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Posts tagged "HHS"

h/t: Michael D. Shear at The New York Times


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that same-sex spouses will be recognized in administering several aspects of the Medicare program, regardless of where the couple lives. CMS works with the Social Security Administration to conduct eligibility determinations and to enroll seniors and individuals with certain disabilities in the program. Social Security updated their own marriage recognition policies earlier this week to streamline the handling of marriage-based claims involving transgender people. The announcement is the latest step implementing the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Social Security will now begin processing Medicare enrollment, requests for Special Enrollment Periods, and requests for reductions in late-enrollment penalties for many same-sex spouses. Eligibility for Medicare Part A and Part B coverage is particularly important for these families, who are disproportionately likely to be uninsured. Medicare Part A coverage is often available without paying a monthly premium, making it important for the many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who struggle to afford coverage.

CMS’s decision also impacts some people who previously applied for a Special Enrollment Period but were denied eligibility because of DOMA. For some of these couples, Social Security will be able to approve a second request for a Special Enrollment Period, giving more immediate access to Medicare coverage.

For couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions this announcement offers some, but not all of the same opportunities for enrolling in Medicare coverage. Domestic partnerships and civil unions are not recognized for the purposes of Special Enrollment Periods for applicants 65 or older, but for those applicants with disabilities who are under 65, Special Enrollment Periods are available as long as the applicant has coverage through their partner’s current employer.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS have been acting to implement the Windsor decision since last year, expanding coverage for many same-sex couples. HHS announced last month that plans sold through Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act must offer coverage to all same-sex spouses starting in 2015. In September of last year, CMS sent a letter to state Medicaid directors granting discretion to recognize same-sex marriages according to the laws of their state.

Read the full Medicare announcement here.

h/t: Jennifer Bendery at Huffington Post


Conservatives have been using a 10-year-old child in need of an organ transplant as a prop for their latest lies about ObamaCare. 

Although conservatives have tried to tie this case to Obamacare, the rule barring children under 12 from being placed on the adult transplant list was promulgated in 2005 under the Bush administration.

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The Family Research Council has caught wind of a new theory percolating in the right-wing blogosphere and in certain circles on Capitol Hill: that the Department of Health and Human Services is using a new Obamacare rule to empower the long-defunct ACORN to commit voter intimidation and fraud.

The new rule in question is HHS’s solution to the problem of signing up 30 million uninsured Americans on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. Under the rule, HHS will recruit “navigators” to walk uninsured people through the process of finding an insurance policy on their state’s exchange. According to the Washington Post, “Groups such as unions, chambers of commerce, health clinics, immigrant-service organizations, and community- or consumer-focused nonprofits can use the grants to train and employ staff members or volunteers to provide in-person guidance — especially to hard-to-reach populations — and to provide space for them to work.”

Boustany’s fears were then picked up by, which announced this week, “HHS resurrects ‘ACORN’ through Obamacare.”

Yesterday, the Family Research Council picked up this story and ran with it in its daily email, warning that an “army of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and union activists” will use their roles as insurance navigators to “influence people’s party affiliation.” The email adds: “With this administration, it isn’t a question of whether they would abuse their power—but when!”

The rule, which is available for public comment for the next few weeks, also includes a “voter registration provision,” leading many—including Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.)—to question how this army of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and union activists would twist their access to influence people’s party affiliation. With this administration, it isn’t a question of whether they would abuse their power—but when!

ACORN, of course, disbanded in 2010 after a right-wing smear campaign accused it of large-scale voter fraud – accusations that turned out to be completely false. But that hasn’t stopped 49 percent of Republican voters from believing that ACORN stole the 2012 election for President Obama – an illusion gleefully perpetuated by groups like the FRC.

h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW

The Obama administration on Friday announced its proposal for a new rules on contraception coverage under the federal health care law.

In the announcement, the administration outlined a proposal still subject to final approval that would allow religious organizations that object to contraception to receive an “accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage” at no additional cost, addressing an area of the new health care reform law that generated a firestorm last year.

The proposal can be viewed here.

h/t: TPM LiveWire

Late last week more than a dozen Republican governors declared that they will not build the insurance market exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, including prominent names like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.

On Monday, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma joined them, declaring in a statementthat it “does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government.”

The original deadline for states to notify the Department of Health and Human Services on whether they intend to build their own exchange was last Friday, but the administration extended it to Dec. 14. About a dozen Republican governors are weighing their options, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa.

The decisions carry important implications for the long-term arc of Obamacare, which supporters and opponents alike agree is here to stay now that President Obama has been re-elected. The Obama administration wants states to build the exchanges so they have an incentive to make the law work. If the federal government takes over, state-level Republicans have a scapegoat in case things go wrong.

The more states stonewall the exchanges, the more it complicates the task of the federal government. One challenge is that the law lacks an automatic funding mechanism for HHS to set up state exchanges. Enrollment is slated to begin next October, and the exchanges are scheduled to start functioning by January 2014.

Twenty-three states, mostly Democratic, and Washington, D.C. have said they’ll move forwardwith the exchanges, either on their own or in partnership with the feds.

Propelling the GOP governors’ stance is a desire to protect themselves politically from accusations of abetting a law that conservatives fervently oppose. Some governors argue that the regulations are too stifling and provide little flexibility for them to construct the marketplaces in accordance with their states’ needs.

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM

Last April, Bishop Daniel Jenky, a Catholic bishop from Illinois, delivered a homily claiming that President Obama “now seems intent on following a similar path” to Adolf Hitler because of his “radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda.” On Wednesday, he came within a hair of ordering every priest under his supervision to campaign for Mitt Romney.

n a letter, Jenky told the priests in his diocese “[b]y virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4.” The letter leaves little doubt that Jenky wants Obama out of the White House:

Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. … Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: Behold your King. The mob roared back: We have no king but Caesar. Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin.

For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God’s perfect judgment in eternity.

I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops proclaimed that the federal budget must place “[t]he needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty” first — adding that the Republican budget authored by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan “fails to meet these moral criteria.” Pope Benedict XVI, for his part, called for more robust government involvement to combat wealth inequality

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Speaking at the Values Voter Summit, Star Parker blasted Sandra Fluke and hailed her own Christian conversion for saving her from her own “sexual rampage.”

h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW

Democrats have run from health care ever since the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, fearful of being burned by a political firestorm. At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Tuesday night, they weren’t running.

The opening night of the convention featured an aggressive embrace of the party’s most consequential achievement in a generation, from an emotional clip package highlighting the benefits of the law for Americans with pre-existing conditions to speeches emphatically endorsing the bill that Republicans derisively dubbed “Obamacare.”

“For us Democrats, Obamacare is a badge of honor,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services. “No matter who you are, what stage of life you’re in, this law is a good thing.”

“Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition!” she said. “That’s what change looks like.”

First Lady Michelle Obama said Obama prioritized the law because it was “the right thing to do.”

“Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president,” she said. “He did it because he believes that here in American, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine, our kids should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick, and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or an illness.”

Tim Kaine, the former Virginia governor who’s locked in a tight race for the U.S. Senate, declared that President Obama “said he’d pass health care reform, and he did.”

A mother, Stacey Lihn, whose daughter was born with a congenital heart defect, described the comfort the law brings her — and warned not to take it for granted.

“Like so many moms with sick children, I shed tears and I could breathe easier knowing we have that net below us to catch us if we fall, or if, God forbid, Zoe needs a heart transplant — Obamacare provides my family security and relief,” Lihn said. “If Mitt Romney becomes president and Obamacare is repealed, there’s a good chance she’ll hit her lifetime cap.”

H/T: Sahil Kapur at TPM

The Obama administration’s birth control mandate took effect Wednesday, granting an estimated 47 million women access to free contraception and a raft of preventive health services.

As of Aug. 1, new or renewing health insurance plans are required to provide birth control to women at no out-of-pocket cost. Houses of worship are exempt and religious nonprofits get a one-year reprieve, as well as the option to pass the cost to the insurance company.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the rule permits free annual well-woman visits for adult females “to obtain the recommended preventive services that are age and developmentally appropriate, including preconception and prenatal care.” Health plans must also provide free screenings for gestational diabetes, human papillomavirus testing and HIV, along with counseling for STDs, breastfeeding and domestic violence.

About 47 million women will have access to these services starting Aug. 1, according to HHS.

Conservatives decry the birth control requirement a violation of religious freedom. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal the mandate along with the rest of ‘Obamacare’ if elected president.

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM

.- Catholic media network EWTN sued the federal government Feb. 9, challenging the Obama administration’s rule requiring many religious ministries to subsidize contraception and sterilization in their health plans.

“We had no other option but to take this to the courts,” EWTN President and CEO Michael Warsaw said in an announcement about the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday. “There is no question that this mandate violates our First Amendment rights.”

“Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice,” Warsaw explained. “Either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience or offer our employees and their families no health insurance coverage at all. Neither of those choices is acceptable.”

Senior attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the suit on behalf of the media network, against the Department of Health and Human Services, department secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other government agencies involved with the federal contraception mandate.

Finalized Jan. 20, 2012 as part of federal health care reform, the mandate forces all employers – except those that primarily hire and serve members of one religious faith and exist for the sake of promoting religious values – to buy insurance coverage that will offer sterilization and contraception without a co-pay.

Because EWTN serves not only Catholics but the public at large, the network would not qualify for the religious exemption offered by Secretary Sebelius.

At least one of the mandate’s required drugs, the emergency contraceptive “Ella,” has the potential to cause an early-stage abortion.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have denounced the rule that “forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs, and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.”

Along with the public opposition from over 160 U.S. Catholic bishops, the rule has also drawn opposition from the Eastern Orthodox churches as well as Protestant and Orthodox Jewish leaders.

Meanwhile, Secretary Sebelius has given non-exempt religious institutions an extra year to comply with the “preventive services” mandate. During this time, however, these religious employers must refer their staff to providers of the same drugs and devices.

Warsaw pointed out that this alternative, proposed as a temporary accommodation, also trampled EWTN’s conscience rights.

“The government is forcing EWTN, first, to inform its employees about how to get contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs, a concept known as forced speech.”

“To make the matter worse, the government then will force EWTN to use its donors’ funds to pay for these same morally objectionable procedures or to pay for the huge fines it will levy against us if we fail to provide health care insurance.”

If the administration’s rule remains in place, the media network could eventually face fines of over $600,000 annually for refusing to underwrite policies contradicting its beliefs.

“This is a moment when EWTN, as a Catholic organization, has to step up and say that enough is enough,” the network’s president and CEO declared.

EWTN is providing further information about the mandate and its lawsuit at

h/t: Catholic News Agency

The controversial contraception mandate proposed by the president had Congress debating about the morality of birth control, however according to a recent Gallup poll, 89 percent of all Americans and 82 percent of U.S. Catholics agree that birth control is morally acceptable.

gallup bc
In fact, birth control ranked as the most acceptable of 18 behaviors tested this year with the second and third most acceptable behaviors being divorce and gambling, ranking at least 20 percentage points lower. 
gallup morality

What does this mean for the embittered battle between congress and the White House?

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Americans overwhelmingly agree that employers should be required to offer birth control, but a slight majority opposes the rule mandating Roman Catholic and other religious institutions from having to provide the service.

Also, the theologically ultraconservative EWTN is suing over the HHS Mandate.

H/T: Huffington Post