Tag Archives: legislation

House Bipartisan Bill – Medicare Access and CHIP

A bipartisan bill, H.R. 2, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization ACT, would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which sets a cap on physician spending, and would revamp payment of physicians under Medicare. On March 26, 2015 the U.S. House overwhelmingly (392-37) voted in favor of the bill, also known as SGR replacement bill. The Senate will vote on the bill after recess.

The legislation was introduced by Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) and Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D, California). It would repeal the SGR Medicare formula that imposes the imminent threat of cuts to Medicare providers and would eliminate the need for Congress to set payment rates for Medicare physicians annually – a process known as “doc fix”. Since 2003, Congress has overridden the cuts imposed by SGR on 17 occasions, and the most recent override ends on March 31, 2015. If Congress does not take action, Medicare payments to physicians will be cut by 21% on April 1, 2015.

The H.R. Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization ACT will

  • Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula;
  • Ensure a 5-year period of annual increases of 0.5% in payments to physicians;
  • Set up a two-tier payment system that incentivizes a shift to value-based payment systems that reward physicians who meet performance thresholds and make care-coordination efforts for patients with chronic conditions;
  • Incentivize transition to alternative payment models (APMs) by requiring that physicians receive at least 25% of their revenue through an APM in 2018-2019, with an increased threshold overtime; and
  • Extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers for another two years.

These changes are estimated to cost approximately $200 billion, and $70 billion of that cost would be offset by two major program changes: (1) higher premiums for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries and (2) reduced governmental spending on supplemental insurance plans, increasing out-of-pocket costs for Medigap recipients.

via Legislation Law Prof Blog.

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Filibuster Changes

I heard about this vote a while back and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.  You hear about this all the time.  The majority party (regardless of whether they are Democrat or Republican) wants to change filibuster rules.

This year the number of bills passed has been the lowest since Congress was formed.  NBC calls it “Do-Nothing” Congress. USA Today describes the 2011-12 period as the “least productive year on record” and 2013 as being on track as the “least productive single year in modern history.”

The question is then, do we need filibuster reform?  The answer is yes.  To what extent?  This is heavily contested.

The Senate approved the most fundamental alteration of its rules by ending the minority’s party ability to filibuster most presidential nominees in response to the partisan gridlock that has plagued Congress.  (NY Times article).

Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes.  This does not apply to all nominees, such as Supreme Court nominees.

via In Landmark Vote, Senate Limits Use of the Filibuster – NYTimes.com.

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Federal funding restrictions and the First Amendment

Generally, it is well-known that under the Spending Clause of the Constitution if you want federal funding, you have to abide by the conditions/limitations imposed by the government.  For instance, you could receive a federal grant as long as you submit X reports to the government every month.  And generally, if you are opposed to these policies/conditions, you always have the option of declining the grant.

Think, for example, of the grant offered to States if they adopt the federal Affordable Care Act Medicaid extensions.  Some States have agreed to expand, while others have rejected the expansion.  The States that choose to expand will receive monetary aid, while the rejecting States will not. See the May 29, 2013 image here.

The Supreme Court has highlights a new twist.  In Agency for Int’l Devep. v. Alliance for Open Society Int’l, No. 12-10 (2013), the Supreme Court has held that in some situations these restrictions run foul of the First Amendment – Freedom of Speech.

The Alliance for Open Society case deals with a organization receiving federal funds to combat AIDS/HIV.  As a condition for this federal funding, the government required the organization to adopt policies against prostitution and sex trafficking.

Justice Roberts pointed to how the court has interpreted the First Amendment.  Pursuant to the Freedom of Speech, the government is prohibited from telling people what they must say.  See, e.g., Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Inst. Rights, Inc., 547 US 47, 61.  Consequently, the Supreme Court held that the requirement violated the First Amendment.

The question for the Supreme Court then focused on whether the government can still impose that requirement as a condition for receipt of federal funding.  The Supreme Court explained,

As a general matter, if a party objects to a condition on the receipt of federal funding, its recourse is to decline the funds….

At the same time, however, we have held that the Government “‘may not deny a benefit to a person on the basis that infringes his constitutionally protected . . . freedom of speech even if he has no entitlement to that benefit.'”… In some cases, a funding condition can result in an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights.

This is a fine line being followed by the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court distinguished cases where the government infringes the Freedom of Speech with cases where Congress is merely deciding not to subsidize certain actions/scenarios/circumstances.

The Supreme Court explains these different scenarios as follows:

We explained that Congress can, without offending the Constitution, selectively fund certain programs to address an issue of public concern, without funding alternative ways of addressing the same problem.  In Title X, Congress had defined the federal program to encourage only particular family planning methods.  The challenged regulations were simply “designed to ensure that the limits of the federal program are observed,” and “that public funds [are] spent for the purposes for which they were authorized…

The regulations governed only the scope of the grantee’s Title V projects, leaving it “unfettered in its other activities.”  … The TitleX grantee can continue to . . . engage in abortion advocacy; it simply is required to conduct those activities through programs that are separate and independent from the project that receives Title X funds.” … Because the regulations did not “prohibit[] the recipient from engaging in the protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program,” they did not run afoul of the First Amendment.

(italics and marks in original).

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Filed under civil rights, federal, legal decision, Supreme Court

New Homeowners Bill of Rights

Governor Dayton will soon be signing a new bill that includes new protections for homeowners facing foreclosures.  This new law is known as the Homeowners Bill of Rights.

Some of the ways that it protects homeowners are as follows:

  • Loan servicers are required to communicate all options to homeowners.
  • Loan servicers are required to offer loan modifications to all eligible homeowners.
  • “Dual tracking” is banned.  Dual tracking is when servicers foreclose without a clear yes or no on loan modification.
  • Servicers are required to assist homeowners in submitting documentation regarding the foreclosure process.
  • Homeowners are allowed to take the servicer to court to stop a foreclosure if the servicer fails to comply with any aspect of the law.

 

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Filed under civil rights, Minnesota

Minnesota Senate joins House in approving same-sex marriage

This news exploded in the media and social media.  Minnesota is set to become the first Midwestern state and the 12th state in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage.

Yesterday, Minnesota Senate voted 37 to 30 in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.  Earlier, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 75 to 59 in favor for it.  As a backdrop, in the prior election, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Governor Dayton stated that he will sign the bill once it comes to his desk.

via Minnesota Senate joins House in approving same-sex marriage | MinnPost.

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Filed under civil rights, Pending Legislation

Minnesota Senate passes increased funding for public defenders

Minnesota Lawyer (subscription required) reports on the bill for public defenders’ funding.  The background of the funding for public defenders is as follows.

In 2008, public defenders were funded through attorney’s registration fees.  The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld this type of funding.  Through this funding, the state Board of Public Defense was able to generate around $1.9 million annually.  This request was reapproved in 2011.

However, in December, the state Board of Public Defense withdrew its request to earmark funding from the attorney registration fee.    This decision came in December, when various committees and group sections of the Minnesota State Board Association removed its support for the petition.

On Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, the state Senate passed a judiciary funding bill that increases funding for public defenders.  The bill provides $5 million for increased employee salary and benefits for public defenders.  The bill also provides $5.6 million for new public defenders positions that will reduce caseloads.  The Senate bill was passed by 47-18 votes.

The Senate Judiciary Finance Division Chairman Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) stated that the bill helps alleviate a public defender system that is “overworked, overburdened, [and] has some of the biggest caseloads in the country.”

via Minnesota Senate passes increased funding for public defenders | Minnesota Lawyer.

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Filed under attorneys, courts, District Court, employment, Pending Legislation, wage

Lower pay for related care givers struck down

Minnesota Lawyer (Dec. 24, 2012, subscription required) has an interested article regarding Minn. Stat. 256B.0659 (2011).  In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a bill stating that non relative personal care attendants were to receive a pay rate of 80% of the non relative pay.  In other words, relative personal care attendants would receive a 30% pay cut.  In Healthstar v. Home Health, Inc. v. Jesson, the Court of Appeals reversed the Ramsey District Court decision.  The court struck down the statute.

The court held that the statute did not meet the prong of showing that the bill was not manifestly arbitrary of fanciful, but that it must be genuine and substantial.  The court stated that the commissioner’s argument was “based on an assumption that relative PCAs will continue to provide care even if affected by a pay cut.”

The court further stated that “the rationale for the distinction advanced by respondent is based purely on assumptions rather than facts, including the apparently unchallenged assumption that a moral obligation to provide care for a relative necessarily equates to a moral obligation to personally provide such care at a lower rate of pay than a nonrelative PCA would receive for the same work.”

The Court of Appeals also held that the statute did not meet the prong that the classification must be genuine or relevant to the purpose of the law.  The court stated that the commissioner did not show any facts in support of its assumption.

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New Md. Law May Be First in Country Banning Employers From Seeking Workers’ Social Media Passwords

In what could be the first such law in the country, Maryland has enacted a bill that would prohibit employers from demanding personal passwords to social media sites such as Facebook from job applicants and workers.

State lawmakers last week almost unanimously approved making such information private, in response to reports that a growing number of employers are seeking access to individuals’ personal social media accounts to gather information for job-related decision-making, Raycom News Network reports.

The bill will take effect as law after it is signed into law by the state governor, the Gazette reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland favored the new measure. The state Chamber of Commerce opposed it.

While no one wants others to read private messages, the chamber had hoped lawmakers would recognize that there may be legitimate reason for employers to review social media sites, said lawyer and employment practitioner Elizabeth Torphy-Donzella of Shawe Rosenthal. Her Baltimore-based law firm represents the chamber.

Similar legislation is being pursued in California and Illinois and in Congress, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The Washington Post’s Capitol Business Blog says Michigan also is considering such a law.

via New Md. Law May Be First in Country Banning Employers From Seeking Workers’ Social Media Passwords – News – ABA Journal.

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