Social Services Block Grant Vulnerable to Elimination


As Congress reconvenes, two budget resolutions being negotiated are intended to make drastic cuts to mandatory and entitlement program. In both the 112th and 113th Congress, legislation was introduced that would eliminate Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and the concern from advocates across the county is that SSBG will once again be at risk. Signatures of more than 65 organizations have been sent to Congress in support of keeping SSBG as is. Currently, SSBG provides $1.7 billion of mandatory funding to states and territories in support of a wide array of social services. [More]


US Senate Completes Congressional Approval of Medicare Physicans’ Fee Legislation


On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, the U.S. Senate gave final congressional approval to a bill which changes the manner in which physicians are paid under Medicare. The bill eliminates the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which year after year threatened to slash physician fees by significant amounts, unless Congress prevented the impact by continuous short term fixes. [More]

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HHS Proposes New Rules for Eligibility IT Systems


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed rules in the Federal Register on April 16, 2015 which would authorize 90 percent Medicaid federal financial participation (FFP) for the design, development, installation or enhancement of Medicaid eligibility and enrollment (E&E) systems; and 75 percent Medicaid FFP for the maintenance and operation (M&O) of such systems. The proposed rules would also update requirements for federal prior approval of State Medicaid agencies’ Advance Planning Documents (APDs) for system enhancements, contract solicitation, and contract execution. [More]

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1332 Waivers Will Allow State-Specific Variation to Health Care Reform Efforts


State Innovation Waivers authorized under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act will allow state-specific variations to health insurance marketplace rules. This PCG report, prepared for the Policy Innovations Committee of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Board, examines the role that so called ‘1332 Waivers’ could play in shaping future Arkansas health care reforms. [More]


Senators Propose Reauthorization of NCLB


After a bill proposed by House Republicans to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was tabled amid widespread opposition in February 2015, two U.S. Senators announced on April 7 a bipartisan agreement for rewriting the Act. The reauthorization of NCLB has been stalled in Congress since 2007, and a Special Ed Connection article called the Senators’ announcement a “breakthrough,” although many hurdles remain. [More]

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U.S Supreme Court Issues Ruling That Providers Cannot Sue States for Higher Medicaid Rates


On March 31, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, “that neither the Constitution nor federal law authorizes doctors and other health care providers to go to court to enforce the law’s directive that the reimbursement rates set by states be ‘sufficient to enlist enough providers so that care and services are available’ to Medicaid recipients just as they are to the general population.” [More]

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HHS Proposes New Mental Health Parity Rules


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued proposed rules on April 7, 2015 on mental health/substance abuse treatment coverage requirements applicable to Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs), Medicaid alternative benefit plans (ABPs), and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). [More]

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School Officials Convicted of Cheating on State Tests


On April 1, 2015, 11 former Atlanta Public Schools (APS) officials were convicted of racketeering and other charges stemming from allegations of widespread cheating on state tests by giving answers to students and/or changing students’ incorrect answers. One official was acquitted of all charges. Ten of the convicted officials were immediately jailed pending sentencing on April 8; the remaining convicted official was released on bail pending sentencing, due to her pregnancy and the immediacy of her delivery date. [More]

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HHS Initiates Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network


On March 25, 2015, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced the creation of the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network, a collaborative public, private initiative emphasizing quality of care and alternative payment models. According to a fact sheet published on that date at, “More than 400 Medicare ACOs participating in the Shared Savings Program and the Pioneer ACO Model have generated a combined $417 million in savings for Medicare.” Under the new Network project, the goals are to move 30 percent of Medicare payments into alternative payment models by the end of 2016 and 50 percent into alternative payment models by the end of 2018. [More]


House Passes Medicare Payment Reform and CHIP Reauthorization Legislation


The U.S. House of Representatives voted 392-37 on March 26, 2015 to pass the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.” This bipartisan legislation would repeal the “sustainable growth rate” (SGR) Medicare fee-for-service payment formula and replace it with a Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for physicians and other medical professionals recognized under Medicare Part B. The legislation would also offer new Medicare payment incentives: to provide care management for persons with chronic conditions; to reauthorize Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) programs for special needs populations; and to increase Medicare Part B and Part D premiums for certain beneficiaries with high incomes. [More]

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