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 Legislative & Policy Corner

Speaking of Sequestration…
AMCHP is a member of the Coalition for Health Funding, which has joined forces with an even broader coalition called NDD United (NDD stands for Non-Defense Discretionary programs). We recently joined on to a letter signed by more than 2,100 national, state and local organizations to Congress and the president urging them to work together to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter emphasizes 1) the importance of NDD programs, 2) the harmful effects of budget cuts to date, and 3) the equal importance of both defense and nondefense programs in America's security at home and abroad, and thus the need for equal sequestration relief. For additional information see the NDD United press release.

Appropriations Season is Underway
Following release of the president's budget proposal on Feb. 2, AMCHP has turned its full attention to Capitol Hill to make our case with Congress for increased funding of the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant. Between now and the end of March, AMCHP will be conducting meetings with the staff of all key health appropriators and other MCH champions in support of our request for $639 million for FY 2016. In these meeting, we share key information from this appropriations one-pager along with state specific Title V highlights via these state profiles. We also are highlighting the critical need to address sequestration as it is scheduled to return this year unless Congress can agree on another deal to prevent its harmful effects. We hope to see appropriations bills introduced at the committee level in late spring which will provide a snapshot of how MCH funding priorities will fare in this Congress.

Save the Date – National Day of ACTION Supporting MIECHV Extension on Mar. 3
AMCHP continues to play a leadership role in a broad coalition of national organizations supporting the extension of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which is again facing a Mar. 31 deadline for reauthorization. We will be joining forces through this coalition to mobilize action on Mar. 3 to raise visibility of this critical program and reach policymakers with messages on why an expeditious extension is needed. Stay tuned for more details and for those who are able, please mark your calendar and plan to join now.

Health Reform Implementation

New Report on Informed Decision Making & Health Insurance
The National Partnership for Women & Families recently released a report, Supporting Informed Decision-Making in the Health Insurance Marketplace: A Progress Report, identifying how marketplace websites can better assist consumers in making informed decisions about health care plans. The report is consumer-informed and highlights four key areas of marketplace websites that are important for consumer decision making including enhanced anonymous browsing; direct access to key plan features; useful plan display and availability of consumer tools; and easy website navigation and links for assistance. The report also includes several recommendations for marketplace websites.

Open Enrollment
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the second year of open enrollment closed with approximately 11.4 million consumers selecting plans or being automatically re-enrolled in existing plans. While open enrollment on the marketplace closed on Feb. 15, enrollment for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is open year-round. The AMCHP coverage chart provides information on eligibility thresholds and benefits for MCH populations in these programs.

Pregnancy and Healthcare Coverage
A new report by Young Invincibles, Without Maternity Coverage: The Need for Special Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces during Pregnancy, recommends that pregnancy be included as a qualifying life event eligible for a special enrollment period in the marketplace. The report stresses the importance of maternity care throughout pregnancy, identifies health insurance plans that may not include maternity coverage, and discusses policy implications and recommendations for a special enrollment period. This issue of pregnancy and marketplaces also was featured in a recent piece by Kaiser Health News.

Legislation to Extend CHIP for Four Years
Last week, bills were introduced in the Senate (S. 522) and House (H.R. 919) to extend CHIP funding through 2019. Millions of children depend on CHIP for health care coverage. In the words of the American Academy of Pediatrics, "CHIP was designed with children in mind. In fact, CHIP finances health insurance for more than 8 million U.S. children in working families. Since its bipartisan beginning 17 years ago, the program has worked together with Medicaid to cut the child uninsurance rate in half, offering children timely access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. Unlike many private insurance plans, which are based on the health needs of adults, CHIP offers insurance with age-appropriate benefits that is affordable for middle-income families. CHIP plans also provide access to child-specific pediatric subspecialists and surgical specialists."  The full AAP statement is available here.