Week Ending June 16, 2017
Senate GOP Leaders Work in Secret to Finalize Health Care Bill
Senate Republican leaders continue to work behind closed doors to finalize their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut Medicaid. The Senate will hold no hearings on their bill. It also appears that they will not make the bill public until the floor debate begins. Based on comments made by GOP leaders, the bill will largely mirror the House bill which would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance and reduce federal Medicaid payments to the states by 25%.
A report out this week by Nashville-based Healthcare Management Partners found that rural hospitals are at special risk due to the health care legislation. According to an analysis of 1,300 rural hospitals and 1,200 urban hospitals across the country over the last 7 years, they found that rural hospitals depend more heavily on revenues from patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid and that the ACA has significantly reduced losses due to uncompensated care. Because they are more financially precarious, an increase in the number of uninsured would put rural hospitals at greater risk of closure. The report stated that Medicaid cuts now under consideration would rapidly accelerate the rate of closings.
House Approves Bill to Undermine Worker Protections; President Expected to Sign the Bill
The House voted 368 to 55 to approve anti-worker legislation Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 1094) which would undermine collective bargaining, eliminate employees’ due process rights and open the door to the unfair discharge of employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). AFSCME strongly opposes S. 1094, not only because it takes away the rights of VA employees, but because it sets a damaging precedent that could be extended to other federal employees.
This bill lowers management’s burden of proof to fire a worker from “preponderance” of evidence to “substantial” evidence. Thus, the reduced standard would allow management to discharge an employee even if less than 50% of the evidence supports this decision. The bill also would weaken a worker’s right to appeal by preventing a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) administrative judge from adjusting or reducing a management-proposed penalty. The bill also significantly reduces the time available for an employee to pursue a grievance and appeal to MSPB.
The Senate already voted to approve S. 1094 and it is expected to be signed into law by President Trump.
President Touts Apprenticeship Programs, but the Money Doesn’t Follow
This week, President Trump signed an executive order which he said would expand apprenticeships and vocational training. However, the description of the executive order is undercut by the President’s budget proposal for FY 2018 which would cut more than 30% from Employment and Training (ET) programs administered by the Department of Labor and would provide little new money for apprenticeships.
AFSCME has a long history of supporting policy initiatives that upgrade the skills of the U.S. workforce, and agrees that federal investments in work-based learning are a key strategy for improving job skills. But lofty goals must be accompanied by the real commitment of federal resources and, so far, the President has failed to make that commitment.
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