OCR Data Collection Reveals Education Inequities

On March 21, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the results of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) for the 2011-12 school year. According to a USDE press statement, the data was compiled from surveys of all 97,000 U.S. public schools. Secretary Arne Duncan said the data collection “shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and where the largest gaps remain.” Based on the data, OCR issued a series of four data snapshots that highlight significant gaps in school discipline, early childhood education, college and career readiness, and teacher equity. [More]

HHS Finalizes Exchange Rules for 2015

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published final rules in the March 11, 2014 Federal Register as part of the HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2015 related to the risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2015 deals mainly with health insurance issuer contributions into risk pools and disbursements from risk pools to health insurance issuers to maintain stability in the health insurance marketplace as coverage expands as a result of the ACA. [More]

HHS Proposes Revisions to Health Insurance Rules

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed rules in the March 21, 2014 Federal Register to update and clarify a wide range of health insurance rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed rules would adjust requirements for health insurance in the individual and group health insurance markets; standards for health insurance Exchanges; standards for health insurance issuers offering qualified health plans (QHPs) through Exchanges; reporting requirements for health insurance issuers on health care quality, medical loss ratios (MLRs), and rebates to consumers from issuers that do not meet MLR requirements; and standards under the ACA reinsurance, risk corridor, and risk adjustment programs. The proposed rules require Exchanges to display prominently on their web sites QHP quality rating and enrollee satisfaction survey results, and that QHPs participate in quality improvement strategies. The proposed rules also set forth revised procedures applicable to Navigators and other consumer assistance entities, privacy and security of personally identifiable information, program integrity, non-discrimination among consumers, investigation of complaints, and potentially severe civil monetary penalties (CMPs) that can be imposed as a result of improper use or disclosure of information, fraudulent practices, and other violations of Exchange standards. Under a new exception to Exchange non-discrimination standards, an organization receiving Federal funds to provide services to a defined population (e.g., the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program or an Indian health provider) may limit its provision of certified application counselor services to that population as long as it agrees to offer referral services to others seeking assistance. The proposed rules would circumscribe State requirements that might unduly restrict Exchange functions, such as requirements that Navigators carry errors and omissions insurance or hold agent or brokers licenses, and would explicitly prohibit improper activities such as charging applicants for application assistance or accepting remuneration from applicants or kickbacks from insurers. The proposed rules make clear that State-based Exchanges may, and Federal Exchanges will, require consumers to make payment of the first month’s premium in order to effectuate the consumer’s enrollment in a QHP. Comments on the proposed rules are due April 21, 2014. [More]

Judge Denies Class Action Status for Plaintiffs in Student Data Mining Lawsuit

A March 19, 2014 Associated Press article reported that a U.S. District Court judge in California has denied class action status for plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that Google’s use of students’ email content without consent violates the students’ privacy. In denying class action status, the judge ruled that determining which plaintiffs did or did not consent to Google’s use of his/her email content is impossible; individual lawsuits will have to be filed. Google’s software, Apps for Education, includes free email (Google’s Gmail) and is used by thousands of education agencies across the country. A March 13 Education Week article stated that Google has acknowledged that it scans and indexes the content of Gmail messages sent and received by students (called “data mining”). [More]

CMS Issues Letter on Requirements for Increased Provider Offerings by Health Plans in 2015

On March 14, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Letter, entitled, “2015 Letter to Issuers in the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces.” Among its provisions, the Letter states that health plans selling on the federal marketplaces in 2015 must include 30 percent of area “essential community providers,” which are usually health centers and other hospitals serving mostly low-income patients. [More]

Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 Legislation Debated

The reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) continues to be delayed through committee, as well as multiple amendments addressing a wide array of issues. On March 12, 2014 more than 30 amendments were introduced on the Senate floor in an effort to refine, redefine, and improve the requirements of the legislation. Often the amendments involved striking a word here and there, but some amendments called for substantive changes such as the elimination of duplicative programs. Those programs identified for elimination included. [More]

ACF Budget Request for FY 2015

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) 2015 budget request attempts to restore funds that were enacted for 2014 – an increase from the 2013 sequestration reductions. In most programs, additional funding was not requested but the desire to maintain current levels of appropriation was evident throughout the budget. The increases below are a sample of the requests made by ACF for the most vulnerable children and families served by the programs under the Administration. An increase of $1.365 billion for components of Head Start and Early Head Start with lesser amounts recommended in other programs. [More]

HHS Finalizes Rules on State Operated Basic Health Programs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published final rules in the March 12, 2014 Federal Register on state administration of optional “Basic Health Programs” (BHPs) authorized under section 1331 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This optional state program will be available mainly for state residents with household incomes between 133 percent and 200 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL) who would otherwise be eligible to enroll in qualified health plans (QHPs) offered through Exchanges. Certain lawfully present non-citizens with incomes under 133 percent of the FPL can qualify under the BHP option also. This optional state program will be available in 2015. [More]

HHS Releases Progress Report on Exchanges

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) released a monthly progress report on March 11, 2014 showing that 4,242,325 individuals selected a qualified health plan (QHP) through Exchanges by March 1, 2014. This includes 1,621,239 individuals selecting QHPs through State-based Exchanges and 2,621,086 individuals selecting QHPs through Federally-facilitated Exchanges. [More]

USDE Awards New School Improvement Grants

On March 13, 2014, U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Secretary Arne Duncan announced that 10 states have been awarded School Improvement Grants (SIG) to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-performing schools. Sharing in the total $95 million funding are Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas. [More]