Disability Policy News In Brief

March 6, 2017

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March 6, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 113
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Health Care

Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid 

Bills aimed at dramatically cutting and restructuring Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act are now on a fast track in the House of Representatives.  It appears that the House will use reconciliation procedures to repeal the ACA and pay for it with massive cuts to the Medicaid program.  The House bill was release just as this issue of In Brief was going to press (Click here to read a section-by-section of the bill). The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to hold a markup as soon as Wednesday.

AUCD is holding a national call to action with state advocates tomorrow, Tuesday, regarding state coalition planning.  Please contact Christine Grosso cgrosso@aucd.org before 1pm EST tomorrow if you are interested in participating. See also latest analyses by the Center on Budget that show the impact of the House plans to date.

Governors

The Republican Governors Association gathered in Washington DC last weekend. From this meeting, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee drafted up its Medicaid policy options for Congress. The plan shows internal discussions on how the would restructure Medicaid including the use of per capita caps and block grants.

AUCD has written and signed onto a number of letters expressing our deep concerns about the effect that changes to the structure of financing could mean for people with disabilities. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter to the US Congress urging them to oppose any attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), transform Medicaid into a block grant or per capita cap, and defund Planned Parenthood health centers. AUCD, along with several organizations, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to reject proposals to make radical structural changes to Medicaid. These proposals are designed to reduce federal support to state Medicaid programs, not to better serve Americans who rely on Medicaid to access health and long-term care.

Employee Wellness Programs

On March 1, the Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing entitled Legislative Proposals to Improve Health Care Coverage and Provide Lower Costs for Families. The committee heard from Jon B. Hurst (President of Retailers Association of Massachusetts), Allison R. Klausner (Principal Government Relations Leader Conduent Human Resource Services), Lydia Mitts (Associate Director of Affordability Initiatives Families USA, and Jay Ritchie (Executive Vice President of Tokio Marine HHC). Following this hearing House Education and the Workforce Committee leaders introduced two bills: the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1313), introduced by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R, NC) and the Self-Insurance Protection Act (H.R. 1304), introduced by Rep. Phil Roe (R, TN).  AUCD, NDRN, and NACDD sent a joint letter to expressing  concerns that concerned these bills would leave people with disabilities vulnerable to discrimination by allowing employers to penalize workers for not providing medical and genetic information, bypassing certain ADA protections, along with deep concerns about cuts to Medicaid.

Budget/Appropriations

The President announced that he will submit (as soon as next week) a Budget for FY 2018 that will recommend an increase in defense spending by $54 billion paid for by a corresponding cut to non-defense discretionary spending. A cut of this magnitude would be disastrous for education, employment and other programs that support people with disabilities.  However, the President's plan is only an opening bid and many in Congress have already announced their opposition to the plan.  In addition, the increase proposed in the President's budget would exceed the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and that will require 60 votes in the Senate, which would be hard to achieve.  After the President submits his Budget proposal to Congress, the House and Senate Budget Committees will get to draft their own budget plan.

Meanwhile, Congress has until April 28 to complete work on appropriations for fiscal year 2017 that ended on October 1, 2017.  There is still a possibility for an omnibus bill packaging the annual appropriations bill into one.  If Congress cannot agree on an omnibus bill, a full-year continuing resolution is likely.

Last week, President Donald Trump gave his first address to a joint session of Congress outlining his priorities. In case you didn't get a chance to watch or read the text, AUCD provided this brief summary of the President's remarks on a number of issues that concern people with disabilities.

Education

Civil Rights Data Collection

AUCD, along with 32 other civil rights and education groups, submitted joint comments reinforcing the importance of the Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Disaggregated data reported in the CRDC help us to know about students' experiences in schools and whether all students, including students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities, have equal access to education. The letter emphasizes that any change to limit the scope, frequency, or public accessibility of the civil rights data collection would certainly hamper the ability of the department to fulfil its legal obligations and would undermine our shared interest in the best education for every child.

Supreme Court

In 2015, the Department of Education said that schools "generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity."  On October 26, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G, which concerned a school district's obligation to accommodate a transgender student under Title IX and the US Education Department's implementing regulations. However, today, March 6, the US Supreme Court withdrew their decision to hear the case and will now be sending it back to the Virginia appeals court.  Many in the advocacy community are concerned that the Court has missed an opportunity to end the discrimination faced by transgender students in schools nationwide.

New Appointments

Department of Interior

On March 1, the Senate voted to confirm Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the Secretary of Interior; the final vote was 68-31, with 16 Democrats joining all Republicans. Zinke is a former Navy SEAL who will now lead the 70,000 employee department with a wide range of responsibilities. The US Department of the Interior oversees such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. The Secretary also serves on the board of the National Park Foundation and appoints private citizens to be members.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

On March 2, the Senate voted 58-41 to confirm Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Six Democrats and 1 independent joined all Republican senators in voting for his confirmation. Dr. Carson, who has no experience in housing policy, will now oversee an 8,000-employee department with a $49 million budget.

Department of Energy

On March 2, the Senate confirmed Rick Perry to lead the Energy Department (an agency he once pledged to eliminate). Perry, the former Texas governor and a two-time Republican presidential candidate, was confirmed on a 62-37 vote. The Senate confirmed Perry after only a few hours of debate on Thursday afternoon, moving unexpectedly quickly on the final cabinet-level member of President Trump's energy and environment team.

CMS

Seema Verma, who is in line to be the next Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has responded to questions for record submitted by a number of Senators. Questions addressed home and community based services and supports, concerns regarding the restructuring of Medicaid, Medicaid waivers, mental health services, reproductive health care, and more.

Social Security

In case you missed it, on February 7, the House Ways and Means Committee held their first joint hearing on Social Security Administration Representative Payee program. The Committee heard from Marianna LaCanfora - Acting Deputy Commissioner, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration (Testimony), Dr. Paul Appelbaum - Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine & Law, Columbia University (Testimony and Truth in Testimony), Lindsay Nichols - Senior Attorney, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence/Americans for Responsible Solutions (Testimony and Truth in Testimony), and Gale Stallworth Stone - Acting Inspector General, Social Security Administration (Testimony). There will be a second hearing on the topic (date to be announced soon).

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews four Nutrition is for Everyone ambassadors - Sarah Keathley (Arkansas), Lauren Griffiths (Louisiana), Lee Wallace (Tennessee), and Megan Krampe (Oklahoma). These ambassadors speak about the projects in their states that focus on how eating and learning about healthy food is important for everyone, including people with disabilities. In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), the father of a son with disabilities.  Rep. Sessions talk about the House Rules Committee that he chairs and the ABLE Act that he sponsored.

 


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For more policy news, follow Kim on Twitter at @kmusheno

For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms

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