Here’s What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

HHS

— by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, HHS Secretary

If you’ve read the headlines over the past few months, you’ve probably heard about the Zika virus. You might wonder how serious the virus is and what steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

HHS is committed to giving the American people the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives. And information can often be one of the best tools. So I want to share with you some of the things we have learned about this virus, and what you should know.

mosquito-580pxWhat is Zika?


Zika is a virus
that is primarily spread by mosquitoes, though it can also be sexually transmitted. As of July 20, there have been 5,200 cases of Zika in the United States and its territories.

The biggest risk of Zika is to pregnant women or women of childbearing age. Zika virus can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

Zika can cause symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. An illness from Zika is usually mild, and the symptoms typically will only last several days to a week. Based on previous outbreaks, approximately 80 percent of people who have Zika will not have any symptoms.

How Do I Prevent Getting Zika?

Our colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have laid out helpful prevention guidance, which you can find right here. This is particularly important if you travel to an area with active Zika transmission. It is important to remember to follow the guidance not only when you are in an area with active Zika transmission, but also for three weeks after you return.

Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If you’re pregnant and you have traveled to an area with Zika, you should visit your doctor or other health care provider as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel sick. This checklist offers some topics and questions you should bring up.

Another way you can prevent Zika is by preventing the most common way Zika spreads – mosquito bites. You can reduce your risk of being bitten by:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, and long pants when outside.
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents.
  • Installing screens on your windows and doors.
  • Emptying containers that collect water, or notifying the proper authorities if you see places where water has collected. The most common type of mosquito that spreads Zika can reproduce in as little water as a bottle cap.

CDC’s Response to Zika. Prevent Zika. (1) Cover up and use insect repellent. (2) Remove standing water. (3) Keep mosquitoes out of your home. (4) Use condoms. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/zika.

What Is All This Talk About Funding?

Back in February, the Obama Administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight Zika and protect pregnant women. It was a request based on the advice of our most experienced public health experts.

These funds would be used to protect pregnant women in the United States by better controlling the mosquitoes that spread Zika, by developing new tools like vaccines and better diagnostics, and by conducting crucial research so we can better understand the effects of Zika, especially on infants and children.

Congress recently left Washington without providing these additional funds. At HHS, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to this virus here in the United States, and especially in hard-hit places like Puerto Rico, but hope there is action on this necessary funding as soon as the Congress returns.

How Can I Help?

We are always stronger against public health threats when we work together. So the best thing you can do right now is to make sure more people get more information on the Zika virus.

Help us reach others by sharing this blog post on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “Share” button in the top right corner of this post, or click the “Tweet This” button at the bottom.

And share this information with your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Make sure that everyone knows the risks, and how to stay safe.

Advertisements

Affordable Care Act payment model saves more than $384 million in two years, meets criteria for first-ever expansion

Pioneer ACO Model advances quality and value in health care

Medicare01Today, an independent evaluation report released by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that an innovative payment model created as a pilot project by the Affordable Care Act generated substantial savings to Medicare in just two years. Additionally, the independent Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has certified that this patient care model is the first to meet the stringent criteria for expansion to a larger population of Medicare beneficiaries.

The independent evaluation report for CMS found that the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model generated over $384 million in savings to Medicare over its first two years – an average of approximately $300 per participating beneficiary per year – while continuing to deliver high-quality patient care. The Actuary’s certification that expansion of Pioneer ACOs would reduce net Medicare spending, coupled with Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s determination that expansion would maintain or improve patient care without limiting coverage or benefits, means that HHS will consider ways to scale the Pioneer ACO Model into other Medicare programs.

“This is a crucial milestone in our efforts to build a health care system that delivers better care, spends our health care dollars more wisely, and results in healthier people,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “The Affordable Care Act gave us powerful new tools to test better ways to improve patient care and keep communities healthier. The Pioneer ACO Model has demonstrated that patients can get high quality and coordinated care at the right time, and we can generate savings for Medicare and the health care system at large.”

The Pioneer ACO Model, one of the first payment models launched by CMS, gives experienced health care organizations accountability for quality and cost outcomes for their Medicare patients. Doctors and hospitals who form Pioneer ACOs can share in savings generated for Medicare if they work to coordinate patient care, keep patients healthy and meet certain quality performance standards, or they may be required to pay a share of any losses generated.

Currently, the Pioneer ACO Model is serving more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries. According to today’s report, compared to their counterparts in regular fee-for-service or Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare beneficiaries who are in Pioneer ACOs, on average:

  • Report more timely care and better communication with their providers.
  • Use inpatient hospital services less and have fewer tests and procedures.
  • Have more follow-up visits from their providers after hospital discharge.

Pioneer ACOs are part of the innovative framework established by the Affordable Care Act to move our health care system toward one that rewards doctors based on the quality, not quantity, of care they give patients. HHS earlier this year announced the ambitious goal of tying 30 percent of Medicare payments to quality and value through alternative payment models by 2016 and 50 percent of payments by 2018. More than 3,600 payers, providers, employers, patients, states, consumer groups, consumers and other partners have registered to participate in the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network, which was launched to help the entire health care system reach these goals.

Pioneer ACOs generated Medicare savings of $279.7 million in 2012 and $104.5 million in 2013. To date, actuarial analyses show that ACOs in the Pioneer ACO Model and the Medicare Shared Savings Program have generated over $417 million in total program savings for Medicare. The primary analyses in the evaluation are also reported in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today.

“This success demonstrates that CMS can design and test innovative payment and service delivery models that produce better outcomes for the Medicare program and beneficiaries,” added Patrick Conway, MD, the acting principal deputy administrator of CMS. “This gives CMS greater confidence in scaling elements of the model to benefit people across the nation, and we are working to determine the best strategies for embedding the lessons we have already learned from the Pioneer Model into permanent Medicare programs and our nation’s health system.”

To view the CMS Office of the Actuary Certification of Pioneer ACO Model savings, visit:http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Research/ActuarialStudies/Downloads/Pioneer-Certification-2015-04-10.pdf.

To view the second Pioneer ACO Model evaluation report, visit:http://innovation.cms.gov/Files/reports/PioneerACOEvalRpt2.pdf.

 

HHS Presser: 9.4M Medicare Enrollees Seeing Savings Under ACA

Since 2010, 9.4 million people with Medicare have saved over $15 billion on prescription drugs

39 million Medicare beneficiaries received preventive services with no cost sharing in 2014

The Department of Health and Human Services released today new information that shows that millions of seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare continued to enjoy prescription drug savings and improved benefits in 2014 as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

medicareSince the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, 9.4 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved over $15 billion on prescription drugs, an average of $1,598 per beneficiary. In 2014 alone, nearly 5.1 million seniors and people with disabilities saved $4.8 billion or an average of $941 per beneficiary. These figures are higher than in 2013, when 4.3 million saved $3.9 billion, for an average of $911 per beneficiary.

Use of preventive services has also expanded among people with Medicare. An estimated 39 million people with Medicare (including those enrolled in Medicare Advantage) took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing in 2014. In contrast, in 2013, an estimated 37.2 million people with Medicare received one or more preventive benefits with no cost sharing. In 2014, nearly 4.8 million people with traditional Medicare took advantage of the Annual Wellness Exam, which exceeds the comparable figure from 2013, in which over 4 million took advantage of the exam.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities have saved over $15 billion on prescription drugs, and these savings will only increase over time as we close the Medicare coverage gap known as the donut hole,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “By providing access to affordable prescription drugs and preventive services with no cost sharing, the Affordable Care Act is working for seniors to help keep them healthier.”

As part of the Department’s “better care, smarter spending, healthier people” approach to improving health delivery, providing affordable prescription drugs and certain preventive services with no-cost sharing are some of the many initiatives advanced by the Affordable Care Act. To achieve better care, smarter spending and healthier people, HHS is focused on three key areas: (1) linking payment to quality of care, (2) improving and innovating in care delivery, and (3) sharing information more broadly to providers, consumers, and others to support better decisions while maintaining privacy. Today’s news comes on the heels of Secretary Burwell’s recent announcement that HHS is setting measurable goals and a timeline to move Medicare toward paying providers based on the quality, rather than the quantity of care they give patients.

Closing the prescription drug “donut hole”

The Affordable Care Act makes Medicare prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing the gap in coverage where beneficiaries had to pay the full cost of their prescriptions out of pocket, before catastrophic coverage for prescriptions took effect. The gap is known as the donut hole. The donut hole will be closed by 2020, marking 2015 as the halfway point.

Because of the health care law, in 2010, anyone with a Medicare prescription drug plan who reached the prescription drug donut hole received a $250 rebate. In 2011, beneficiaries in the donut hole began receiving discounts on covered brand-name drugs and savings on generic drugs.

People with Medicare Part D who fall into the donut hole in 2015 will receive discounts and savings of 55 percent on the cost of brand name drugs and 35 percent on the cost of generic drugs.

For state-by-state information on discounts in the donut hole, CLICK HERE.

For more information about Medicare prescription drug benefits, CLICK HERE.

Medicare preventive services

The Affordable Care Act eliminated coinsurance and the Part B deductible for recommended preventive services covered by Medicare, including many cancer screenings and other important benefits. By making certain preventive services available with no cost sharing, the Affordable Care Act is helping Americans take charge of their own health. By removing barriers to prevention, Americans and health care professionals can better prevent illness, detect problems early when treatment works best, and monitor health conditions.

For state-by-state information on utilization of preventive services at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries, CLICK HERE.


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Like HHS on Facebook, follow HHS on Twitter @HHSgov, and sign up for HHS Email Updates.

Last revised: February 24, 2015

Raising The Stakes in King v. Burwell

— by CAP Action War Room

Another Successful Open Enrollment Period Ends, Raising The Stakes For King v. Burwell

APTOPIX_Supreme_Court_Health_Care_0c706-13986Sunday marked the end of the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period, and it was a success. More than 11.4 million people signed up for insurance through the marketplace. More people will sign up in the next few days, as the enrollment period has been extended through this weekend for people who started their applications, but were unable to complete them.

Of the 11.4 million people enrolled, more than 8.6 million signed up through federally-facilitated exchanges and around 6.5 million qualified for tax credits, making their health coverage more affordable. In addition to this good news, last week we shared a few other highlights from the 2015 enrollment period, including the fact that nearly 80 percent of people had the option of choosing a plan with a monthly premium of $100 or less.

Celebrations of the successful enrollment period have been subdued, however, for one big reason: the looming threat of the Supreme Court case King v. Burwell. The case, as we’ve explained before, threatens to take tax credits away from the millions enrolled in the federal exchange, cripple the Affordable Care Act, and send the entire health care industry into chaos.

This case is about more than statistics and more than politics. The millions of Americans who could lose tax credits and the peace of mind of health insurance are real people — who are now threatened by a decision in the hands of just nine Supreme Court justices. That is why the Center for American Progress has launched a website, HearTheNine.org, contrasting these nine justices with the stories of nine Americans whose access to health care depends on the Supreme Court’s decision.

Six of these individuals have been featured in the past two weeks, and today, the campaign tells the final three stories:

  • Rachel is a small business owner and new mom from North Carolina who previously had limited insurance, but couldn’t afford a health plan that covered the maternity care she needed. Even a plan that covered her alone and included maternity care would have cost $600 per month. Now, thanks to the ACA, she is able to afford healthcare for herself, her husband, and her baby for just $10 per month.
  • Lisa is a retail professional from Nebraska who lost her job and her insurance because of the recession and went without coverage for more than 6 years. Now she has enrolled in coverage on the exchange that has a monthly premium of $33 per month.
  • Vaughn wanted to take his dream job at a small PR firm in Atlanta, but it didn’t offer health care coverage. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, he was able to find affordable coverage with financial assistance and take the job.

In addition to these nine powerful stories featured online, today CAP also released a video explaining the stakes of King v. Burwell and telling the story of Jennifer, a Tennessee woman for whom coverage under the Affordable Care Act could mean the difference between life and death.

BOTTOM LINE: The successful end to the second open enrollment period for health care only raises the stakes of King v. Burwell. Now, because of ideologically-charged conservatives who continue to try to dismantle President Obama’s landmark legislation, nine Supreme Court justices hold the fate of nearly nine million Americans’ health insurance in their hands. Visit HearTheNine.org to learn more about the case and the stories of real people who could be affected.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Press Release re: ACA and 2014 Tax Season

Statements by Secretary Lew and Secretary Burwell on preparing for the upcoming tax season

In preparation for the 2015 tax filing season, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department are putting in place resources to provide tax filers with the information and resources they need to get their questions answered.

Millions of Americans who get their health insurance through work are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, and millions of others have signed up for the Health Insurance Marketplaces and received financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums.

Starting this year, consumers will see some changes to their tax returns.  While the vast majority of tax filers – over three quarters – will just need to check a box on their tax return indicating they had health coverage in 2014, people who have coverage through the Marketplaces, or decided not to enroll in coverage, should be aware of some additional steps that will be a part of the tax filing process starting this year.

Consumers will have questions about this new process and the Administration is committed to providing the information and tools tax filers need to understand the new requirements. In the coming weeks, the Administration will launch additional resources to help consumers prepare for tax filing season, including online tools to help individuals connect with local tax preparation services and determine if they are eligible for an exemption.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell released the following statements today providing an overview of the consumer support and guidance their agencies will provide:

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew:

“For the vast majority of Americans, tax filing under the Affordable Care Act will be as simple as checking a box to show they had health coverage all year.  A fraction of taxpayers will take different steps, like claiming an exemption if they could not afford insurance or ensuring they received the correct amount of financial assistance. A smaller fraction of taxpayers will pay a fee if they made a choice to not obtain coverage they could afford.  We are working to ensure that whatever their experience, consumers can easily access clear information since this is the first year they will see certain changes to their tax returns.”

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell:

“Last year, millions of Americans purchased quality, affordable health coverage through the Marketplace, and the vast majority received tax credits that cut their monthly premiums.  This benefit, which in many cases helped make the cost of health care less than the cost of a cell phone or cable bill, enabled these consumers to enjoy the benefits of coverage throughout the year.  In the coming weeks, HHS will work with other agencies, tax preparers and community organizations to arm these consumers with the information they need to know as they prepare to file their taxes.   We will also be providing helpful tools so that the millions of taxpayers who qualify for an exemption can receive one.”

While including health insurance information will become a routine step in filing taxes, this is the first time families will be asked to answer basic questions regarding their health insurance on their tax returns.  Most consumers – over three quarters – just need to check a box to indicate they have coverage.  Those with Marketplace coverage will receive a new form in the mail from the Marketplace – Form 1095-A – that they will use to reconcile their upfront financial assistance.  While those who can afford to buy health insurance and choose not to will have to pay a fee, individuals who cannot afford coverage or meet other conditions can receive an exemption.

In the coming weeks, consumer-friendly tools and resources will be made available for those tax filers who have health coverage through the Marketplaces, those seeking an exemption, and those looking for information about the fee for those who could afford to purchase health coverage but chose not to.  General resources can be found at www.IRS.gov/ACA or https://www.healthcare.gov/taxes/.  A sampling of some of resources already available, include:

To reach consumers with the information they need to prepare for the upcoming tax season, the Administration will employ a variety outreach strategies.  Outreach and consumer education efforts will include:

  • Direct outreach to Marketplace enrollees. Through email, phone, and text messages the Administration will reach out to people who got coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace with personalized information that is most relevant to their tax status.  We will focus on providing targeted messaging to consumers who benefited from an advanced premium tax credit last year to help them offset the cost of their Marketplace premiums.
  • Community-based outreach and in-person assistance. Working with community organizations on the ground, nonprofit organizations, Marketplace navigators and other in-person assisters, we will provide guidance and resources to consumers looking for answers.
  • Partnerships with top tax preparers. The Administration will continue to work with top tax preparers to provide consumers with the information they need to prepare for tax season.

5 Steps to Staying Covered

Did you know that if you bought a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2014, you can renew your current plan or enroll in a different plan for 2015?

This fall, you’ll get two important 2015 health care plan notices about your health coverage. One will come from your health insurance company to explain any changes to premiums and benefits for the coming year. Another will come from the Marketplace with important deadlines and information about Open Enrollment, which starts on November 15, 2014. These notices help you understand your choices for 2015.

To stay covered through the Marketplace for 2015, make sure to follow these 5 Steps during Open Enrollment:

5 Steps to Staying Covered

Corporate Rights Trump Women’s Health in Hobby Lobby Ruling

‘This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer at Common Dreams

SCOTUS5

Defenders of women’s health and reproductive freedom are reacting with anger to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday which ruled that an employer with religious objection can opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Writing for the majority side of the 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the “the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates [employers’] religious beliefs.”

Rights advocates were quick to condemn the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end,” Hogue continued. “Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions.”

Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control for a variety of health reasons, according to research by women’s health organizations.

“The fact of the matter is that birth control is a wildly popular and medically necessary part of women’s health care,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization. Chaudhary adds that despite it’s clear necessity for the reproductive health of the majority of women, one in three women have struggled at some point to afford birth control.

Monday’s ruling focuses specifically on companies that are “closely-held,” which analysts report covers over 90 percent of businesses in the United States.

The dissenting opinion, penned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and supported by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and mostly joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, acknowledges that the decision was of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent. —Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The opinion was based largely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest.

“There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts ‘out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,'” Ginsburg adds, concluding: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Echoing Ginsburg’s concern, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the ruling “a double-edged disaster,” saying it “conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Similar reactions were expressed on Twitter following the news. Summarizing the crux of the decision, NBC producer Jamil Smith wrote:

The Hobby Lobby decision means that in terms of personhood, corporations > women. And Christianity > everyone else.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 30, 2014

Others, joining Ginsburg’s outrage that now “legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs” would be denied essential health coverage, expressed their opinions under the banner “#jointhedissent.”

#jointhedissent Tweets

HobbyLobby02

The majority opinion leaves open the possibility that the federal government can cover the cost of contraceptives for women whose employers opt out, leaving many to look to the Obama administration for their next move.

_____________________

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Related Posts:

If This is What it Means to be “Conservative” — I’m Proudly a Bleeding Heart Liberal

Clearly, members of the GOP in the House are all about looking for ways to handicap ANY organization tasked with performing regulatory actions that might impede their ideological plans for the future of the United States of Republica.  A case in point is this recent  press release from Representative Amodei’s office.  My comments are in blue italics at various points throughout his release.  Some original text has been highlight in RED for emphasis.

Amodei: Appropriations Financial Services bill reins in IRS, ACA and Dodd Frank

Wednesday June 18, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 Contact:    Brian Baluta, 202-225-6155

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee today passed its fiscal year 2015 bill, which would provide annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several other agencies.

The bill totals $21.3 billion in funding for these agencies, which is $566 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $2.3 billion below the president’s request for these programs.The legislation prioritizes programs critical to enforcing laws, maintaining an effective judiciary system and helping small businesses, while targeting lower-priority or poor-performing programs – such as the Internal Revenue Service – for reductions.

Well now, that makes just a ton of sense.  IRS is tasked with collecting revenue necessary for the operation of various government operations … so let’s under fund them so we can then make a scapegoat of them when they can no longer effectively perform their regulatory and tax-collecting functions.

“Every day, I am asked, ‘Why don’t you do something?’ This bill ‘does something’ by removing funding from executive agencies that have become political tools of the administration,” said Amodei.   

Bill highlights:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)– Included in the bill is $10.95 billion for the IRS – a cut of $341 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $1.5 billion below the President’s budget request. This will bring the agency’s budget below the sequester level and below the level that was in place in fiscal year 2008. This funding level is sufficient for the IRS to perform its core duties, including taxpayer services and the proper collection of funds, but will require the agency to streamline and make better use of its budget.

Interesting! They continually carp about the IRS not providing for an EMAIL BACKUP strategy as part of their business plan. Server BACKUPs are NOT FREE!  How much more will they stop BACKING UP because they no longer have sufficient funding to do their tax collection duties, let alone ancillary functions like BACKUPS, SYSTEM UPDATES, SOFTWARE IMPROVEMENTS, etc.?

In addition, due to the inappropriate actions by the IRS in targeting groups that hold certain political beliefs, as well as its previous improper use of taxpayer funds, the bill includes the following provisions:

Here we go again, perpetuating the falsehood that ONLY right-wing political groups were scrutinized, when it was actually liberal groups that were denied with some that had already been given tax-exempt status seeing that status revoked (e.g., EmergeAmerica affiliated groups).  NO politically-focused groups should be receiving TAX-EXEMPT 501(c)(4) status, PERIOD!

A prohibition on a proposed regulation related to political activities and the tax-exempt status of 501(c)(4) organizations. The proposed regulation could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations and inhibit citizens from exercising their right to freedom of speech, simply because they may be involved in political activity.

Sorry, but I don’t get to deduct my “freedom of speech” contributions to political endeavors.  Thus, NO politically-focused organizations should be able to have a free of tax right to free speech at the American Taxpayer’s expense!

A prohibition on funds for bonuses or awards unless employee conduct and tax compliance are given consideration.

A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.

Congress passed a law that clearly states that to be considered 501(c)(4) organization, your activities must be EXCLUSIVELY-FOCUSED on “Social Welfare” activities.  Politically-focused activities are NOT social-welfare activities and thus, it IS the IRS’s responsibility to scrutinize and deny tax-exempt status to ANY organization (conservative, liberal or otherwise) not meeting that exclusivity provision.

A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights.

More BS related to the previous proviso — the IRS is NOT prohibiting ANYONE from exercising their free speech.  The IRS is merely and rightfully determining whether a group is a group exclusively devoted to providing SOCIAL-WELFARE opportunities/activities and thus, whether that group is entitled to TAX-EXEMPT status!

A prohibition on funding for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences.

Really?  Oh, please, pray tell, what “inappropriate videos” might it be that the IRS is producing?

A prohibition on funding for the White House to order the IRS to determine the tax-exempt status of an organization.

Again, if you want to allow any organization wanting to conduct EXCLUSIVELY politically focused activities to never have to pay taxes, well then, you need to REPEAL the law that PROHIBITS them from being tax exempt!  You cannot have a LAW on the books that says one thing and then prohibit the IRS, which is responsible for administering that section of the law, from enforcing it!

A requirement for extensive reporting on IRS spending.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) –The bill also includes provisions to stop the IRS from further implementing ObamaCare, including a prohibition on any transfers of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to the IRS for ObamaCare uses, and a prohibition on funding for the IRS to implement an individual insurance mandate on the American people.

Well, let’s see.  We elected President Obama and a Democratic Congress to get health care reform. Then, the Republican propaganda machine bought a Republican House.  Despite their efforts to gerry-rig the system, we still re-elected President Obama. Health care reform is one of the hardest things we’ve ever worked on. But no matter, they just keep trying to either LIE ABOUT REPEAL or DEFUND access to healthcare for the American People despite its need or popularity.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)– Included in the bill is $1.4 billion for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $300 million below the President’s budget request. The increase in funds is targeted specifically toward critical information technology initiatives. The legislation also includes a prohibition on the SEC spending any money out of its “reserve fund” – essentially a slush fund for the SEC to use without any congressional oversight.

In addition, the legislation contains requirements for the Administration to report to Congress on the cost and regulatory burdens of the Dodd-Frank Act, and a prohibition on funding to require political donation information in SEC filings.

My my, lookie here — looks like an increase in funding.  But wait, isn’t this the organization that’s supposed to regulate Wall Street?  It’s a shame that the increase in funding is just for a bit of information technology so they can determine how their GOP-Donor base is affected by any sort of regulation.  It’s also despicable that they’ve included a proviso that PROHIBITS any reporting of information as to Corporate political donations.  If you and I donate, our freedom of speech is broadcast for all to see … but the Republican Donor-base has a special privileged secreted freedom of speech.  Apparently the Republicans believe their Donors are free to speak with their Dollars, but the general American public is underserving of being able to speak with their dollars in response.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)– The bill includes a provision to change the funding source for the CFPB from the Federal Reserve to the congressional appropriations process, starting in fiscal year 2016. Currently, funding for this agency is provided by mandatory spending and is not subject to annual congressional review. This change will allow for increased accountability and transparency of the agency’s activities and use of tax dollars. The legislation also requires extensive reporting on CFPB activities.

The Republicans have done EVERYTHING conceivably possible to handicap, repeal, defund and decapitate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  This is yet their latest attempt to defund and cripple any and all Consumer financial protection at the behest of their Donor-base.

Information Is Powerful Medicine: Understanding Your HIPAA Rights

Know you rights- You have the right to see or to access your medical records. HIPAA Privacy Rule.In December 2013, the Departments of  Health and Human ServicesLabor and Treasury jointly issued mental health and substance abuse parity rules that, along with the Affordable Care Act, expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and other protections to 62 million Americans.

This rulemaking is the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation and will help make treatment more affordable and accessible.

For the millions of Americans seeking treatment and recovery services, it is important to know that you have a right to your health information – and whether your health information is stored on paper or electronically, you’ve got the right to keep it private.

Those rights are protected by a law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA gives you the right to get your personal health information, make sure it’s correct and know who has seen it.  With access to your own medical records, you can:

  • Make decisions with your health care provider;
  • Track your medications and dosages;
  • Manage your progress; and
  • Do everything you can to be healthy.

GET IT

You’ve got the right to see, or to access, your medical records. Sometimes you might not be able to see the full record, but you’ve always got the right to ask.

For instance, HIPAA does not give you the right to access a provider’s psychotherapy notes and they can’t be shared with others without your permission.

Psychotherapy notes are notes taken by a mental health professional during a conversation with the patient and kept separate from the patient’s medical and billing records.

CHECK IT

Check to make sure your medical information is correct and complete.

If you think something is wrong, or missing, you can ask your health care provider to fix it. Your health care provider might not agree, but you always have the right to ask, and to have your disagreement added to your medical record.

USE IT

Having access to your medical record can mean better communication between you and your health care providers, less paperwork and greater control over your health.

Your health care provider can be a great support system for talking about mental health. They will help you make the right decisions and assist you in taking action that will help.

KNOW WHO HAS SEEN IT

You also have the right to know how your health information is used and shared. Your health care provider is allowed to share your information for certain reasons, such as determining how to best treat your mental health problem.

But your doctors can’t give your information to an employer, for example, without your permission. If you’d like to know how your health information has been shared, you have the right to get a report. That’s called an accounting of disclosures.

SHARE IT

Under HIPAA you can request to share your health information with someone, like your spouse, domestic partner, a parent, a sister or brother or a friend.

Your health care provider may share relevant information if you give your provider or health plan permission, you are present and do not object, or if you are not present, and the provider determines based on professional judgment that it’s in your best interest.

DON’T SHARE IT

HIPAA gives you the right to ask your health care provider not to share your information with your health plan if you pay for an item or service out of pocket.

DECIDE HOW TO BE REACHED

HIPAA gives you the right to say which phone number, fax or email your providers should use and how they can leave a message.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

All these rights are spelled out in the Understanding the HIPAA Notice, which is given to you by your health care provider.

If you haven’t seen the Notice, be sure to ask for a copy and read it carefully. It lets you know exactly how your rights are being protected.

Read more helpful information and resources on HIPAA.

HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Dept. of Health & Human Services

04/03/2014

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare.

Read more about today’s announcement here …