HHS Seeks Comments on Healthy People 2030 Initiative

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting written comments regarding the Healthy People 2030 objectives. The public comment period will be open from Dec. 3, 2018 through Jan. 17, 2019.

Healthy People focuses on critical health promotion and disease prevention topics. Since its launch in 1979, the initiative has grown substantially — increasing from 226 objectives in 15 topic areas for Healthy People 1990 to more than 1,200 objectives in 42 topic areas for Healthy People 2020.

Because stakeholders have indicated a desire for a more specific and targeted initiative in the next decade, Healthy People 2030 will be a streamlined set of national health objectives guiding the nation in efforts to improve health. While this translates to a smaller set of objectives, Heathy People 2030 will continue to represent critical public health priorities by addressing the leading causes of morbidity and mortality and driving action at the national, state, and local levels.

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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 Could Lack Quorum Come January

BREAKING NEWS: Daniel Gade has withdrawn his name from consideration for a seat on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sen. Mike Lee (R.-Utah) this week put a block on the renomination of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The hold on Feldblum’s nomination means that two other nominees — Janet Dhillon and Daniel Gade, both Republicans — will not get a vote either, potentially leaving the commission with just two sitting members when it convenes in January. Without a quorum, no votes can be held.

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Chai Feldblum

Typically, nominees to federal agencies are approved as a group, which requires a unanimous vote. If all three current nominees are approved, the EEOC then moves to a 3-2 Republican majority since the president’s party is guaranteed control.

Feldblum is a Democrat first appointed by Barack Obama but renominated to her post by President Trump in December 2017.

Lee opposes Feldbum, the agency’s only openly gay member, on what he calls religious grounds, writing on his website: “One nominee to the commission’s five-member board wants to use the federal agency’s power to undermine our nation’s founding principles.”

Feldblum denies she is trying to impose her LGBTQ views on others. Instead, she has written: “I care deeply about preserving religious pluralism in our country — even if it that means protecting religious organizations whose views I disagree with. That is the point of pluralism.”


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 Rescinds Its Wellness Regulation

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has rescinded its workplace wellness regulation following a judge’s order to revise and rewrite the rule. The effective end date is Jan. 1, 2019, when it would have expired anyway under court order.

eeoc-rescinds-wellness-ruleThe regulation over employer-sponsored wellness programs was tossed by a judge in 2017, who gave the agency until the start of 2019 to revisit the regulation. Specifically, in a lawsuit brought by AARP, the judge ruled that the participation incentive — 30 percent of a volunteer employee’s health insurance premium — was too high for a “voluntary” program.

Unable to make the 2019 start date, the EEOC now hopes to have a new regulation that will take effect in 2021. It predicts it will have a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) available in June 2019, to be finalized in October of the same year. The target dates, however, have already been pushed back. The NPRM was to have been originally issued in August 2018.

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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 Lawsuit Seeks to Counter Texas Obamacare Ruling

Arguments were heard Wednesday in a federal district court in Baltimore over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), where the Obama-appointed judge is certain to find every aspect of the law completely viable and constitutional. The same lawsuit seeks to unseat acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on grounds that his appointment was unconstitutional.

The legal action was filed in September just as Ft. Worth U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor was hearing anti-ACA arguments stemming from a 20-state lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. On Dec. 14, Judge O’Connor declared the entire ACA unconstitutional now that there is no tax penalty for those who fail to buy health insurance.

If U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander rules in favor of the law, the conflicting decisions — if they survive appeal at the circuit court level — would have to be reconciled by the U.S. Supreme Court, where the five justices who approved Obamacare in 2012 are still active. If she declares Whitaker’s appointment invalid, the government would appeal the decision while the Senate considers President Trump’s nomination of William Barr to be U.S. Attorney General.

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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 Open Enrollment on HealthCare.gov Comes In at 8.5 Million

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the weekly enrollment snapshot through the Dec. 15 midnight Eastern Time deadline for the 2019 Open Enrollment Period, and the preliminary data show enrollment remained steady. Open Enrollment for 2019 coverage ended with approximately 8.5 million people enrolled compared to 8.8 million people at the same time last year. These numbers are preliminary and do not represent final 2019 Exchange Open Enrollment figures.

obamacare-enrollment-ends“This Administration has taken strong steps to promote a more competitive, stable health insurance market and these steady enrollment numbers are yet another sign that the administration’s efforts are working,” said Administrator Seema Verma. “With the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, it’s possible that more Americans have employer based coverage, and don’t need exchange plans.

In 2018, employment increased by two million in states using the HealthCare.gov platform. Nationally, 90 percent of U.S. workers are employed by a firm that offers health benefits to at least some of its workers. In addition, due to the expansion of the state’s Medicaid population, CMS estimates that approximately 100,000 current exchange enrollees in Virginia will be eligible for expanded Medicaid.

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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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Workplace Fatalities Decline

A total of 5,147 fatal workplace fatalities were recorded in the United States in 2017, down slightly from the 5,190 fatal injuries reported in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. The fatal injury rate also decreased from 3.6 percent in 2016 to 3.5 percent in 2017.

bls-reports-decrease-in-workplace-fatalities“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” said Loren Sweatt, acting assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Through comprehensive enforcement and compliance assistance that includes educating job creators about their responsibilities under the law, and providing robust education opportunities to workers, OSHA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the American workforce.”

In addition to the decline in overall fatalities, crane-related workplace fatalities, and fatal occupational injuries in the private manufacturing industry and wholesale trade industries reached their lowest points since the CFOI started in 2003.

“The scourge of opioid addiction unfortunately continues to take its toll on workers across the country, demonstrating the importance of this administration’s efforts to tackle this crisis,” added Sweatt.

The number of unintentional overdoses due to the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased by 25 percent – the fifth consecutive year overdose deaths rose by at least 25 percent.


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 Ruled Unconstitutional by Federal District Judge

Texas Federal District Judge Reed O’Connor, who a few years ago struck down the Obama-era “one-bathroom-fits-all” rule for public schools, has this day ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) is unconstitutional. Immediate appeals are expected, and the White House has signaled that the law will remain in effect, while at the same time voicing support for the decision.

judge-rules-obamacare-unconstituionalThe ruling arrives one day before open enrollment for 2019 is to end.

President Trump immediately tweeted that Congress must now pass “a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare … Mitch and Nancy, get it done!”

The ruling comes after the judge heard arguments over a lawsuit in September brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was joined by 17 other state attorneys general and two governors. Blue State attorneys general argued against the Paxton coalition.

The Red State argument hinged on the fact that the health care law survived a Supreme Court review only because Chief Justice John Roberts, in a surprise, last-minute decision, ruled Obamacare legal because the individual mandate was a “tax.” In 2017, however, Republicans in Congress took away the tax part of the mandate, giving the challengers an opportunity to argue that the law was no longer constitutional.

Judge O’Connor agreed. “The Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional,” O’Connor wrote. “The Individual Mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.”

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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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Dave & Buster’s Busted for Violating Employees’ ERISA Rights

The Dave & Buster’s restaurant-entertainment chain is on the hook for a $7.425 settlement after slashing employees’ hours to avoid providing them with health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).

dave&buster's-violate-ERISAThe ACA’s employer shared responsibility provision requires businesses with 100 or more employees to provide health insurance for all full-time workers, which is defined statutorily as anyone working at least 30 hours a week.

Dave & Buster’s, upon hearing of the mandate, decided to slash the working hours of some 1,200 employees to avoid the cost of providing health insurance.

Problem is, doing so was a violation of a provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which prohibits anyone from interfering with an employee’s right to attain benefits.

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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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Homeland Security Investigations Up 300 Percent-Plus Over Previous Year

Audits, investigations and arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents in FY 2018 rocketed 300 to 750 percent over the previous fiscal year, depending on the category of enforcement.

HSI-investigations-surge-over-previous-yearHSI worksite investigations surged in FY 2018 to 6,846 from 1,691 the previous year (400 percent). I-9 audits rose from 1,360 to 5,981 (440 percent). Agents made 779 criminal and 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 139 and 172, respectively.

In fiscal year 2018, HSI also saw 72 managers indicted compared to 71 in FY17, and 49 managers convicted in FY18 versus 55 in FY17.

“Reducing illegal employment helps build another layer of border security, and reduces the continuum of crime that illegal labor facilitates, from the human smuggling networks that facilitate illegal border crossings to the associated collateral crimes, like identity theft, document and benefit fraud and worker exploitation,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner.

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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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Workers Leaving Their Jobs at Historic Rate

Boom times equate to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calls “the quits rate” in an accelerated way. Roughly 3.5 million Americans quit their jobs every month in search of better pay and/or better commute times, the highest level since 2001.

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Nearly one-quarter of those who have quit their job cite bad commutes as the reason.

According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) issued by BLS, 2.4 percent of the workforce quit in September and 2.3 percent quit in October. The job openings rate in October stood at 4.5 percent, or 7.1 million.

In addition to the hunt for a better compensation package, a compelling reason for the high quits rate is a bad commute, time-wise. A survey by human resources consulting firm Robert Half, found that 23 percent of workers have quit a job because of a bad commute. Chicago, Miami, New York and San Francisco have the most professionals who have quit because of their commutes.

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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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