July 11 Federal Update: Reconciliation Bill Focused on Healthcare Gaining Momentum
Democrats are attempting to revive parts of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which was scuttled in the Senate late last year. Conversations behind closed doors are taking place between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and progress on a few key sticking points has been made. For one, they have agreed on giving the federal government the power to negotiate lower prices for certain drugs under Medicare, which would save the program billions in the coming years. The plan would also cap yearly drug costs for seniors at $2,000 and penalize pharmaceutical companies that raise prices faster than inflation. Manchin and Schumer also came to an agreement on closing a tax loophole on so-called “pass-through” businesses, which would help keep Medicare solvent until 2031.
Sticking points still exist on several other issues. Manchin has yet to voice support for extending enhanced subsidies to consumers who purchase health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges–a provision from the American Rescue Plan which passed last year. Without his support, 13 million people would experience premium increases next year. It is also unclear whether other prized Democratic priorities, like affordable child care and universal pre-kindergarten, will earn his support and make it into the final bill. To pass through the expedited legislative process called reconciliation, all 50 Democratic senators, including another hold out, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would need to support the final version of the package. Senator Schumer says that a bill could reach the Senate floor as soon as late July.
New Executive Order on Equality for LGBTQI+ Communities
Last month, the White House released a new Executive Order (EO) on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Individuals. The EO calls on the federal government to tackle discrimination, eliminate disparities, and “pursue a comprehensive approach to delivering the full promise of equality for LGBTQI+ individuals.” It also asks the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education to protect LGBTQI+ individuals from harmful state and local laws and encourage policies and practices that support their safety, well-being, and rights, and foster health equity, especially in mental health care. The HHS Secretary is tasked with addressing discrimination and challenges faced by LBGTQI+ children in the child welfare system. Activities include promotion of policies that improve outcomes for the population, increased training, and technical assistance to State child welfare agencies, evaluations of current practices that result in disparities, and more data collection on LBGTQI+ youth in the child welfare system. The EO calls on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a Working Group on LGBTQI+ Homelessness and Housing Equity, which would identify supports that address homelessness and housing instability.
Work Requirement Bills Introduced in the House
Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced the America Works Act of 2022 in the House of Representatives, which would require all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants between the ages of 18 and 65 to work or volunteer at least 20 hours per week to remain eligible. The Jobs and Opportunities for Medicaid Act, introduced by Jake LaTurner (R-KS), would create the same work requirement for Medicaid beneficiaries. According to Rep. Davis’s fact sheet, in April 2022 there were 11.4 million job openings, with over 11 million able-bodied adults who aren’t working. As of now, states determine whether they implement work requirements for participation in these programs.
New, Confidential Hotline for Pregnant and New Moms
The Health Resources and Services Administration has created the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a free and confidential resource for moms before, during, and after pregnancy. The hotline is available 24/7, in both English and Spanish, with interpreter services in 60 languages. Professional counselors, such as nurses, doctors, mental health clinicians, doulas, and peer support specialists are on call to provide real-time support and information, as well as referrals to local and telehealth providers and support groups. Women who are feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious, or exhausted before or after giving birth are encouraged to call or text the hotline at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS. Congress authorized funding for the new hotline in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.