National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

August 6, 2018

Engage Your Members of Congress During Recess!
Both houses of Congress have adjourned for the summer recess this week. The House is expected to remain in recess until after Labor Day, but the Senate has truncated its usual August recess to focus on a slew of nominations before the midterm elections in November. As is customary, members of Congress are expected to be in their home districts and may be holding town halls or other constituent events in local communities.

Now is one of the best times to engage with your member of Congress! Contact the offices for your representative and senators to learn about district visits and events in your area. This is a prime opportunity to establish a connection with your member of Congress and his/her staff, demonstrating the role that WIC plays in serving moms and children in your town or county. It is important for members of Congress to understand all that WIC does to improve the quality of life for their constituents because that knowledge will inform their willingness to support, fund, and promote the program in the future.

Note: Attending a constituent event and sharing the broad, positive impacts of WIC in a local community is not lobbying. Lobbying requires that you ask a legislator to take a specific position on a piece of legislation. Remember the simple rule: Bragging beats begging.

As Congress Adjourns, WIC Funding and Breastfeeding Resolution Wait for September
As members of Congress return to their districts for the summer recess, two issues remain tabled until members return in September. Last week, the Senate voted 92-6 to pass a spending package that included the Agriculture appropriations bill. This bill authorized funding for WIC and — after significant NWA advocacy — included an increase of $7.5 million for the breastfeeding peer counselor program. The bill now waits consideration in the House of Representatives, where another amendment must be introduced to augment funding for the breastfeeding peer counselor program.

The Senate also tabled consideration of a resolution sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to recognize the first week of August as World Breastfeeding Week and the month of August as National Breastfeeding Month. The resolution also calls for “support[ing] policies and funding to ensure that all mothers who choose to breastfeed can access a full range of appropriate support . . . .” Please contact your senators today to ask them to co-sponsor this resolution.

You may also choose to raise these issues with members of Congress or their staff if you attend a constituent event during summer recess. Your voice is the most important champion for WIC — and Congress needs to hear from you!

HHS Moves to Allow Cheaper, Lower-Quality Health Insurance Plans
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies have issued new rules that permit greater access to short-term health insurance plans. These short-term plans are cheaper, provide minimal insurance coverage, and do not cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. In addition, short-term plans can have spending caps that leave enrollees with high medical bills in the event of a medical catastrophe. Seventeen states have put protections in place to restrict the durations of short-term plans more severely than the federal government.

This new rule may have an impact on the long-term stability of the comprehensive coverage plans included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. Expanding access to short-term health plans that attract young and healthy individuals removes them from comprehensive insurance plans. When there are fewer healthy individuals in an insurance pool, premiums go up. Those with pre-existing conditions may have a more difficult time finding affordable insurance. Critics are worried that individuals purchasing short-term health insurance do not understand the risks of high medical bills and very limited coverage.

HHS and other agencies moved to revise the rules regarding short-term plans in response to an October 2017 executive order. The White House had instructed federal agencies to evaluate regulations promulgated under the ACA and identify opportunities to increase the availability of short-term plans. Under the prior rule developed after the ACA’s passage in 2010, short-term plans had a three-month limit to encourage healthy individuals to enroll in ACA marketplace plans. HHS and other agencies have now reinstated a 12-month limit with the ability to renew the plan for three years, providing greater stability for plans that are cheaper and lower-quality.