Monday, January 14, 2013


Happy (belated) New Year!  Since we last connected via Federal Fridays, the ‘fiscal cliff’ was averted, sequestration was delayed by two months, and many eyes are now focused on the debt ceiling limit which could be hit by mid-February.  In fact, the Washington Post reports that the U.S. will default in about five weeks.  Yeah, sorry, not all happiness and bliss in DC however at least everyone worked together to avoid the pending disaster. 

With health reform implementation again underway full-steam ahead, we are going to incorporate a separate section of Federal Fridays for Affordable Care Act implementation news at the end of each Federal Fridays.

Impact on Medical Research.  Research!America in partnership with Zogby released a poll showing that Americans are very concerned about the impact budget negotiations may have on medical research.  55% of respondents said that the U.S. isn’t putting enough into research.

$400 Million fund for Telemedicine.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created a $400 million ‘Healthcare Connect Fund’ to create and expand telemedicine networks and increase access to medical specialists.

Slowest Rate of Medical Spending.  The Hill reports on the HHS announcement that health spending only grew by 3.9%, matching 2009 and 2010.  The 3.9% is the lowest rate of growth in the 52 years the report has been issued.

How Charitable Giving Fares under Cliff deal.  According to a study by the Urban Institute, they project that charitable giving will actually increase because of the way things were structured in the law enacted by Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff . . . I guess only time will tell, but let’s hope!

Stem Cell Case Rejected by Supreme Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected an effort to have a long-standing case brought before it.  The suit challenged the Obama Administration approach toward embryonic stem cell research and with this decision, looks like researchers have a green light to keep moving forward!

Corporation = Person so carry papers.  I know, confusing.  Federal law defines a person as a living breathing male or female, but corporation is also defined as being a person.  Well, one creative Californian decided to ‘carry his corporation’ on the passenger seat in his car therefore having two legal persons in the vehicle therefore qualifying to use the HOV lane.  Of course the police weren’t humored.  While this story is a bit humorous, it could have some real-life impact in terms of a possible redefinition of ‘person.’

Wanted:  Noisier Cars.  That’s right, the U.S. Department of Transportation wants electric cars to make more noise so that pedestrians can hear them.  I doubt the next-gen electric cars will roar like a Mustang GT or anything though.

American Dialect names words of the year.  In its 23rd annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted "hashtag" as the word of the year for 2012. Hashtag refers to the practice used on Twitter for marking topics or making commentary by means of a hash symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase. The award for the most euphemistic word of the year: "self-deportation: policy of encouraging illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their home countries."

Cockroaches more popular than Congress.  A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that Congress only has a 9% favorability rating with 85% of voters viewing it unfavorably.  Colonoscopies, traffic jams and that NFL replacement ref all score higher than Congress in this survey. 
$1 Trillion Coin?  Yes, it is actually being considered and bantered about in DC.  Who needs a debt ceiling limit if you can just create more money via a trillion dollar platinum coin!?

Health Reform Implementation News:

  • More Changes Coming in 2013:  Here’s a nice summary of ACA provisions scheduled to kick-in this year.      

  • 18 + 2  + 4 = a lot less than 50.  The Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight at CMS announced  “conditional approval” of  18 states’ plans to establish their own health insurance exchanges, plus two that plan to share responsibilities in a Federal Partnership Model.  Exchange plans, approval letters and more for these 20 states have been posted.  Only four other states had submitted applications as of January 3rd and it’s doubtful that many more applications will come in before the February 15th deadline. At this point it seems the majority of states will, by default, participate in the yet-to-be-established Federally Facilitated Exchange.   

  • Writing ‘the fine print’  Long-awaited proposed rules addressing many provisions of the ACA important to people with MS have been released in the past several weeks, including further definition of the essential health benefits, insurance “‘market reforms” and more.  The good folks at the Kaiser Family Foundation boiled down hundreds of pages of legalese from three of them into this 11 page brief.  
  • Medicaid Expansion Tracker:  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is trying to make it easy for us to keep track of states’ progress on Medicaid expansion with the (frequently updated)  map on the bottom of the first page of their report.   

  • Register now for January 30 webinar:  This one hour webinar on ‘Health Care Reform's Impact on People with Disabilities’ scheduled for January 30 at 2:00 EST looks like a good one.  Share this registration link with staff, volunteers, and/or clients that might be interested. 

  • 106 Accountable Care groups approved.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week approved 106 accountable care organizations/groups under the health law.

That’s it for now.  Remember, if you would like us to provide other types of information in this email, or you find articles of special interest, feel free to send an email with that info. 

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