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 Legislative & Policy Corner

Major Budget Committee Deadline Approaching
Congressional negotiators are entering a critical week, with the Dec. 15 deadline for any joint budget committee conference report rapidly approaching.  At press time there are conflicting reports as to how close members are to reaching a deal and few solid details about how it might address sequestration for FY 2014 and beyond.  AMCHP continues working through public health coalitions asking Congress to end sequestration through a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  Hopefully, we will have more clarity on what to expect for the remainder of FY 2014 after the Dec. 15 deadline. 

Newborn Screening Save Lives Reauthorization May Address Transport Delays
A U.S. Senate Committee is likely to hold a mark-up this week for a bill to reauthorize the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act.  Details on the bill and a link to the legislative text as introduced are available here.  Late last week, AMCHP received indications that additional provisions could be added to the bill to address issues reported in a recent Milwaukee Journal investigative report entitled Deadly Delays.   

The Journal Sentinel analysis of nearly 3 million newborn screening tests found “that at least 160,000 blood samples from newborns arrived late at labs throughout the country last year.”  The journal called this “a conservative calculation, as the newspaper used five or more days as a standard for lateness; federally backed guidelines recommend blood samples take no more than three days to arrive at labs for testing.” 

AMCHP is collaborating with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Association of Public Health Labs and the March of Dimes on this issue.  We will share additional details when they are available.
 


HEALTH REFORM IMPLEMENTATION
  

Healthcare.gov Hits Refresh
On Dec. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a Progress and Performance Report on HealthCare.gov. The report starts with the status of the website in early Oct. and says, “The status of HealthCare.gov in October was marked by an unacceptable user experience” and highlighted what was needed to improve the user experience and functionality of the website. A central command system was implemented with regular meetings to rapidly respond to the ongoing repairs and make necessary decisions. The report states that substantial progress has been made improving the website while there is more work to be done and work will continue. As a reminder, key dates for consumers are:

·         Jan. 1, 2014, health coverage can start

o   For those buying health insurance on healthcare.gov (in federally facilitated marketplaces), in order for coverage to start Jan. 1, 2014 consumers must sign up for insurance by Dec. 23, 2013

·         Mar. 31, 2014 is the end of open enrollment period until Nov. 15, 2014 for the 2015 enrollment period

·         Consumers can apply for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid anytime and coverage will start immediately