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House passes mental health first aid, CO-OP bills

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The House of Representatives  approved two health insurance-related bills this week.

One, H.R. 1877, the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2016 bill, could provide about $75 million in funding to continue a mental health outreach training program that has strong support from Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins, D-Kan., introduced that bill with Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and it passed Monday on a voice vote.

The bill has more Democratic co-sponsors than Republican co-sponsors, and it appears to have a good shot of being signed into law.

The other bill, H.R. 954, the CO-OP Consumer Protection Act of 2016 bill, could affect enrollees in Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan carriers that fail in the middle of the year.

H.R. 954 would exempt stranded CO-OP carrier enrollees from having to pay the individual shared responsibility penalties that the Affordable Care Act imposes on many people who fail to have what the government classifies as solid health coverage, or minimum essential coverage, for enough of the year.

Related: For feds, fate of dead CO-OPs’ former enrollees is a mystery

House members voted 258 to 165 to pass H.R. 954 Tuesday.

All Republicans who voted supported the bill.

Most of the 181 Democrats who voted opposed the bill, but 16 crossed party lines to support it. The list of Democrats who voted for H.R. 954 includes Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who has been a strong supporter of the ACA.

Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., the lawmaker who introduced H.R. 954, said it would be unfair for the government to penalize taxpayers who tried to take responsibility for their health coverage and end up uninsured, with access to no affordable coverage options, through no fault of their own. 

The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy that President Obama opposes the bill, and will veto it if it comes to him.

The Obama administration believes the bill is unnecessary, would duplicate the relief provided by existing penalty exemption provisions, and would create a bad precedent by using minimum essential coverage exemption provisions to address ACA concerns that are not necessarily directly related to people’s ability to find and pay for minimum essential coverage, officials said.


Ways and Means to mark up CO-OP bill

Mental health first-aid bill to get full committee review

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