Who is Don Wright, the New HHS Secretary?

After the resignation of Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) over his abuse of air travel, President Trump named Don Wright, deputy assistant secretary and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, to be acting HHS secretary.

Who exactly is Don Wright?

Wright has been in government service since the presidency of George W. Bush.

He previously served in the Department of Labor (DOL) as director of the Office of Occupational Medicine. From 2007 to 2009, he was the HHS principal deputy assistant secretary for Health. During this time, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the alternate U.S. delegate to the World Health Organization Executive Board.

Wright was named acting assistant secretary for Health at HHS on Feb. 10, 2017. The assistant secretary for Health leads development of HHS-wide public health policy recommendations, oversees 12 core public health offices — including the Office of the Surgeon General – and 11 advisory committees.

Dr. Wright is also the deputy assistant secretary for Health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), a position he has held since Jan. 3, 2012.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he received a bachelor’s degree in zoology and animal biology at Texas Tech University, a medical degree from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in public health from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He finished his family residency training at Baylor College of Medicine. He is board-certified in both Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the American Academy of Family Physicians.


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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ACA Reconciliation Process, CHIP Both End Tonight

The latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare — the Graham-Cassidy bill that would turn health care over to the states — never made it to vote, and with the fiscal year ending tonight, the Republicans’ chance to use the reconciliation process, which requires only a majority vote in the Senate, ends with it.

Meanwhile, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly called CHIP, runs out of authorization tonight as well.

Next up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is Wednesday’s deadline for insurers to opt in for the ACA marketplaces, referred to as exchanges. But insurers are reluctant to commit until they hear the fate of the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) provision of the ACA. The Trump administration has been making the monthly CSR payments, but the president himself keeps threatening to shut down the program, which is designed to lower health care premiums. He calls CSR payments “bailouts.”


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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New EEO Digest Focuses on Race Discrimination in the Workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the latest edition of its federal sector Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEO Digest), which is available on the EEOC’s website.

This edition (Fiscal Year 2017, Volume 4) features a special article titled “Race Discrimination in the 21st Century Workplace.” The comprehensive article discusses the legal prohibitions on race discrimination in the workplace, as well as recent issues of race discrimination.

“Unlawful race discrimination is one of the most frequently raised bases in EEO complaints,” said Carlton M. Hadden, director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO). “This article provides timely and important information regarding race discrimination in the workplace.”

The EEO Digest, a quarterly publication prepared by OFO, features a wide variety of recent commis­sion decisions and federal court cases of interest. The Digest also includes hyperlinks so that stakeholders can easily access the full decisions which have been summarized. This edition of the Digest contains summaries of noteworthy decisions issued by EEOC, including cases involving: Agency Processing, Attorneys’ Fees, Class Complaints, Compensatory Damages, Dismissals, Findings on the Merits, Official Time, Remedies, Sanctions, Settlement Agreements, Stating a Claim, Summary Judgment, and Timeliness.

The summaries are neither intended to be exhaustive or definitive as to the selected subject matter, nor are they to be given the legal weight of case law in citations


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 Secretary Price Resigns

Tom Price, M.D., secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), resigned today amid a nationwide controversy over his use of private jets for government travel, sticking the taxpaying public with a tab of $1 million or more.

Before the announcement of Price’s resignation, President Trump called him “a good man” but said “the optics” weren’t good.

Don Wright, director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at HHS, was named acting secretary.

Speculation among political pundits abounds that, had Price been able to pull off repeal and replace of Obamacare, he would’ve survived with a few public slaps on the hand.


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 Says No New Wellness Rule Until Late 2019

While the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decides whether to vacate the current Wellness Rule, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says it won’t be able to issue a revised rule until October 2019, effective in 2021.

In August, the court ordered the EEOC to revisit and redo the current Wellness Rule because, in a lawsuit brought by the AARP, the court found the rule to discriminate against those employees who choose not to participate in their company’s wellness program. The rule allows companies to provide a 30 percent premium incentive for participants (reduce their health insurance premiums by up to 30 percent).

During the current court proceedings, the AARP has asked that the rule be permanently enjoined. A decision is still pending. Meanwhile, if the court does not vacate the Wellness Rule, it will remain in effect for next year and until 2021, presumably. Lawyers for the EEOC argued that vacating the rule would create “chaos” for employers in their 2018 benefits planning.

 


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 Now in Republican Control

The Senate on Monday, Sept. 25, confirmed business lawyer William Emanuel, President Trump’s pick to fill an open seat on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), by a vote of 49-47.

The vote puts the board, the nation’s top labor law enforcement agency, under the control of Republicans, 3-to-2, for the first time since President George W. Bush’s administration.

The newly constituted board is expected to reconsider Obama-era rulings involving unionization, the definition of joint employer, and other employee-friendly rulings.


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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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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