Update: H.R. 181 and Its Impact on Medicaid Compliant Annuities

Capitol Hill

Disclaimer: With Medicaid, VA, and insurance regulations frequently changing, past blog posts may not be presently accurate or relevant. Please contact our office for information on current planning strategies, tips, and how-to's.

On January 3, 2017, Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced H.R. 181 hoping to change the way payments from Medicaid Compliant Annuities (MCA) would be assessed for Medicaid eligibility purposes. In 2015, he introduced a similar resolution (H.R. 1771), but that bill never made it out of committee. Here’s what we know today.

Where Is H.R. 181 Now?

H.R. 181 is currently being considered by the Committee on Energy and Commerce. This committee is one of the oldest in our government’s history and serves as the principal guide in matters relating to the promotion of commerce and to the public’s health and marketplace interests.

What Happens “In Committee?”

According to past research and analysis, when a bill is referred to committee, it has about a 4 percent chance of ever making it out. Why? In any given two-year session of Congress, more than 10,000 bills are introduced. Because of the volume of bills, the majority “die in committee” because they are simply forgotten and never discussed. Here’s what happens in committee:

  1. Once a bill has been introduced and assigned to a committee, the committee will typically hold a public hearing. This is where committee members hear witnesses representing various viewpoints on the measure. (A transcript for the H.R. 181 hearing can be found here.)
  2. After hearings are completed, the bill is considered in a session commonly known as the “markup.” Here is where members of the committee study the viewpoints presented in detail and offer amendments. Committee members must vote to accept or reject each amendment.
  3. With the markup complete, a vote of committee or subcommittee members is taken to determine the next step. A proposed bill can be reported, with or without amendments, or tabled, meaning no further action will be taken. If it is approved, it moves onto either the House of Representatives or the Senate (depending on where it originated).

How Will H.R. 181, Or Any Proposed Bill, Become A Law?

Here’s the process a bill must go through before it becomes a law:

  1. A legislator (Representative or Senator) introduces a bill in their respective house (House of Representatives or Senate). The legislator typically creates the bill based off commentary or concern in their respective district.
  2. The bill is formally presented and referred to a specific committee. In the case of H.R. 181, the bill is being considered by the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  3. In committee, the bill is studied, debated, marked-up, and rewritten as necessary. If approved, the bill goes onto the house where it was first introduced (House of Representatives or the Senate).
  4. If the bill passes one house, it goes onto the next. If it passes the second house, it goes onto the President for final approval. Note: The House of Representatives or the Senate can also vote to reject the bill or send it back to committee. If it’s sent back to committee, it must start the process over.
  5. The President also has the option to veto the bill and send it back to Congress. Members of Congress can then change the bill to the President’s liking, agree to let the bill go, or vote to override the President’s veto.

Could H.R. 181 Be Included In Another Bill For Faster Approval?

While this is possible, it’s highly unlikely. First, the practice of attaching a controversial or unpopular bill to another more popular bill is generally not allowed in the House of Representatives (the first house that would consider H.R. 181 if it leaves committee). While it could happen in the Senate where the rules are more tolerant for this act, it’s still unlikely. Riders, as they’re called, are only effective when attached to an important bill, such as an appropriations bill where a delay in a vote means a delay in funding for governmental programs.

What Does This Mean For You?

There is no need to put your clients in any type of holding pattern while we wait for a decision. Quite frankly, a decision may never come. We advise all agents to continue as normal. There is no indication that H.R. 181 will be revisited or moved out of committee any time soon. In fact, as of mid-April, more than 3,300 bills and resolutions have been introduced, referred to committee and are awaiting further action.

Our staff at The Krause Agency will continue to monitor this bill and any changes that may come forward. But rest assured, even in the event H.R. 181 makes its way out of this pile, there are still plenty of obstacles that stand in its way of becoming a law.