Last week, President Trump took two actions that will significantly impact the healthcare system. The first was an executive order instructing federal agencies to draft rules that would move more people into insurance plans that are subject to fewer consumer protections and fewer essential benefit requirements. The order will not result in any immediate changes to laws or regulations. Agencies will likely conduct studies first, and will then draft proposed rules and accept public comments before issuing final regulations.
The second action was an announcement from the President that the administration will no longer pay cost-sharing reductions (CSRs)—expected to total $9 billion for 2018—that support health insurance plans for low-income Americans. While most states have been anticipating this for 2018, they will be left scrambling to address the stop in payments for the rest of 2017. The impact of this development will vary significantly from state to state.
Lobbying Action: Call your members of Congress to ask them to support bipartisan efforts to immediately and permanently fund cost-sharing reductions, which is critical to stabilizing the individual market. Find contact information for your Representative here and for your Senators here.
Disaster Relief Action in Congress
On Thursday, October 12, the House passed a disaster relief bill that would provide $36.5 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, and areas impacted by the recent wildfires. It would allow up to $1.27 billion of previously appropriated funds to be used for emergency nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico. The Senate—back in session today after a district work week—is expected to vote on the package this week. The National WIC Association continues to work with our members on the ground and our partners at USDA and in Congress to ensure that the WIC program is able to serve families impacted by these disasters. If you work in a disaster affected region and need additional support, please contact Alison Hard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budget Resolution & Tax Plan
The Senate may vote on a FY 2018 budget resolution this week, which would include reconciliation instructions allowing tax reform legislation to proceed with a simple majority vote (without bipartisan support). Though neither proposal includes specific cuts to WIC, both the budget resolution and tax reform legislation would make way for decreased government spending overall, which would lead to cuts to programs that serve low- and moderate-income Americans.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), reported a CHIP funding bill—the HEALTHY KIDS Act—out of committee along a party line vote on October 4. The bill would fund CHIP using $6.35 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other changes to the Affordable Care Act, including Medicare and Medicaid. Without changing the funding offset source, the bill is unlikely to gain Democratic support. The full House is predicted to vote on the bill next week, after returning from this week’s state work period.
The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), similarly reported a funding bill—the KIDS Act—on October 4, but did so in a bipartisan manner. The Senate bill does not specify where the funds would come from, a detail that is currently being discussed before the bill goes to the Senate floor for a vote.