New Guidance on Head Start Eligibility for Kinship Care
There have been many new inquiries regarding eligibility for Head Start for children living with relative caregivers. The Office of Head Start recently released guidance that encourages grantees to include children currently in relative care in the enrollment and selection process. The guidance also helps explain eligibility and offers some broad definitions of children in foster care or experiencing homelessness. The guidance also explains that children can receive a “child only” TANF grant that would also allow access to Head Start programs.
Competing Bills to Lower Prescription Drugs Costs
Both Republicans and Democrats agree that healthcare costs, particularly for prescription drugs, are too high. They are working on a bipartisan basis, in both chambers of Congress, to figure out the best ways to lower costs for consumers. Within the last few weeks, however, progress has come to a standstill. Republicans have spoken out vociferously against H.R. 3, a bill that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has championed. The bill would allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to negotiate the price of certain prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies – a power CMS has never had before. The bill states that the negotiated price cannot exceed 120% of the price in other developed countries, including Australia, Canada and France. The bill would also punish companies that raise drug prices faster than inflation and caps out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that H.R. 3 would save taxpayers $345 billion in Medicare costs over seven years.
House Republicans oppose the bill because of its government “price controls”. They fear that negotiated prices will hamper research and innovation in the healthcare sector by discouraging private investment in cures. Instead, they have offered market-based approaches that would eliminate gimmicks that drug manufacturers exploit to maintain high drug prices. In the Senate, Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Wyden (D-OR) of the Finance Committee put together the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019, which also helps lower prices by bringing transparency to the opaque Pharmacy Benefit Manager sector, the intermediary between manufacturers and patients. Whether Republicans and Democrats can build on their common goal of lowering prescription drug costs and find a compromise is unclear.
First Federal Opioid Settlement
On early Monday morning – just hours before trial proceedings commenced – Cuyahoga and Summit Counties in Ohio and four large opioid manufacturers reached a $260 million settlement that could set the standard for opioid settlements across the country moving forward. McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries agreed to give $235 million in cash and $25 million worth of the anti-overdose drug Suboxone to the two counties. As the first federal opioid case to reach a settlement out of more than 2,300 cases nationwide, the settlement puts a ballpark figure on the price of liability for opioid manufacturers and distributors. The negotiated settlement is much smaller than the $8 billion the two counties initially demanded.
Later in the day on Monday, the same four companies plus Johnson & Johnson reach a tentative “global settlement” of $48 billion with a bipartisan group of four state attorneys general. In theory, more states and jurisdictions would sign on to the global settlement and preclude the need for individual trials or settlements. The four states involved in the negotiations – North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Tennessee – are pushing their fellow state attorneys general to do just that, though they acknowledge the road ahead will be tough.
Administration’s Public Charge Rule Halted by Federal Judge
A federal judge has temporarily halted the implementation of the Trump Administration’s “public charge” rule. The rule would have changed the way the Department of Homeland Security scrutinizes immigrants when considering entry, changes in status, or extensions of stay. In the past, DHS considered a candidate’s use of public benefits, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Social Security Insurance program, to decide whether the candidate could potentially become a strain on the benefits system, or “a public charge”. The new rule would have added food stamps, Medicaid, and housing subsidies to the list of government programs that could be used to judge applicants. For many immigration activists, this new rule would have unfairly barred many immigrants staying in the country and discouraged many immigrants from seeking basic needs, such as medical care. As a result of the judge’s ruling, the rule is delayed until a series of lawsuits plays out in federal courts.
Hearing: Diversity Practices in the Workplace
Last Thursday, the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee hosted a hearing entitled “Promoting Inclusion: Examining the Need for Diversity Practices for America’s Changing Workforce.” The hearing, which featured five experts, focused on ways to encourage diversity and inclusion in America’s workforce, particularly in leadership positions. According to the memorandum released by the subcommittee, the working-age population (between 18 and 64) will be “majority-minority” by 2039. This demographic change will need to include an attitudinal change regarding the makeup of leadership teams, especially in the financial sector. For example, women and minorities make up 50% and 40% of the workforce of large banks, respectively; yet they represent only 29% and 17% of the boards of directors of these banks. To repair this glaring discrepancy, the subcommittee offered a few possible solutions: Chief Diversity Officers, bias and diversity training, mentorship programs, and parental leave.
New Proposed Rules on SNAP & Impact on School Lunches
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new analysis on its recently proposed rule regarding food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Currently, a family is automatically eligible for SNAP if they participate in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). However, the proposed rule would make it more difficult for a family receiving TANF benefits to automatically receive SNAP benefits. Since children in families that participate in SNAP also receive free school lunches, many children could potentially lose access to free school lunches as a result of the proposed rule. USDA’s new analysis provides estimates on how the rule would affect access to free and reduced-price school lunches. The report concludes that, if the rule were implemented as written, 40,000 children would lose access to free or reduced-price school lunches. Another 497,000 children would receive only reduced-price meals, rather than free meals. Though 445,000 children would continue having access to free school lunches, these families would have to complete arduous paperwork to participate in the program, rather than be signed up automatically. The Food and Nutrition Service is collecting public comments on the proposed rule here until Nov. 1, 2019. Also, the Food Research and Action Center has a comment portal here with additional information.
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