Disability Policy News In Brief

January 8, 2018

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January 8, 2018   |   Vol. XV, Issue 156
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Happy New Year!

Congress

The Senate returned for the second session of the 115th Congress on January 3. The House returned today, January 8. The House plans to be out of town for three full weeks ahead of Election Day on November 6, while the Senate plans to recess for two weeks around the midterm. It is common for the chambers to adjust their schedules during election years to provide time for campaigning. Please see the 2018 Congressional Calendar here.

Tax Bill

The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) released its final dynamic analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which was signed into law on December 22 (Public Law No: 115-97). JCT's analysis concludes the bill will have a modest impact on growth in the near term but almost no effect after a decade. After accounting for this near-term growth, the $1.46 trillion bill will still cost $1.07 trillion. This is consistent with estimates of the previous iterations of the House and Senate bills and inconsistent with claims that the bill will pay for itself or substantially accelerate sustained long-term growth.

See key disability provisions of the bill posted here:

  • Individual Mandate under Affordable Care Act (ACA) - repealed: "Elimination of Shared Responsibility Payment for Individuals Failing to Maintain Minimal Essential Coverage. The conference agreement follows the Senate amendment." (p. 153)
  • Disabled Access Credit - kept: "Repeal of credit for expenditures to provide access to disabled individuals. ... The conference agreement does not follow the House bill provision." (p. 290)
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit - kept: "Repeal of work opportunity tax credit. ... The conference agreement does not follow the House bill provision." (p. 285)
  • Orphan Drug credit -  reduced to 25%: "Repeal of credit for clinical testing expenses for certain drugs for rare diseases or conditions. ... The conference agreement follows the Senate amendment, but reduces the credit rate to 25 percent of qualified clinical testing expenses." (p. 282)
Also see the Joint Explanatory Statement and to learn more about debt, revenue, and taxes please see Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's "Everything You Should Know...".

 

Budget/Appropriations

On December 22, the House (231-188 vote) and Senate (66-32 vote) passed a continuing resolution -HR 1370, Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act of 2018 - that funds the government through January 19, 2018, which the President signed into law.  The bill provides funding at approximately the Fiscal Year 2017 level through January 19.  This continuing resolution also provides $2.85 billion to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through March 31. However, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, some states may run out of funding for the program before the end of January. The House proposal would significantly increase defense spending and slightly reduce non-defense spending compared to last year, while the Senate adopted unofficial guidance that has an overall spending level that is the same as FY 2017, but with different allocations within that total. To learn more about the appropriations process see the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's "Appropriations 101". Also, see section by section summary of HR 1370 here.

Congress will have to come to an agreement on a spending package by January 19 or enact another continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown; reconciliation on certain issues likely include: spending levels for defense and nondefense, disaster relief, extending DACA, extending funding for CHIP and other health "extenders" beyond March, extension of ACA cost-sharing reduction subsidies proposed by Senators Alexander and Murray, and creation of a health care reinsurance bill proposed by Senators Collins and Nelson.

Health Care

On January 5, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed rule to expand the use of association health plans (AHPs), "which applies only to employer-sponsored health insurance and would allow employers to join together as a single group to purchase insurance in the large group market" (see press release here and Federal Register here). The proposed regulation follows an executive order signed by the President on October 12, directing federal agencies to loosen restrictions on AHPs and short-term health coverage that may not comply with benefit requirements in the ACA. In other words, these plans would be exempt from many of the consumer protections mandated by the ACA. Several health care advocates, physician's groups, insurers, actuaries, and governors have opposed this measure, arguing that AHPs and short-term plans are a path to destabilizing the ACA exchanges and could drive up premiums. See summary of the proposed rule here and possible implications of the rule here.

Complex Rehab

AUCD signed on to a letter urging congressional leaders to support passage of H.R. 3730 in order to protect access to essential components of Complex Rehabilitation Technology such as wheelchairs and custom seating systems  for people with significant disabilities.

Hearing

Tomorrow, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.) will hold a hearing on "The Opioid Crisis: An Examination of How We Got Here and How We Move Forward."

Civil Rights - ADA

On December 21, the Department of Justice withdrew its October 2016 guidance on State and local governments' employment service systems, titled "Statement of the Department of Justice on Application of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C. to State and Local Governments' Employment Service Systems for Individuals with Disabilities." This document was intended as technical assistance guidance to states in determining whether their services are in compliance with the most integrated setting possible mandate of the Olmstead decision, and it has served as an excellent tool in guiding state and local governments to advance their employment efforts for citizens with disabilities. This action doesn't in any way change the court decision or current law. However, AUCD is concerned that it sends the wrong signal to public entities that are seeking to comply with the ADA and because it may reflect a diminished concern with the importance of providing employment services in the most integrated setting. AUCD signed onto a letter expressing the importance of this guidance.

Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) published a Request for Information (RFI) on Strategies To Improve Adult Outcomes for Youth Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Responses are due February 2. This RFI seeks public input on strategies for improving the adult economic outcomes of youth ages 14 to 25 with disabilities receiving SSI. The input received will inform deliberations about potential policy changes and the design of future demonstration projects for transition-age SSI recipients. AUCD will be preparing a response and is interested in hearing from any network members who are also preparing comments. If you are, please contact Christine Grosso at cgrosso@aucd.org.

Education

ESSA

To date, the Department of Education has provided initial feedback to 33 states and Puerto Rico that submitted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) consolidated state plans in September.  States received notes from external, independent peer reviewers, as well as specific information from Department staff about changes needed to ensure they are meeting the requirements under the statute. 

Voucher Programs

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, under agreement from The National Council on Disability and in cooperation with the Center for Law and Education, is conducting research for a report on Charter Schools, Choice, and Voucher Programs and the Implications for Students with Disabilities. Parents of students with disabilities or students who are or have used a voucher program or are attending, have attended or tried to attend a charter school are invited to participate in one of two focus groups.  Stakeholders who represent or support families are also welcomed to attend. For more information please visit the COPAA webpage.

The Government Accountability Organization published a report regarding private school choice for students with disabilities. The Council for Exceptional Children followed up on the GAO report with an article, "Private School Voucher Programs Fail Children with Disabilities and Their Families. Many advocates and national organizations oppose school vouchers for children with disabilities arguing that there is a lack of accountability in private schools; specifically, that private schools do not have to adhere to an Individualized Education Plan for children with disabilities and children are not guaranteed rights under the Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) provision of section 504.

New Appointments

Education

On December 21, Johnny Collett, a former state director of special education for Kentucky, was confirmed by voice vote to be the assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative services in the US Department of Education.

HHS

Tomorrow, Senate Finance Committee (Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah) will hold a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar II, to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Members of Congress

Last week, Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) was sworn in, bringing the chamber to 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. Also sworn in was Minnesota's Lt. Governor Tina Smith (who replaced Senator Al Franken).

Senator Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, also announced that he will not seek re-election this year. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has until March 15 to file for Hatch's seat, is expected to run.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

This week, Liz interviews Dan Habib about the shortcomings of assessing intelligence through IQ tests and also discusses his upcoming film, 'Intelligent Lives.' Dan Habib is a documentary film director who focuses on disability-related topics and a Project Director at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. In case you missed last week, Liz interviewed Patti Killingsworth (Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of TennCare), who explained the HCBS Rule.

 

 

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

 
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