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In a significant shift for HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” is being created dedicated to complaints from healthcare professionals who feel they were discriminated against due to refusing to perform certain services based on religious or moral objections.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, led a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee where he explored whether Medicaid expansion is at least partially to blame for the rise in opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Federal data, however, shows those problem began more than a decade earlier.

Days after CMS first issued policy guidance on how states could require “able-bodied” Medicaid beneficiaries to work or face losing their coverage, Kentucky has become the first with an approved waiver to test out those requirements.

Major healthcare associations had a decidedly mixed reaction to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommending to Congress that the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) be eliminated, with some stakeholders saying such a major change would be premature less than three years after the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) was passed.

Full-year quality reporting will be required in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for the first time in 2018, but clinicians haven’t received word from CMS on whether they’re eligible to participate, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

 

Recent Headlines

HHS nominee Alex Azar supports mandatory CMMI models

Former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar faced another grilling before members of Congress, being questioned by the Senate Finance Committee, which will decide whether to advance his nomination to the full Senate. The hearing highlighted one major difference between Azar and former HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, when it came to mandatory payment models.

CBO: Repeal of individual mandate lowers cost for CHIP renewal 

Extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will cost the federal government $7.5 billion less than previously estimated because other options have become more expensive after the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. 

5 things to know about proposed rule on association health plans

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released a proposed rule to expand the use of association health plans (AHPs), allowing more small businesses, trade organizations and individuals to buy health coverage as a group.

HHS posts thousands of comments critical of expanding religious exemptions

HHS has now posted more than 12,000 public comments on its request for information (RFI) to loosen the standards for exemptions to regulations for religious and faith-based groups after initially only posting 80 which most back the administration’s efforts.

Misclassified drugs cost Medicaid $1.3B

Pharmaceutical manufacturers paid $1.3 billion less to Medicaid by receiving rebates on misclassified generic drugs, according to a report from the HHS’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

ACA bills for reinsurance, insurer subsidies won’t be considered this year

After previously saying she had secured a commitment to pass the legislation by the end of 2017, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said bills to fund the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies and provide $5 billion in reinsurance will be left out of a year-end spending package.

What happens to the ACA without the individual mandate

The Republican tax cut plan, including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, has passed through Congress, giving the party a victory in its yearlong struggle to find consensus on legislation to substantially alter the ACA.

HHS withholding comments critical of loosening religious exemptions

In October, the Trump administration had asked for public comments on how to reduce HHS regulations on religious and faith-based groups. Of the 12,302 comments received, the agency has only posted 80, which mostly back the administration’s efforts and attack Obama-era policies on abortion and treating transgender patients.

CMS denies Oklahoma’s request to use Medicaid funds for med school recruitment

The medical schools and teaching hospitals at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University could require an immediate injection of funds after CMS denied a request by the state to use federal Medicaid funds to pay those schools to recruit, train and retain physicians.

CDC director denies report of ‘banned words’ in budget documents

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disputed a report in the Washington Post that seven words or phrases, including “fetus,” “transgender” and “science-based,” had been banned from the agency’s budget documents, while other officials said the motivation was to avoid words that could limit chances of obtaining funding from Congress.

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