IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: ‘Cantwell: Where’s the Basic Health Plan program?’

DC, State headlines take note of Cantwell’s push to move forward on Basic Health Program implementation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Recently, national and Washington state news took notice of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) concerted push to get administration officials to explain why the Federal Basic Health Option (FBHO) is not being implemented on time. Last week, while questioning a top federal health official, Cantwell said she may not support President Obama’s nominee for administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) because of the administration’s failure to implement this key component of health care reform that could bring substantial cost-savings to low-income consumers in states like Washington.

Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator of CMS, was renominated by President Obama earlier this month. At the hearing Cantwell expressed concerns about supporting Tavenner due to the slow implementation of the Cantwell-championed FBHO, which was enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act. CMS is tasked with implementing the FBHO.

In recent weeks, Cantwell has asked Administration officials to explain why the program isn’t being implemented in 2014, at the same time as state exchanges, as the law advises. On February 13, during a Finance Committee hearing, Cantwell questioned President Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee and former White House Chief of Staff, Jacob Lew, about the delay and urged him to help push forward on its implementation. The following day, February 14, during another Finance Committee hearing, Cantwell questioned an HHS official on the agency’s support of the program.



‘Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is serious about getting HHS to issue timely regs on the ACA’s Basic Health Plan — so serious, that she’s threatening to withhold support for Marilyn Tavenner’s nomination to lead CMS. Cantwell continued her harsh criticism of Obama health officials yesterday, two weeks after she pressed CCIIO chief Gary Cohen and now-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on why the administration is delaying implementation of the BHP by a year.’ [Politico, 3/01/13]


‘Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington says she’ll vote “no” to confirm fellow Democrat Marilyn Tavenner to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services absent a commitment from the agency that it will greenlight the overhaul law’s Basic Health Program in 2015. Without a green light for 2015, Cantwell says she won’t vote to confirm Tavenner. “Because they keep saying, ‘well, we haven’t gotten there so we can’t say what 2015 is going to be.’ Well it’s really clear what the law says. We’ve been talking to them about this for over a year, pushing them to get out the rules for states. So they’re basically going to push a more expensive model and we don’t want to see it.’ [CQ, 2/28/13]


‘During the hearing, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said she was concerned that CMS was too slow in implementing an ACA provision that could bring significant cost savings to states and low-income consumers. Cantwell even said she might not support Marilyn Tavenner, President Obama's nominee for CMS administrator, because of the agency's apparent unwillingness to implement the federal Basic Health Program option.

Tavenner is the acting leader of CMS. Delaying the program one year means low-income consumers will be forced to shoulder higher costs on the exchange or forgo coverage and depend on the state for health care costs in the interim, the senator said. “Somehow the agency seems to be very anxious—instead of implementing the law in 2014 as called by in the Affordable Care Act—seems to be anxious that somehow giving this population just above the Medicaid rate a more affordable benefit plan … is somehow against the interest of the overall Act,” Cantwell said.’ [Bloomberg BNA, 3/1/13]


‘Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) signaled Thursday that she may not support Marilyn Tavenner's nomination to lead the Medicare agency because the federal Basic Health Plan Option, a part of the Affordable Care Act, has not been fully implemented. Cantwell tangled in a Senate Finance Committee hearing with Jonathan Blum, acting principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking why
regulators have not made further progress on the option. She suggested that regulators see the plan as "somehow against the interest" of healthcare reform.

“Ms. Tavenner definitely will not have my support," Cantwell said. "I’m interested in the commitment of the administration to live up to the way the Affordable Care Act’s provisions say it should be implemented."’ [The Hill, 2/28/13]


‘Sen. Maria Cantwell is trying to get the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to step up efforts to create the "Basic Health Plan" option. Cantwell, D-Wash., asked about the status of the basic plan program today during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Medicare delivery system.

Cantwell used the hearing as an opportunity to press Blum to tell administrators at CMS to get the basic plan program going, even if the program could prove to be stiff competition for the new health insurance exchange program that states and the HHS are now setting up. Officials and HHS and CMS want to implement the program in 2015, Blum said. "I'm not interested in having the schedule of the date it's going to be implemented," Cantwell told Blum. "I'm interested in making sure the agency doesn't thwart a more cost-effective solution to somehow 'save the exchange.'’ [LifeHealthPro, 2/28/13]


‘The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers the programs, has put a critical component of expanding Medicaid on the backburner until 2015, and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is none too happy about it. So much so, that Cantwell said in Senate Finance Committee hearing today that she won't support President Obama’s renomination for Acting Administrator of CMS, Marilyn Tavenner.

Cantwell, who has a history of getting in Obama allies' faces, recently championed the a component of the Affordable Care Act known as the federal Basic Health Plan Option, which provides medical coverage for those between the cut offs for Medicaid (138 percent of the federal poverty level or $26,000 for a family of three), but are still too poor to participate in the state exchange established by Obamacare.’ [Publicola, 2/28/13]