Veterans' Reform Bill Enacted

President Obama signed into law H.R. 3230, the “Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choices, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014” which Congress passed before taking their five-week August recess. Among other provisions, the new law contains $17 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of which $5 billion will go to hire new VA staff for an expected increase in caseloads and $10 billion to pay for medical services outside the VA for veterans’ who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who experience wait times over 30 days. About $5 billion of the total cost will be offset by provisions limiting tuition assistance for veterans, extending fees collected on housing loans guaranteed by the VA, and capping bonuses for VA employees. The remainder (less any savings to other federal programs, such as Medicare, resulting from the provision of non-VA care to veterans) will be added to the federal budget deficit.

IRS Gets High Marks for Accurately Verifying Individual Tax Credit Information

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said it found 99.9% accuracy in a test of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) ability to verify household income and family size of a sample of persons making requests for advance premium tax credits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) exchanges. As of March 31st, the IRS reported that it had received more than 27 million information requests.

CMS Reports on Expansion of Medicaid Enrollment

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said that Medicaid enrollment grew to over 66 million beneficiaries in June with 7 million people being added to the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rolls after the beginning of the PPACA open season. The agency reported that children make up about 55% of the total Medicaid and CHIP program enrollment.

Senator Johnson to Appeal Adverse Court Ruling on Employer Contributions

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has vowed to appeal an adverse decision he received by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in which he argued that Members of Congress and their staff are not eligible for continued employer contributions to their health plans after the passage of the PPACA. While the court said that the case lacked “concrete injury”, the senator said that he was forced to decide on whether to include himself and his staff in the new exchanges or allow staff to remain covered under the current federal employees’ health benefits plan. In another case contesting the PPACA, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an Arizona doctor’s challenge to the provision establishing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) isn’t ripe for judicial resolution and remanded the case to the initial lower court in which it was heard with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

HHS Awards PPACA Grants for Home Visiting Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that 46 states, D.C. and five other jurisdictions have been awarded about $107 million under the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program to expand home visiting services to women during pregnancy and to parents with children up to age 5.

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