In the United States, Social Security is primarily the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) federal program. The original Social Security Act (1935) and the current version of the Act, as amended, encompass several social welfare and social insurance programs. Social Security is funded through payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA) and/or Self Employed Contributions Act Tax (SECA). Tax deposits are collected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund which make up the Social Security Trust Funds. With a few exceptions, all salaried income, up to a specifically determined amount by law (see tax rate table below) has an FICA and/or SECA tax collected on it.
The Obama Administration’s Agenda on Seniors & Social Security
“To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”
-PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IN THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS, JANUARY 25, 2011
The Third International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and Its Cultural Impact April 28 – 30, 2016 The Vatican, Italty
How Science, Technology, Information and
Communication Will Impact Society
Created by The Stem For Life Foundation and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council For Culture, this exclusive, international event will gather the world’s leading Cell Therapy scientists, physicians, patients, ethicists and leaders of faith, government and philanthropy to discuss the latest cellular therapy breakthroughs and hope for the future. Moderated by renowned journalists and broadcasted around the world, the 2016 event will have a unique focus on pediatric cancers and rare genetic diseases, as well as diseases that occur with aging.
The Conference will:
Explore how science, technology and communication will allow us to personalize medical solutions for individual patients and help remove inefficiencies, thereby reducing costs and improving individual care.
Foster open dialogue among researchers, medical practitioners, religious leaders, political figures and innovators to explore the social and cultural impact of these new treatment modalities.
Unite people of all races, religious beliefs, cultural and economic backgrounds in a global conversation about the healing potential of cell therapy for chronic diseases and aging as well as convey the importance of delivering approved therapies around the world to people suffering from debilitating medical conditions.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, His Eminence Cardinal Ravasi, said:
“Scientific research has increased the possibilities for maintaining health, preventing illness, and treating the sick. The new field of regenerative medicine holds great promise to alleviate the pain and suffering for hundreds of millions of people around the world. We must unite to discover and advance such new therapies, and find ways to bring them to all those in need.”
President Barack Obama announced March 22, that he will speak during the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, March 29. President Obama will participate in a Panel Discussion scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
The President’s appearance follows his visit last year to West Virginia, where he announced a number of new public and private sector actions to address the epidemic, including a Presidential Memorandum on prescriber training and opioid use disorder treatment.
As part of these efforts, on March 15 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain to help primary care providers — who account for prescribing nearly half of all opioid prescriptions — ensure the safest and most effective treatment for their patients.
The President has made clear that addressing this epidemic is a priority for his Administration and put forward a request earlier this year for $1.1 billion in new funding-most of which would go directly to States – to ensure that every American who wants treatment can get the help they need.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. Article III of the U.S. Constitution created the Supreme Court and authorized Congress to pass laws establishing a system of lower courts. In the federal court system’s present form, 94 district level trial courts and 13 courts of appeals sit below the Supreme Court
Why the 2016 Election Will Be One of the Most Pivotal Moments of Our Time
Every four years the political parties describe the impending presidential election as a historic event – and every once in a while it’s true
December 3, 2015 By Sean Wilentz – RollingStone
More than 150 years ago, in 1858, as the national crisis over slavery heightened, Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and that the “crisis” would be “reached and passed” only when the house divided would “become all one thing or all the other.” Now, the long conflict over social equality, political democracy and American government that began during the Progressive era, followed by the New Deal and the Great Society, is reaching its inescapable conclusion. If the Republicans win the presidency in 2016, they will also almost inevitably control both the Senate and the House of Representatives, giving them virtually unfettered command over the entire federal government to go along with their domination of the great majority of the state governments. The Republican president could easily be in a position to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court for an unstoppable right-wing majority that would last for a generation to come. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and Shelby County v. Holder (the 2013 ruling that greatly weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act) would be merely the prelude to tilting political and social power. If, however, the Democrats win the presidency in 2016, they will almost certainly take back the Senate and make gains in the House – and the Democratic president will likely be able to appoint new justices to the Supreme Court that will eventually comprise a liberal majority. Between these two stark alternatives, there is no middle ground. In 2016, the country will become either one thing or the other.
How did we arrive at this decisive moment? Two powerful historic developments have driven American politics over the past half century. The Republican Party has been transformed by a conservative movement that has pushed it ever further to the right. The Democratic Party, stunned by the conservative counterrevolution, has struggled to reinvent itself and its politics, while facing the increasingly formidable resources of the right. These shifts are responsible for the polarization and dysfunction that have gripped American government since the 1990s. But they began in 1968.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has died at age 79, two law enforcement sources told ABC News today.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said in a statement: “On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family.”
Scalia died today in Texas of apparently natural causes, according to law enforcement sources. Father Mike Alcuino from the Diocese of El Paso administered last rites to Scalia this afternoon, a diocese official said.
Scalia, a conservative, was the longest-serving current justice on the Supreme Court. He was nominated to the court by President Reagan and took his seat Sept. 26, 1986.
Posted Wed, February 24th, 2016 8:00 am SCOTUSblog
A Responsibility I Take Seriously
The Constitution vests in the President the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead.
It’s also one of the most important decisions that a President will make. Rulings handed down by the Supreme Court directly affect our economy, our security, our rights, and our daily lives.
Needless to say, this isn’t something I take lightly. It’s a decision to which I devote considerable time, deep reflection, careful deliberation, and serious consultation with legal experts, members of both political parties, and people across the political spectrum. And with thanks to SCOTUSblog for allowing me to guest post today, I thought I’d share some spoiler-free insights into what I think about before appointing the person who will be our next Supreme Court Justice.
First and foremost, the person I appoint will be eminently qualified. He or she will have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity. I’m looking for a mastery of the law, with an ability to hone in on the key issues before the Court, and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.
Second, the person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law. I seek judges who approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.
But I’m also mindful that there will be cases that reach the Supreme Court in which the law is not clear. There will be cases in which a judge’s analysis necessarily will be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment. That’s why the third quality I seek in a judge is a keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook. It’s the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom; experience that suggests he or she views the law not only as an intellectual exercise, but also grasps the way it affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times. That, I believe, is an essential element for arriving at just decisions and fair outcomes.
GOP Moves To Block Obama From Naming Scalia Successor
February 13, 2016 ByTIERNEY SNEED – tpm
Almost immediately after the first public confirmation that Justice Antonin Scalia had died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the GOP-controlled Senate would block President Obama from nominating Scalia’s successor.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
McConnell’s statement came as a chorus of conservatives called for the confirmation process to be delayed until the next President takes office in January 2017. Not longer after, Sen. Chuck Grassley — the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, through which Supreme Court nominations come through — also issued a statement that said “it only makes sense” to wait until the next president is elected to replace Scalia.
Minority Leader Harry Reid countered in his own statement Saturday that said the “Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible.”
“It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat,” Reid said. “Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate’s most essential Constitutional responsibilities.”
The move would deny President Obama the opportunity to name his third Supreme Court justice and potentially to change the court dramatically from a conservative to liberal majority.
The possibility of a Republican Senate thwarting a Supreme Court nomination for the remainder of Obama’s presidency sets the stage for a major political battle running parallel with the 2016 elections.
Republicans Will Nominate a Candidate Who Would Violate the First, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments
If the GOP had any respect for the Bill of Rights, it would reject Trump.
7/17/16 By John Nichols – TheNation
Cleveland—As Republican Party “constitutionalists” prepare to nominate authoritarian billionaire Donald Trump for the presidency this week in Cleveland, the American Civil Liberties union has determined that the candidate’s proposals would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution.
It is not news that Trump has, during the course of his campaign for the GOP nomination, put himself at odds with basic premises of a Bill of Rights that defends a free press, guarantees freedom of religion, and guards against torture and abuses of privacy. But when his proposals are pulled together—as the ACLU has done in a new analysis of the Republican candidate’s public statements and policy positions—the extent to which Trump would shred the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular is breathtaking.
“Taken together, his policies and positions, if put into place, would violate the Constitution and federal and international law,” says Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, which reviewed the candidate’s agenda and determined that “Trump’s proposals would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution.”
Trump has from the start of his campaign sparked controversy with statements, actions, and proposals that disregard the First Amendment. He and his aides have created blacklists of journalists, and the candidate has expressed an interest in rewriting libel laws in order to intimidate, punish, and potentially silence critics of powerful individuals and interests. Trump has, as well, proposed schemes to discriminate against Muslims and to spy on mosques and neighborhoods where Muslims live—with steady disregard for the amendment’s guarantee of protection for America’s diverse religious communities.
But that’s just the beginning of Trump’s assaults on the Constitution. Trump has encouraged the use of torture and blatantly disregarded privacy protections that have been enshrined in the founding document since the 18th century. He has attacked the basic premises of a constitutionally defined separation of powers, with rhetorical assaults on individual jurists and the federal judiciary so extreme that House Speaker Paul Ryan described one such attack as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” He has proposed instituting religious tests. He has shown open and consistent disregard for the promise that all Americans will receive equal protection under the law.
“If implemented, Donald Trump’s proposed policies will spark a constitutional and legal challenge that would require all hands on deck at the ACLU,” says Romero. “The ACLU and its more than 300 attorneys in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., stand ready to challenge and impede implementation of his unlawful proposals, should he attempt to see them through.”
* FACT: Six Justices have been confirmed in a presidential election year since 1900.
For more than two centuries, it has been standard practice for Congress to confirm a president’s Supreme Court nominee, whether in a presidential election year or not. Of the six justices confirmed since 1900, three have been Republicans. The most recent Justice to be confirmed in an election year was Justice Kennedy — appointed by President Reagan — who was confirmed by a Democratic-controlled Congress in February of 1988.
* FACT: Every nominee has received a vote within 125 days of nomination.
Since 1975, the average time from nomination to confirmation is 67 days. In fact, since 1875, every nominee has received a hearing or a vote. The longest time before confirmation in the past three decades was 99 days, for Justice Thomas, and the last four Justices, spanning two Administrations, were confirmed in an average of 75 days.
The Senate has almost a full year — more than 300 days — to consider and confirm a nominee.
* FACT: It will be harmful and create unsustainable uncertainty if Congress fails to act on the President’s nominee.
The Supreme Court could go the better part of two Terms with a vacancy if the Senate rejects its Constitutional responsibility. It’d be unprecedented for the Court to go that long with an empty seat. Here’s why it’s harmful:
The Court’s 4-4 decisions have no value in establishing precedent on which future decisions can rely. They also cannot establish uniform nationwide rules. That means if multiple courts ruled differently on an issue before it arose at the Supreme Court, a 4-4 ruling would leave those different rules in place in different states. The result is an unsustainable uncertainty — for the law, for individual liberties, and for our economy.
The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitos. About 1 in 5 people who get infected with Zika virus will show symptoms.
In the past several weeks, increased cases of Zika virus disease (Zika) have been reported in South and Central America, and to a limited degree in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a US territory, and the US Virgin Islands. Zika is a little known illness spread by a certain type of mosquito. Although most people who may be exposed to Zika virus will have only mild or no symptoms, there has been evidence linking Zika virus to negative effects on pregnancies in some cases, which has received widespread public attention. We understand that this news is concerning, especially to pregnant women and their families who may travel to or live in affected areas. Here are some answers to common questions about Zika.
What is Zika?
The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitos. About 1 in 5 people who get infected with Zika virus will show symptoms. Most of those who get sick experience only mild symptoms that last about a week. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes (conjunctivitis). It’s rare for someone infected with Zika to become seriously sick or die. Zika is not spread through routine direct person-to-person contact.
Zika and Pregnancy
While anyone can be infected with Zika, what makes it stand out from other mosquito-borne illnesses, is the effect it appears to have on pregnancy. We know that Zika can spread from a pregnant mother to her baby, and that infection during pregnancy may be linked to birth defects, such as a condition called microcephaly (when a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with babies of the same sex and age). Our understanding of the link between Zika and pregnancy is evolving.
Because of the possible risk to unborn babies, CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to areas with local Zika transmission. If you are pregnant and must travel to one of these areas, talk to your healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. As we learn more about this disease, our guidance may change based on new information important for the public to know.
How to Protect Yourself from Zika
Because there are currently no vaccines or treatment for Zika, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent mosquito bites. You can do this by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and treating your clothing and other items with permethrin. Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellant as directed. You shouldn’t use insect repellant on babies younger than 2 months of age; instead, dress your baby in clothing that covers arms and legs and cover the crib, stroller, or baby carrier with mosquito netting.
If you’ve recently traveled to an area with Zika and develop a rash, joint pain, or red eyes, tell your doctor that you traveled to a country with Zika virus. Because the symptoms of Zika are similar to dengue and chikungunya, special blood tests may be needed.
If you get sick with Zika, make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, and take medicines like acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain. Don’t take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You can also prevent others from getting sick by avoiding mosquito bites during the first week of illness following the same steps outlined above, because Zika virus can stay in the blood during the first week of infection.
Guillain-Barre on rise in 5 Latam countries, no proven link to Zika – WHO
Sat Feb 13, 2016 5:28am EST GENEVA | BY STEPHANIE NEBEHAY – reuters
A neurological disorder suspected of links to the mosquito-borne Zika virus is on the rise in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.
The rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system, causes gradual weakness in the legs, arms and upper body and sometimes leads to total paralysis.
“In the context of the Zika virus outbreak, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname and Venezuela have reported an increase of GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome),” the WHO said in a weekly report on Zika virus now circulating in 34 countries, including 26 in the Americas.
“The cause of the increase in GBS incidence observed in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Suriname remains unknown, especially as dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus have all been circulating simultaneously in the Americas,” it added.
Investigations continue to determine the cause, WHO said, noting that there was no laboratory confirmation of Zika virus in patients with GBS in Colombia and El Salvador.
Venezuela has reported 252 cases of Guillain-Barre occurring at the same time and place as Zika infections, it said. “Zika virus infection was confirmed for three of the GBS cases, including one fatal case.”
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that three people had died of complications linked to Zika virus and that suspected cases of Zika had risen to 5,221.
Even in the best of settings, 3 to 5 percent of Guillain-Barre patients die from complications, which can include paralysis of the muscles that control breathing, blood infection, lung clots or cardiac arrest, according to the WHO.
The Zika virus is a disease spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito — the same type of mosquito that spreads other viruses like dengue and chikungunya.
While most people have no symptoms as all, Zika causes mild illness in some. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established a link between Zika infection during pregnancy and serious birth defects and other poor pregnancy outcomes. We also know that there can be other serious neurological impacts in some people who are infected with Zika.
We are closely tracking and responding to outbreaks of this virus across the Americas. While we haven’t seen Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States to date, we have seen transmission in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, in addition to cases reported in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
And we know that this particular mosquito lives in certain parts of the southern United States, and we now know that Zika can also spread in another type of mosquito that is present throughout much of the United States. So now is the time to prepare as the seasons change and weather gets warmer.
As President Obama said, we all have to remain vigilant when it comes to combating the spread of diseases like Zika. That’s why the President has called on Congress to provide emergency funding to combat this disease, including to:
speed the development of a vaccine;
allow people – especially pregnant women – to more easily get tested and get a prompt result; and
ensure that states and communities – particularly those in the South that have experienced local outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya in the past – have the resources they need to fight the mosquito that carries this virus.
Congress needs to act now to ensure that we have the resources we need to take every step necessary to protect the American people from the Zika virus.
WHO Director-General summarizes the outcome of the Emergency Committee on Zika
WHO statement on the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee on Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations
1 February 2016
I convened an Emergency Committee, under the International Health Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Committee met today by teleconference.
In assessing the level of threat, the 18 experts and advisers looked in particular at the strong association, in time and place, between infection with the Zika virus and a rise in detected cases of congenital malformations and neurological complications.
The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.
The experts also considered patterns of recent spread and the broad geographical distribution of mosquito species that can transmit the virus.
The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern.
After a review of the evidence, the Committee advised that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to other parts of the world.
In their view, a coordinated international response is needed to minimize the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread.
Members of the Committee agreed that the situation meets the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Building on the Administration’s ongoing commitment to expanding access to opportunity and reducing food insecurity, the event brought together families, academics, practitioners, advocates, religious leaders, and federal, state, and local officials to discuss the persistence and effects of hunger in America and what must be done to ensure all American families have access to an adequate, nutritious diet.
January 27, 2016
FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces Major Investments in Preventing Child Hunger
Today, the White House will host a conversation about child hunger in America, with experts and direct service providers discussing how hunger continues to harm children across the country. Participants will discuss the role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other core nutrition programs in ensuring American children have the fuel they need to thrive. The conversation will include SNAP recipients, academics, direct service providers, advocates, faith leaders, and federal, state, and local officials and will focus on the critical role of SNAP in reducing food insecurity and poverty, and the high-cost consequences when benefits are not enough to sustain a family to the end of the month. The agenda for today’s event is available HERE.
The Obama Administration is dedicated to ensuring American children and families have the support they need to build a better future, especially when weathering life’s ups and downs, such as loss of a job, illness, or work that pays less than a livable wage. SNAP and other nutrition programs, like school meals, make a real and measurable difference in the lives of children and their families and provide a stronger future for the entire country. Building on its commitment to expanding access to opportunity for all, today the Obama Administration will announce additional actions to ensure American children have the food they need to grow, learn, and succeed.
NEW FEDERAL ACTIONS
Ensuring all low-income children have year-round access to the food they need to learn and grow.
Allowing States to use Medicaid data to automatically link low-income children to school meals.
A White House Conversation on Child Hunger in America
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Secretary Thomas Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Panel: Research Evidence on Child Hunger in America and the Role of SNAP
Moderator: Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, Emeritus Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Dr. Hilary Hoynes, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California Berkeley
Dr. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research; Associate Professor, Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy
Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Professor of Epidemiology, Director, Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health, University of Washington
Dr. Hilary Seligman, Associate Professor, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine; Lead Scientist and Senior Medical Advisor, Feeding America
Dr. Parke Wilde, Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Panel: Practitioner and Beneficiary Perspectives on SNAP, Hunger, and Children’s Life Outcomes
Moderator: Representative Jim McGovern (MA)
Dr. Sandra Hassink, Immediate Past President of the American Academy
Dawn Pierce, former SNAP recipient, Boise, ID
Clint Mitchell, Principal, Bel Air Elementary School, Prince William County, V
Carlos Rodriguez, Executive Director, Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean
Counties, Neptune, NJ
Les Johnson, Vice President of Grant Management Services, Area Resources for
Community and Human Services, St. Louis, MO
Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of Domestic Policy Council
Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 1321, S. 2425
On Monday, December 28, 2015, the President Obama signed into law:
S. 2425, the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act,” which makes changes to Medicare payments for certain complex rehabilitation technology and radiation therapy services, provide flexibility in applying a hardship exception from meaningful use of electronic health records, and improve Medicare and Medicaid program integrity.
Radiation Therapy Alliance Commends Congress for Passing Legislation to Ensure Access to Radiation Therapy Care for Nation’s Cancer Patients
Legislation is essential step to achieving lasting payment stability for needed cancer care services
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Radiation Therapy Alliance (RTA) – a non-profit organization representing freestanding radiation therapy centers that is dedicated to working with policymakers to advance logical, predictable payment reform to ensure patient access to quality cancer care – today commended lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for passing the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (S. 2425).
The legislation provides payment stability to freestanding radiation therapy centers by freezing Medicare payment rates for the sector in 2017 and 2018 as it transitions to a new, episodic alternative payment model in 2019. The legislation also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit to Congress a report on the development of an episodic alternative payment model for payment under the Medicare program within 18 months.
The RTA thanked Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dan Coats (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Tom Price (R-GA), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), James Clyburn (D-SC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) for their leadership in advancing this vital cancer care legislation.
“The RTA applauds Congress for passing this critical legislation which will ensure patient access to freestanding radiation therapy services across the country,” said Christopher M. Rose, MD, FASTRO, RTA Policy Chair. “Consistent with the legislation, we look forward to working with CMS to craft an Alternative Payment Model for radiation oncology that will ensure access while improving the efficiency and quality of care to Medicare patients.”
Freestanding radiation therapy centers offer patients access to treatments for prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in a convenient and comfortable outpatient setting closer to home, removing the burden of traveling to distant hospitals or specialty centers.
The bill includes a provision that gives CMS the authority — for the next few months — to expedite applications from physicians for a hardship exemption related to meaningful use stage two requirements for the 2015 calendar year.
The expedited “categorical authority” applies only to hardship exemption applications filed before March 15, 2016. Stay tuned for more information on the application process as it becomes available from CMS.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and is widely expected to be signed by the President.
“This heralds a reprieve to physician practices that are unable to successfully attest to meaningful use for 2015, through no fault of their own,” said AAFP President Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., in a Dec. 21 statement about the legislation.
December 23, 2015 By Zachary Tracer – insurancejournal
About 8.3 million people have signed up for health coverage through Obamacare’s U.S.-run shopping markets this year, the U.S. said Tuesday, surpassing last year’s total and signaling good news for hospital and health insurance companies.
At about the same point in the enrollment period last year, 6.4 million people had signed up. The U.S. report counts enrollees for 2016 coverage as of Dec. 19 in 38 states that use the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. It’s the most comprehensive accounting since a Dec. 17 deadline for people to pick coverage that begins at the start of 2016.
Sign-ups this year are an important indication of how President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul is faring ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebration for these programs, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is collecting stories of how Medicare and Medicaid have made a difference for everyday Americans.