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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SCOTUS Again Restores President’s Travel Restrictions

With a federal appeals court order set to take effect today, Justice Anthony Kennedy, acting for the full Supreme Court, restored President Trump’s travel ban, and thus some 24,000 refugees covered by the appeals court ruling will have to wait until Oct. 10 (or later) to hear their fate.

That’s the date the full court will consider the travel restrictions ordered by President Trump early in his term. Had Justice Kennedy not issued his order, the administration would have had to temporarily admit refugees if a resettlement agency had promised that it would provide basic services for them, according to terms of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Trump’s March 6 order banned travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and locked out most aspiring refugees for 120 days. Critics immediately condemned the move as a “Muslim ban,” but the president defended it as being necessary to prevent terrorism.


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 on Office-Closing Spree

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is in various stages of assimilating and evaluation public comments received on its plan to close offices in five cities across the country.

According to a press release, “This proposal is being considered in connection with the Agency’s ongoing efforts to reduce costs by decreasing office space and by taking advantage of new technologies and workplace innovations, which enable employees to work remotely.”

The cities announced so far are Tulsa, Okla.; Anchorage, Ala.;  Little Rock, Ark.; San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego, Calif.

The press release also notes that no employee would lose his or her job but all would become Resident Agents,  who would continue to serve their area of the country in a full-time capacity.  The NLRB currently has Resident Agents in Providence, R.I.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Newport News, Va.; Western Massachusetts; Spokane, Wash.; and Jacksonville, Fla.


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 Back from the Dead?

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), who cast the third and decisive no vote the last time Obamacare repeal and replace was considered in the Senate, seemed to flip-flop on Sept. 6 when he said he would consider supporting a new measure called Graham-Cassidy, which has yet to make it into print.

The effort, named after its authors, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R.-La.), would essentially do away with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion in favor of doling out money to the states to run their own programs.

When the Twitterverse went wild after McCain’s statement, the senator clarified that, though he might vote for the measure, it should still go through the full legislative process, with hearings held and amendments offered.

“If it’s not through regular order, then it’s a mistake,” McCain said. “But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for it.”

Graham and McCain are considered close friends, who often agree on many issues.

After just having returned from a month’s recess, the Senate now has only 15 session days left in September to work on this.


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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