Hearing: Protecting Patients from Financial Pain

Surprise medical bills are a serious issue that can significantly hurt the lives of individuals and families. The House Committee on Education and Labor is the first committee in Congress to hold a hearing on surprise medical billing. Surprise medical bills occur when a patient with health insurance is subject to out-of-pocket costs that are higher than expected for care from a provider who is out of their insurance network. Patients have no control over these 'surprise billing' costs and often don't know the cost until several months later. The committee discussed ways to reform health insurance so that consumers are protected and not held accountable for unknown medical cost. 

House Ways and Means Markup of Retirement, Tax Administration, and Reemployment Services

The House Ways and Means Committee, by voice vote, approved three bipartisan bills that would simplify the IRS, boost retirement savings and extend reemployment services to all workers receiving unemployment benefits. The IRS bill makes targeted reforms including services to low-income taxpayers, taxpayer rights during the enforcement process, identity theft protection, information technology, and electronic systems. The retirement savings bill encourages small businesses to participate in retirement plans. During the markup, an amendment was added that would make it easier for small businesses to join together to form a retirement plan to offer to their workers. Chairman Neal (D-Mass.) said it was very much a problem-solving markup and thinks the odds of enactment are excellent. Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) also says he is optimistic that the bills will go to the president's desk this year. The Senate has introduced similar bills showing signs that there is growing coordination between the House and Senate.

Affordable Housing in Rural America

The affordable housing crisis affects cities across the country, but it also places a heavy burden on families in rural communities. The House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing on Affordable Housing in Rural America where they discussed how the federal government should respond to affordable housing challenges including homelessness, rental housing, and homeownership. A focus of the hearing was on the prepayment and maturation of Section 515 Rural Housing Loans and section 514 Farm Labor Housing Loan. In related news, the National Association of Counties recently released its new affordable housing toolkit for some examples of county-based strategies to support households that are overwhelmed with housing costs.

Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents Rules under SNAP

The U.S Department of Agriculture proposed policy changes in February for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) that would impact the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to examine the proposed changes and additional hardships and barriers that ABAWD face. Subcommittee Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) expressed her concerns on the new requirements and called for Congress to follow the guidelines previously determined by the 2018 Farm Bill.

White House Proclamation for National Child Abuse Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and President Trump released a proclamation that recognized the importance of protecting vulnerable children. He addressed the devastating lifelong impacts of child abuse such as an increased risk of depression, suicide, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, future violence, and juvenile delinquency. 

CMS Releases New State Tools and Guidance for 1115 Demonstrations 

In March, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released new state tools and guidance that include monitoring metrics and research methods specifically for section 1115 demonstrations that test new approaches to Medicaid eligibility and coverage. Section 1115 demonstrations allow states to test out new approaches to providing services that may differ from required federal law. 

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