|President Trump Issues Executive Order on the ACA
On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Among his first duties was to issue an Executive Order calling for the rolling back of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Executive Order directs the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other affected agencies to interpret regulations as loosely as possible to minimize the financial burden on individuals, insurers, and health care providers. Norris W. Cochran, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, is currently serving as the Acting Secretary of HHS until the president’s nomination for secretary is confirmed.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee vetted Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) who was appointed by President Trump to serve as the HHS Secretary. Committee members questioned his vision for health care, including the Medicaid program. Specifically, the committee members discussed his position on block granting Medicaid and giving the responsibility to the states to determine how to administer. Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee also held a confirmation hearing to consider Rep. Price for the position. The Senate Finance Committee will have the ultimate say as to advancing the candidate to be voted on by the full Senate.
Senate Committees Vet Administration Appointees
On Jan. 18, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing to consider Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of the Department of Education. Several senators questioned her knowledge and support of the Individuals with Education Act (IDEA), as well as other responsibilities of the department. Several disability organizations have since expressed concern for her lack of knowledge and support for IDEA. The chairman of the committee has postponed the confirmation vote until Jan. 31 to give committee members time to review her ethics committee report.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation voted unanimously to approve Elaine Chao as Secretary of the Department of Transportation. She testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Jan. 11. She will need to be confirmed by the full Senate before assuming the position
Federal Agency Directors Submit Required Resignation Letters
Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., submitted his resignation as the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) effective Jan. 20, in keeping with tradition of non-termed political appointees to vacate their positions for the new Administration to fill. His resignation letter was returned and he was instructed that he will be staying on until further notice. Tom Frieden, M.D., has stepped down as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. is serving as the Acting Director. John Tschida, who has served as the director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) since March 2014, has also vacated his position.
Federal Agencies Notified to Curb External Communications
Several federal employees, including HHS employees, have received a memo calling for a halt to external correspondence until Feb. 3. HHS operating Divisions have also been notified to hold off on publishing new rules or guidance in public forums until the new Administration has time to review them.
Rep. Walden to Introduce Bill to Protect Persons with Pre-existing Conditions
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has indicated his plans to introduce legislation to ensure that individuals with pre-existing conditions continue to receive health care coverage. He announced his intentions in an interview with CNN reporter, Jake Tapper. He also expressed support for giving governors flexibility with regard to a new health care plan.
Congressional Brain Injury Task Force Announces Awareness Day
As co-chairs of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr.(D-N.J.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) have sent invitations for participation in the 2017 Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill to be held Wednesday, March 22, 2017. As in past years, the day will begin at 10 a.m. with a Brain Injury Awareness Fair to be held in the Rayburn Foyer, followed by the briefing, “Faces of Brain Injury: The Invisible Disability Affecting Children and Adults,” to be held in the Rayburn Gold Room 2168. A reception will be held in the Rayburn Gold Room 2168 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is a co-sponsor of the reception and will be actively involved in the day’s events.