Political briefs – Oct. 19


Staff report



BROWN LEADS DELEGATION IN LETTER URGING ENERGY SECRETARY TO ENSURE FUNDING CERTAINTY FOR PORTSMOUTH GASEOUS DIFFUSION PLANT – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), along with U.S. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-02), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09),Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), Bill Johnson (R-OH-06), Bob Latta (R-OH-05), Jim Renacci (R-OH-16), Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12), Steve Stivers (R-OH015), Bob Gibbs (R-OH-07), David Joyce (R-OH-14), Michael Turner (R-OH-10), Steve Chabot (R-OH-01), and Jim Jordan (R-OH-14) today urged U.S. Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz to maintain employment levels at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant using funding provided by Congress and to include adequate funding for Piketon’s decontamination & decommissioning (D&D) operations in the Administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.

In their letter, the lawmakers said, “Our delegation is committed to ensuring that Piketon is adequately provided for in the spending package and we would like to work with you and your staff to ensure this happens. But, just as importantly, it is incumbent upon DOE to include adequate funding in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request that will maintain current employment levels on the D&D work. We look forward to working with you to avoid proposed layoffs at the site and to accelerate redevelopment in Piketon.”

Workers at Piketon – both in its D&D operations and at the American Centrifuge Plant – have received WARN notices that their jobs were in jeopardy. Congress passed a short-term funding bill in September that ensures that D&D operations at the plant will continue through Dec. 11. Earlier this month, Secretary Moniz indicated that no layoffs would occur within Piketon’s D&D operations through Dec. 11.

BROWN JOINS BIPARTISAN GROUP OF 24 SENATORS IN CALLING FOR FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF MENTAL HEALTH PARITY LAW – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and 21 other Senate colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to take immediate, overdue action to fully implement and enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). In a letter addressed to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and DOL Secretary Thomas E. Perez, the senators emphasized that implementation of MHPAEA – a law enacted more than seven years ago to ensure that health insurance plans cover behavioral and physical health equally – has been incomplete and inconsistent. The senators warned that parity is still not a reality for individuals living with mental illness and addiction, and that health plans routinely refuse to disclose medical management information making it impossible for consumers and providers to determine if the plans are treating behavioral and physical health equally. Noting that HHS and DOL are chiefly responsible for implementation and enforcement of the law, Brown requested that the agencies conduct thorough audits and issue additional parity guidance so that individuals seeking recovery and treatment for mental health disorders and substance abuse can access the benefits promised to them under MHPAEA. Specifically, the letter asks the Secretaries to clarify when the agencies will enforce parity in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which Brown fought to protect earlier this year.

The senators wrote, “We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to implement and enforce the MHPAEA. It has now been over 7 years since MHPAEA was passed and signed into law by President Bush, but our constituents continue to report denials of care and great difficulties in accessing substance use and mental health disorder treatment and services. We look forward to working together to ensure individuals in and seeking recovery from substance use and mental health disorders can access the benefits promised to them under the law,” wrote the Senators in their letter.

FOLLOWING REPORTS THAT SOCIAL SECURITY RECIPIENTS WILL NOT RECEIVE A COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENT THIS YEAR, BROWN ANNOUNCES PLANS TO REINTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO STRENGTHEN BENEFITS – Following reports that approximately 65 million Social Security recipients will not receive an annual cost of living adjustment for the first time in five years, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy – today announced his plans to reintroduce legislation that would ensure that seniors and other recipients receive a cost of living adjustment that is responsive to their expenses and needs.

“Social Security is the bedrock of retirement security in America – providing disability insurance and retirement insurance for millions of seniors and Americans with disabilities,” said Brown. “Today’s news means some will have to make tough decisions each month while juggling prescription drug costs, groceries, and other expenses. Budgets are already stretched thin and Americans need a cost of living adjustment that meets their needs. I intend to reintroduce legislation to help boost benefits for Social Security recipients and ensure that each year their cost of living adjustment provides the support they need.”

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Staff report

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