This Week in CHCACTion
August 7, 2017
This Week in CHCACTivities
It’s been an unusual summer for people who pay attention to public policy and government issues! In the second week of August, we have no state budget in place for the fiscal year that began on July 1. Many state-level policy issues tied to the budget remained unresolved, such as income limits for parents on HUSKY and whether limits will be placed on dental care for adult HUSKY enrollees. Meanwhile, Congress has spent much of the Spring and Summer debating a repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
It can be hard to keep it all straight, so I’ll try to break it down for you here:
Where we are: With no state budget in place, Governor Malloy continues to run the state by executive order. He has unilaterally reduced grants for mental health, services for persons with developmental disabilities, school-based health centers, summer job programs and more. He is now threatening to change school funding formulas just as the school year is getting underway, shifting funds away from wealthier towns to low-income areas.
What’s been happening: The State House and Senate both recently approved a union concession package, worth a total of $1.5 Billion in savings over the biennium. You can read an analysis of the concessions package here and more
about the legislature’s vote here. Meanwhile, leaders have been meeting behind closed doors to iron out a budget deal.
What’s next: With the union deal approved, policymakers still have a hole of about $3.5 Billion to fill, with some combination of cuts and revenue increases likely. Read more.
What to watch for: Potential revenue items include a sales tax increase, a broadening of the sales tax base (i.e., applied to more items/services) and/or a specific tax on restaurant meals and hotel rooms, the elimination of the property tax credit, an increase in sin taxes (e.g., alcohol, cigarettes), etc. We are not likely to see an increase in the income tax. Budget cuts to watch for: mental health grants, school based health center grants, HUSKY income limit reduction, closing of a DSS office, grants for services for persons with disabilities, capping of dental services for adults on HUSKY, closure of intake to child care programs and home care program for elders.
ACA Repeal/Replace: While the President and Republicans in Congress have prioritized repealing the Affordable Care Act, they have not yet crafted a plan that has achieved support of a majority of members of the US Senate. The US Senate’s “skinny repeal” bill failed at the end of July. However, the effort to repeal and replace may not yet be over. The Senate Health Committee announced that it will hold bipartisan discussions to identify a few measures that could stabilize the insurance markets. Meanwhile, the President has threatened to withhold “cost sharing reduction” (CSR) payments to insurers, causing more instability and uncertainty in the market; Congressional Republicans (and insurers, providers and others) have tried to sway him to continue to fund CSRs.
Here in Connecticut, this uncertainty has led Anthem and ConnectiCare – the remaining insurers on Access Health CT – to announce that, without CSRs, they may ask for another rate increase – or they may decide not to participate in Access Health CT at all this year. Hopefully, more will be known in a few weeks.
We also care about: We are also waiting for: renewal of CHIP legislation (HUSKY B), extension of the Health Center Trust Fund (which, without action, will expire on 9/30/17, reducing 330 grants by 70%) and funding levels for NHSC and AmeriCorps.
What you can do
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This Week in Health Policy News
Here is a sampling of health policy news from around the state. If you see something in your local newspaper that you would like featured here in future weeks, please contact Deb Polun at email@example.com. Check out all the Health Policy News from the past month here!
8.2.17 Hartford Business Journal — Wheeler Receives $300K Grant to Fight Opioid Abuse Among Adolescent Girls
8.2.17 Hartford Business Journal — Charter Oak Health Center Gets $300K Grant for Specialty Services
8.3.17 CT NewsJunkie — Connecticut Gets Mixed Reviews About Cancer Prevention
8.3.17 Fairfield County Business Journal — Fairfield University to Debut Nurse Midwifery Program
8.2.17 CT NewsJunkie — Nonprofit Groups Try to Refocus Budget Negotiations
8.2.17 CT Mirror — Access Health Scaling Back Storefronts But Seeks to Broaden Reach
8.1.17 CT Mirror — Even With Obamacare’s Survival, a Shake-Up in CT Health Care System Threatens
8.2.17 NY Times — Maine Raises Smoking Age to 21 After Lawmakers Override Veto
8.2.17 NY Times — Gum Disease Tied to Cancer Risk in Older Women