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Coffee CAHC policy round-up: August 4, 2017

Coffee CAHC is a twice-weekly newsletter where we round up and comment on the latest health coverage policy developments both nationally and here in Maine. We hope you find these updates helpful!

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Coffee CAHC

115th Congress, 1st session

128th Maine Legislature, adjourned

 

Friday, August 4, 2017

 

Tell you what: we sure do get a lot more “out of office/on vacation” auto-replies in August than we were getting back in January. Well deserved, I imagine! Way to enjoy the summer days we have left in Maine. When it comes to a vacation, vacation, I personally prefer to get out of here during the cold, dreary, dark days of a Maine winter. I’m kicking around the idea of spending a week or so kayaking the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas this winter. Anybody been? Get in touch!

Through August, I’ll be reminding y’all that the fifth annual Health Care for Maine conference will be taking place on Tuesday, September 26th at the Augusta Civic Center. This year’s conference theme is “The Future of Health Care in Maine: Defending Our Gains, Defining Our Vision”. I’m thrilled to say that Mila Kofman, former Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance and current executive director of the DC Health Benefits Exchange, will be delivering our keynote. You can register here. Early bird discount only lasts through August, so sign up today!

 

National level

I cannot begin to describe my relief at getting to say what I’m about to say:

…not much to report since Wednesday!

Starting next week, I’ll be looking beyond simply “ACA repeal/replace” to dig deeper into other aspects of health care news, but we’ve been so swamped with the AHCA/BCRA overload that it’s been difficult, at times, to notice anything else going on.

The one sort of development that is worth mentioning is that the Senate yesterday joined their House colleagues and split town for a five week recess. What that means in practical terms is that, until September, there won’t be any sudden votes appearing on the horizon or any abrupt red alerts going out on a minute’s notice. And, boy, it feels good to say that, as well!

 

State level

Hey! Scroll back up to the header at the top of this message! See that block that includes “Coffee CAHC/115th Congress/128th Maine Legislature”? Did you notice the status change for the Legislature? They’re adjourned!

Veto override day on Thursday ended with, as predicted, the order to adjourn sine die. Minus one or two pieces of technical business that may get taken care of between now and next year, that’s a wrap on the first session of the 128th Legislature.

Generally speaking, things went pretty well for health-related bills on Wednesday. The Governors vetoes were overridden on bills to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21, a bill to ban certain toxic flame retardants, a bill that helps lower-income Mainers test their well water for arsenic, and to restore cuts to public health nurses. There was one bill related to telehealth that was vetoed, and the House failed to override the veto.

In non-legislative state news, Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services formally submitted their 1115 MaineCare waiver request to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week. We strongly opposed this waiver during the state comment period, because it seems designed specifically to punish people for qualifying for MaineCare, will result in huge numbers of Mainers who are currently eligible being thrown off of their care, and, oh, yeah, huge sections of it are illegal under federal law. We’re disappointed to see most of the public comments either ignored outright, or addressed in very minimal fashion. We’ll be tracking this through the federal comment process, where we hope these concerns will be taken more seriously, and will keep you posted.

 

Would you like to know more?

This article in The Nation has been getting some serious play in health policy circles this week. It takes a look at the significant questions about how to move America toward a system of universal health coverage. Ignoring the title (which seems designed to get a rise out of certain circles), this is one of the best pieces I’ve read on how we get our country from point A to point B on universal coverage. It’s succinct, readable, and very clear-eyed. Highly recommended!

 

Until next time, friends, I remain,

-Steve

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