Privacy Advocates Express Concerns About Collection and Use of Student Data

In recent months, parents and privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the potential for inappropriate collection and use of student data when school districts transfer student data to outside data systems. One expressed concern is that, as part of the transition to the new common core state assessments, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will require states to report students’ personally identifiable information (PII) to be stored in an ED data system. In a January 23, 2014 letter to ED, 34 state education agency (SEA) chiefs confirmed that students’ PII will not be shared with ED or any other federal agency in implementing the new assessments. [More]

Maryland Redesigns All-Payer Cost Containment System

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) has approved Maryland’s plan to redesign its longstanding, all-payer hospital cost containment system. CMMI approved Maryland’s 2014-2019 redesign plan on January 10, 2014 after intensive negotiations and stakeholder consultations. CMMI as well as the New England Journal of Medicine have heralded the plan as a potential framework for state-based payment reform nationwide. Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission is now moving forward to garner additional public input and stakeholder engagement in next steps. [More]

Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Bill

On January 15, 2014, the House approved the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Consolidated Appropriations bill (H.R. 3547), which will fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September 30, 2014), and the Senate followed suit the next day. The chairs of the appropriations committees, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Congressman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) worked to ensure that all 12 appropriations bills had specific funding, rather than completing an across-the-board continuing resolution. This is the first Appropriations bill rather than a continuing resolution since FY 2010. [More]

New CDF Report Highlights Child Poverty in America

On January 23, 2014, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) announced the release of a new report that highlights “deeply disturbing” disparities in the levels of poverty, homelessness, hunger, health care access, and education faced by many of America’s children. According to the report, a record 1 in 5 children (16.1 million) was poor in 2012; over 40% lived in extreme poverty at less than half of the federal poverty level. Children of color were disproportionately poor, with nearly 1 in 3 living in poverty; 39.9 percent of African American, 36.8 percent of American Indian/Native Alaskan, and 33.7 percent of Hispanic children were poor. Nearly 1.2 million public school students were homeless during the 2011-2012 school year, 73 percent more than before the 2008 recession. [More]

US Supreme Court Refuses Review of Lawsuits Challenging CA Medicaid Provider Cuts

On January 13, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of two cases (MANAGED PHARMACY CARE v. SEBELIUS, No. 12-253; CALIFORNIA MED. ASS’N v. SEBELIUS, No. 13-380 ) dealing with provider challenges to California Medicaid rate reductions. This action leaves intact a Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision permitting the rate cuts to go forward. [More]

New Report Outlines State-Based Strategies to Contain Health Costs

A distinguished panel of health care experts released a report on January 8, 2014 entitled, “Cracking the Code on Health Care Costs: A Report by the State Health Care Cost Containment Commission.” The commission is co-chaired by former governors Mike Leavitt (R-UT) and Bill Ritter (D-CO). The report cites extensive research on policy levers at the state level that influence how the health care system is organized and how it operates. The report analyzes policy levers under state health purchasing programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, state and local government employee health plans, and state-based health insurance Exchanges; state regulatory programs affecting private health insurance premium rates, provider rates, and contracts between private plans and providers; and other issues affected by state law such as provider mergers, mandated benefits, restrictions on scope-of-practice, and medical malpractice costs. [More]

CMS Issues Final Rule Affecting Home and Community-Based Services and Waivers

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final rule, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 16, 2014 and available online here, and on, which amends the Medicaid regulations to define and describe state plan section 1915(i) home and community-based services (HCBS) under the Social Security Act as amended by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). [More]

Federal Judge Upholds Subsidies Under ACA

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, United States District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District Court in Washington, D.C. rejected a challenge to the subsidies provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ruling that the health insurance subsidies could be obtained by qualifying low and moderate-income individuals regardless of whether they bought coverage through a federal insurance exchange or in marketplaces run solely by a state. [More]