coverage on the exchanges in 2018. It is also projected that 1,472 counties — over 45 percent of counties nationwide — could have only one issuer in 2018. This could represent more than 2.6 million exchange participants with only one health insurance option, which means they will not have any choices.


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 Warns of ‘Chaos’ if Wellness Rule Is Tossed

Appearing in court over a federal judge’s ruling that its wellness rule for company health plans penalized non-participating employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week argued that vacating the rule would create “chaos” for companies eyeing health plans for 2018.

In August, U.S. District Judge John Bates sided with the AARP in its lawsuit against the EEOC, alleging the rule is inherently unfair because it allows employers to incentivize participation by allowing up to a 30-percent reduction in insurance premiums for participants.

Bates did not toss the rule but sent it back to the EEOC for review and revision. Following his ruling, the AARP then asked for the wellness rule to be vacated before it takes effect next Jan. 1. Alternatively, AARP lawyers argued, Bates could issue a “prospective injunction” against enforcement of the rule effective Jan. 1, 2018.

In court, attorneys for the agency said it could not finish the review process by the end of the year and urged the judge not to vacate the rule because it would upend company benefit planning nationwide.


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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Bernie Wants Medicare for All, While Two Senators Push Repeal and Replace

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.) has introduced legislation to establish a single-payer nationwide system of health care, commonly dubbed Medicare for All, while Sens. Bill Cassidy (R.-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are trying to beat the odds with a last-ditch repeal and replace effort.

Problem with the two senators’ effort is that the reconciliation process, by which the Obamacare demise could be passed with just 51 votes, ends when October begins. After that, 60 votes would be needed.

To make matters even more complicated, President Trump is pushing Republicans to complete tax reform, which will consume most of the legislative agenda available.

The Cassidy-Graham bill, which is still being written, essentially takes all the funds currently being spent on Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies and Medicaid expansion under the ACA and parcels out block grants to the states, which can then do as they please so long as they spend the money on health care.

Bernie’s Medicare for All is a simple concept — just throw the program open for all — but in introducing his legislation, Sanders rarely mentioned cost.

POSTSCRIPT: The bill was introduced shortly after this was written.

“If you believe repealing and replacing Obamacare is a good idea, this is your best and only chance to make it happen because everything else has failed except this approach,” said Graham, who was also joined at his announcement press conference by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).


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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Proposed Merger of EEOC and OFCCP Dies a Quick Death in the Senate

The Trump administration’s plan to merge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) was abruptly rejected by the Senate Appropriations Committee on first blush. The Committee Report noted:

The Committee rejects the budget’s proposal to begin plans to merge the OFCCP with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Committee strongly urges OFCCP to find efficiencies and cost savings, including the consolidation of offices, within its current budget structure. This should include a review of the current OFCCP office locations and infrastructure across the country and whether these offices align with current workload needs.

Wrangling also proceeds apace over the OFCCP budget for FY 2018. The White House proposed $88 million, the House $94.5 million and the Senate $103.5 million. It’s current budget is $105million.


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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