Human Resources

The Washington Report

November 14, 2018


Congress Reconvenes; Heads Into “Lame-Duck” Session

The House and Senate reconvened this week. If respective schedules are followed, there will be approximately four weeks of “lame-duck” session before the new 116th Congress convenes in January 2019. One of the items on the congressional lame-duck agenda is the passage of federal funding legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown on December 7, 2018.


CMS Releases Proposed Rule on ACA Exchange Program Integrity

On November 7, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule that would revise standards relating to the oversight of Exchanges established by states as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), periodic data matching frequency and authority, and the length of a consumer’s authorization for the Exchange to obtain updated tax information. The proposed rule would also propose new requirements for certain issuers related to the collection of a separate payment for the premium portion attributable to coverage for certain abortion services.

According to CMS, the proposed rule “would address several recommendations based on audits of both State and Federal Exchanges by the Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office identifying substantial weaknesses in the process for determining eligibility for advance payments of the premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions. In this rule, CMS proposes a number of new initiatives that would place additional safeguards on the eligibility and enrollment process across all platforms, including State-based Exchanges, State-based Exchanges using the Federal Platform, and Federally-facilitated Exchanges.” Comments on the proposed rule are due by January 8, 2019.

The proposed rule is available here.

A news release is available here.

A fact sheet is available here.

Departments Issue Two Final Rules Protecting “Conscience Rights” in Health Insurance

On November 7, 2018, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor (the Departments) released two final rules (i.e., a final rule on exemptions for religious beliefs and a final rule on exemptions for moral convictions) to provide “conscience protections for Americans who have a religious or moral objection to health insurance that covers contraception methods. Under the Affordable Care Act, employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover certain ‘preventative services’—which were defined through guidance as including all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including methods viewed by many as abortifacients, and sterilization procedures.”

In October 2017, the Departments issued two interim final rules providing an exemption for those who held religious or moral objections to such coverage, while seeking public comment on the rules. The first of the final rules provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The second final rule provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate. The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules also apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals. The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities. The final rules become effective January 14, 2019.

The final rule on exemptions for religious beliefs is available here.
(Temporary link, will be published in the November 15, 2018, Federal Register.)

The final rule on exemptions for moral convictions is available here.
(Temporary link, will be published in the November 15, 2018, Federal Register.)

A news release is available here.

A fact sheet is available here.


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