Supreme Court Ruling on ACA Due This Week
As its current term comes to a close, the U.S. Supreme Court will is expected to issue its landmark ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act this Thursday, ending weeks of speculation on the future of health reform. ACNP will keep members informed about the ruling and how it will affect nurse practitioners.
Policy makers have been trying to forecast the court's verdict since oral arguments on the case were conducted in March. The court could strike down or uphold the entire health care law or overturn only portions of it. The requirement that individuals purchase health insurance coverage or pay a penalty has been one of the primary targets of the law's opponents, but states are also challenging the expansion of Medicaid coverage.
Senate Set to Pass FDA User Fee Agreement
A week after reaching an agreement with the House of Representatives, the Senate is poised to give final approval Monday to bipartisan legislation (S. 3187) reauthorizing user fees on prescription drugs and devices, sending it on to the President for his signature. The House approved the final version of the "Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act" last Wednesday on a voice vote. The agreement provides more than $6 billion over five years to fund the Food and Drug Administration's reviews of new products, but it does not include a provision objected to by ACNP and other health provider organizations that would have reclassified drugs containing hydrocodone as Schedule II controlled substances.
"Per-Capita Cap" on Medicaid Spending Proposed
Federal contributions to state Medicaid programs would be based on the categories of patients enrolled in each state under legislation filed last Wednesday by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). The "Medicaid Accountability and Care (MAC) Act" (H.R. 5979) would limit the federal share of funding based on per capita assessments of four enrollee groups: adults, children, blind or disabled, and elderly. The bill appears unlikely to advance this year but Rep. Cassidy, a physician and member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, intents it to offer a possible alternative to block grant proposals in upcoming entitlement reform debates. The approach is not new, a similar proposal having once been floated by the Clinton Administration.
Support Grows for Home Health Planning Bill
Legislation enabling nurse practitioners to order Medicare home health services is continuing to gain support on Capitol Hill, with eight Representatives and one Senator signing on as cosponsors of the bill. The new supporters of the "Home Health Care Planning Improvement Act" include Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representatives Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), John Olver (D-MA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), and Doc Hastings (R-WA). The House version of the bill now has 106 cosponsors, while the Senate version has the endorsement of 15 Senators.
HHS Issues New Grants to Expand Community Health Centers
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last Wednesday $128.6 million in grants designed to help community health centers across the country and in some U.S. territories expand their ability to treat patients. The new grants follow a similar initiative announced early last month in which HHS parceled out $728 million to 398 other community health centers.
In total, $11 billion has been allocated over the next five years to community health centers, with approximately $1.5 billion spent on construction and $2 billion spent on operational support to date. The remaining $7.5 billion will fund ongoing health center activities, build new sites in medically underserved areas, and expand preventive and primary oral, behavioral, pharmacy and enabling health services at existing sites.
Secretary Sebelius said the new funds would go to 219 community health centers spanning 41 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands to help provide "new sites, new services and longer hours." The grants support community health centers' efforts to provide care to more than 1.25 million new patients, as well as to create approximately 5,640 new jobs for doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, dental providers and support staff, according to the Secretary.