Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 Updates

The controversy over the adoption of a three year old South Carolina child has received extensive publicity in recent weeks. In June 2013, the Supreme Court favored the prospective adoptive parents of the child and turned over the case over to South Carolina state courts. Last week, the South Carolina’s highest court ruled that the child should be returned to the Charleston couple. The Supreme Court overruled a lower court’s ruling that required the adoptive parents to turn the child over to her father, who argued that his Cherokee heritage entitled him to special provisions under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). On July 25, 2013, the child’s mother, who had originally relinquished her rights, has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking a declaration that parts of ICWA are unconstitutional. The mother states that the law considers race in determining with whom a child should live and therefore violates equal protection laws. [More]

Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 Introduced in House

On July 18, 2013, legislation (H.R. 2744) was introduced in the House which aligns closely to Senate Bill 1118, presented last month to the floor of the Senate. This legislation, unlike most bills before Congress at this time, is gaining bi-partisan support for passage this year. In June, a hearing was held by the Senate Finance Committee identifying child trafficking as a growing issue in states, and particularly for children who are in the state foster care system. In addition, this legislation would require state child welfare agencies to be involved in tracking and reporting on the children in the state system that end up in a child sex trafficking situation. The state agencies would be required to 1) amend the Title IV-E state plan, 2) amend Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and 3) to report these youth as part of AFCARS. [More]

HHS Finalizes Exchange Consumer Assistance Rule

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a final rule in the July 17, 2013 Federal Register on Exchange consumer assistance programs, including Navigators, in-person assisters, and certified application counselors. The final rule is authorized under section 1311 of the Affordable Care Act. It follows an April 5, 2013 proposed rule on conflict of interest, training, certification, and access standards for Navigators and in-person assisters as well as a January 22, 2013 proposed rule on certified application counselors. Required consumer assistance training content includes topics such as coverage options, premium assistance, tax implications of enrollment decisions, eligibility and enrollment procedures, safeguarding the confidentiality of personally identifiable information, working effectively with disabled persons and persons with limited English language proficiency, outreach strategies, and appropriate customer service standards. [More]

Federal Lawsuit Filed in FL Accuses State of Wrongfully Keeping Children in Nursing Facilities

On Monday, July 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, alleging that the state was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by unnecessarily segregating 200 children with disabilities in nursing facilities when they could be served in their family homes or other community-based settings. [More]

First Grants Awarded for School Turnaround AmeriCorps

In a June 17, 2013 press release, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), in conjunction with its private sector partner, the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS), announced the first grants for the School Turnaround AmeriCorps. Established in February 2013, School Turnaround AmeriCorps is a program designed to support the placement of its members in consistently low performing schools that are implementing school turnaround interventions as required under ED’s School Improvement Grant program or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The $15 million in federal funds were awarded to support interventions in 14 states and the District of Columbia; an additional $18 million is anticipated in grantee matching funds. [More]

CMS Issues Proposed Rule for CY 2014 Physician Payment Schedule

On July, 8, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) placed on display at the Federal Register a major proposed rule containing the CY 2014 Medicare Physician Payment Schedule. Under section 1848 of the Social Security Act, CMS is required to establish payments under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule based on national relative value units (RVUs) that account for the relative resources used in furnishing a medical service. [More]

Potential Congressional Actions Following Delay of Employer Mandate Under ACA

Various media reports indicate that the recent delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) employer mandate may give rise to Congressional legislative attempts to postpone other key provisions of the ACA, especially the individual mandate. The alleged rationale for proposing additional delays, including the individual mandate, is the perception that the employer mandate could be viewed as favoring “big business” over uninsured Americans. [More]

HHS Finalizes Rules on Exchange/Medicaid Coordination

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a draft final rule on July 5, 2013 on health insurance Exchange eligibility/enrollment procedures and Medicaid/CHIP eligibility notices, fair hearings, premiums, cost-sharing, and alternative benefit plans. The final rule is scheduled for official publication in the Federal Register on July 15, 2013. It allows State Medicaid agencies to delegate MAGI-related Medicaid eligibility determinations and appeals to the Exchange via a formal agreement if the Exchange is a government agency operating under a merit personnel system; and, if so, appellants must be given a choice whether to have their appeals heard at the State Medicaid agency or at the Exchange. [More]

CMS Finalizes Rule on Exemptions to Individual Mandate

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule on July 1, 2013 on determining eligibility for exemptions to the “individual mandate” under the Affordable Care Act. Individuals without exemptions will incur tax penalties beginning with their IRS tax filings in 2015 for tax year 2014 if they don’t maintain at least some form of “minimum essential coverage” after January 1, 2014. Tax penalties will be $95 for tax year 2014, $325 for 2015, and $695 annually for 2016 and subsequent years. [More]