Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Did you know that Memorial Day – the day we take to honor those who died serving our country in the Armed Forces – was originally called Decoration Day to honor Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the civil war?

Be sure to peruse this entire edition – for the first time I have included a tidbit about a creative approach by American Samoa to address an access issue; two tidbits pertaining to Harry S Truman, and under the ACA Implementation News section, there are some important webinar opportunities that may be of interest.  Enjoy!

World MS Day – what’s your motto?  May 29 is World MS Day and the Society is supporting this awareness campaign through our website, social media, email, chapter activities, media outreach, and more.  This year people are posting their personal motto as part of World MS Day – it’s quick and easy so please go to My Motto and submit a personal motto that you live by. These mottos inspire us all to do more in creating a world free of MS.  This of course is a worldwide effort and we’ve been engaged with colleague organizations in the MS Coalition as well as the MS International Federation.

Long-Term Services & Supports Petition.  The Society is pushing out an online petition asking Congress to create more flexible, affordable long-term services and supports (LTSS) options for Americans.  Once 25,000 people have signed the petition, it will be delivered to Congress and hopefully launch discussion and action.  Be sure to check out the great blog post by Michael Ogg, an activist from New Jersey with primary progressive MS who is concerned about access to LTSS, and of course sign the petition yourself!

Debt Ceiling fight looms.  Increased tax revenues and a payment from Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac has provided a slight cushion but Congress will still need to take action sometime this fall to increase the federal debt limit in order to avoid default.  Speaker Boehner is trying to corral his caucus for a unified approach, lest he have to rely on Minority Leader Pelosi to deliver them.

Federal Budget Update.  I was going to leave this blank but thought that would be too sarcastic.  There really has been no movement – Sen. John McCain has expressed his dismay that his own party is putting up roadblocks to having a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate budgets, and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz announcing that he doesn’t trust his own party in those negotiations.  Meanwhile there are some reasons why getting a budget done this year is attractive (as opposed to passing another ‘continuing resolution’ to keep funding at current levels). 

‘Scandals’.  Well, that’s all I need to say – plenty of 24/7 coverage of the various issues out here.  Or you can watch the TV series for a different ‘Scandal’.  In the meantime, if you want a few good chuckles, look at these one-liners by Jay Leno recently.

Legislative Update.  Click here to find a summary of legislative issues that we provided recently on a phone call with government relations staff.

Appropriations Committee Targets.  Big, significant cuts are likely for health and human services programs given budget caps – the cuts could be as much as 20% (and that’s on top of the sequestration cuts that went into effect March 1).  The impact on medical research is shown in this document which includes the quote “2013 is a bad year to have a good idea.”  One estimate is that NIH could lose nearly $5.4 billion if something doesn’t give.  Here’s a letter on behalf of over 900 groups highlighting the draconian impact of the budget targets.

Favorite John Boehner Quote:  “It is hard to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed.”  May 20, 2012 on ABC.

Limits of Telemedicine.  NPR had a Talk of the Nation episode talking about the promise and limitations of telemedicine.  One of the guests was Dr. Ray Dorsey who has incorporated telemedicine as a key component of his medical practice for patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

Truman’s Yacht rusting away
.  President Harry S Truman used the USS Williamsburg as a floating White House but now it’s just a rusting ghost ship in Italy hoping for new life.

Speaking of the Truman Era . . .
  Truman was one in a long line of presidents who attempted to reform the American health care system.  At the time the American Medical Association was one of the biggest opponents to change.  This story talks about how a British painting played a critical role in AMA’s successful efforts to thwart universal health care in the U.S.

American Samoa’s Frequent Flyers.  The government of American Somoa has established a frequent flyer account to deposit all frequent flyer miles of government employees traveling on government business.  Those miles will then be used to help impoverished medical patients and students travel off the islands when necessary to access care.  

Health Reform Implementation News:

  •  Gettin’ Ready!  Since our last ACA News, there’s been loads of ACA implementation activity on both the federal and state government levels. It’s all about getting ready for the October 1st launch of the Health Insurance Marketplaces (aka Exchanges) and the major reforms coming in January.   Outreach and education opportunities are ramping up, health insurers are lining up to get their new health insurance policies certified, and really smart people are trying really hard to make complicated stuff sound simple.     

  • HHS Explains it all to you.  HHS is offering two free webinars (a “101” and “advanced”) on the Marketplaces in June and July. Registration is required, and the promise to add more dates if the demand is high.  Click here for dates and links to registration. Please circulate, and note the free e-mail sign-up on bottom of the page.

  • BIG Changes for PCIPs:  To provide desperately needed health insurance coverage to people that had been denied coverage by insurers due to their pre-existing condition, the ACA established a stopgap coverage program known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP).  Funded entirely through federal dollars, PCIPs were up and running in every state within a few months after the ACA was enacted in 2010, with the goal of providing temporary coverage for the un-insured in poor health until more options were available in 2014.  Twenty-seven states chose to run their own PCIP, and others offered coverage through a federally-administered PCIP.

      As many anticipated however, the $5B allocated for the PCIPs     may not be enough, and the funds may run out before the PCIPs’ scheduled termination  at the end of the year.  In February, HHS announced that the PCIPs could no longer accept new enrollees and other significant changes to federal PCIP coverage were made.  In recent weeks, to further reduce costs and preserve the last remaining PCIP funds, HHS notified the state-run PCIPs that the remaining funds would be capped: the states could reduce coverage in their own programs, or switch their enrollees to the federal PCIP.   At last count, 10 states planned to maintain their own PCIPs, while enrollees in 17 other states’ programs will be notified their coverage will be switched to the federal PCIP for the remainder of the year.

NOTE: Changes to the PCIPs could result in increased costs, the loss of benefits or coverage  for some enrollees with MS.  Anyone with MS that is negatively impacted by these changes can speak with a MS Navigator (1800-FIGHT-MS) for help accessing Patient Assistance Programs and other support until their new coverage takes effect.                  

  • Let’s make a Deal:  News is trickling in from the states about their negotiations with insurance companies that want to sell policies through the Exchanges.  Because all health plans must meet specific standards to be deemed ‘Qualified Health Plans’, the process of reviewing and certifying health plans is providing the first look at what policies sold through the Exchanges will actually look like, and what they’ll cost.  Inquiring minds that want to know more about states’ efforts to certify health plans may want to check out NASHP’s free 90 minute webinar about Qualified Health Plans on Wednesday, May 29 at 2:30 EST.  If  you  want to understand more about how the Affordable Care Act will make health insurers more accountable for the premiums they charge, read up on the new process for reviewing insurance rates.      

  • Feds Make It Easier For States To Enroll Poor Under Health Law:  The Obama administration informed state officials that they could simplify Medicaid to handle the barrage of potentially millions of new enrollees next year when the healthcare law expands coverage. Medicaid Director Cindy Mann wrote a letter to state officials outlining several ways states could streamline enrollment for adults, including using data people have already submitted to qualify for food stamps and allowing adults to remain enrolled in the program for up to a year, even if their income changes. Policy experts said letting adults stay in the program when their income changes is a "big deal," because it would reduce the large number of people churning in and out of the program and thereby affecting their ability to get care.

That’s it for now.  We hope you had an enjoyable Memorial Day, remembering those who gave their lives in service of their country.  And of course our thoughts are with so many people who lost loved ones in Oklahoma as a result of the tornadoes that hit the Moore, OK area.

No comments: