Disability Policy News In Brief

September 14, 2015

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September 14, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 38
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House Energy and Commerce Hearing: Strengthening Medicaid Program Integrity

 On September 11, the Health Subcommittee held a hearing on "Strengthening Medicaid Program Integrity and Closing Loopholes."  Witnesses included: Nico Gomez (OK Health Care Authority), John Hagg (Director of Medicaid Audits, Department of Health and Human Services), and Patricia Riley (Commissioner, Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission). During the comment period, the focus was on curbing waste, fraud, and abuse within the Medicaid programs. The bills that were discussed during the hearing were introduced last week: HR 1570, HR 1771, HR 2339, HR 4333, HR 2446, and draft bill.  AUCD will continue to monitor their progress.

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention

The House passed the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act (HR 1344) by voice vote (see last week's In Brief). This bill reauthorizes hearing tests and intervention programs for newborns, infants and young children. The next step is for the Members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to take up the bill. The programs funded through the EHDI Act are due to expire on Sept. 30 if the legislation is not reauthorized. EHDI grants to states have significantly increased the number of infants screened for hearing loss. In 2000, only about 40% of all newborns in the US were screened, compared to 97% in recent years. In 2011, 86.2% of the babies with diagnosed hearing loss were referred for Part C Early Intervention Services. AUCD will continue to monitor the progress of the Senate bill.

Grandparents Tax Credit

On September 1, Rep. Marc Veasey (TX) reintroduced H.R. 3475, the Grandparents Tax Credit Act, to lessen the financial burden on grandparents that serve as caregivers to their grandchildren, including those caring for children with disabilities, by providing a $500 refundable tax credit. AUCD has signed on to a letter in support of HR 3475. This legislation aims to alleviate the financial burdens placed upon the grandparent for the out-of-pocket expenses that they incur while raising their grandchildren in the event that the child parent cannot. This bill has 19 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. There is no companion bill in the Senate to date.

Special Needs Trust Fairness Act

Sen. Grassley (R-IA) sponsored S.349, a bill which would allow individuals with disabilities to establish a special needs trust for themselves, rather than needing a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court to set up the trust. This bill amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act. Cosponsors include Sen. Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Stabenow (D-MI). A companion bill, HR 670, was introduced by Rep. Thompson (R-PA). The House bill also has bipartisan support with 14 cosponsors. This is generally a technical fix that has been long sought.   

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

AUCD is pleased to report that on August 7, the Department of Labor (DOL) released updates to their fact sheets detailing the instances when siblings qualify for coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act. This means that siblings that are eligible employees can take job-protected unpaid leave for medical and family reasons. AUCD had been working with Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Sibling Leadership Network, and other national advocates to get this accomplished.

Transfer of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program

HHS announced that the administration of the TBI Program is being transferred from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) to the Administration on Community Living (ACL), effective October 1, 2015.  More specifically, the State Implementation Program will join the Independent Living Administration, and the Protection and Advocacy Grants Program will join the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 


The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a Testing Accommodations technical assistance guide reflecting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. This publication provides guidance on testing accommodations for individuals with disabilities who take standardized exams. It addresses the obligations of testing entities, who is entitled to testing accommodations, what types of testing accommodations must be provided, and what documentation may be required of the person requesting testing accommodations are also discussed.


On September 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has entered into a proposed settlement agreement with the State of Oregon.  The proposed agreement will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.  The agreement will impact more than 7,000 Oregon citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who can and want to work in competitive integrated employment settings. The proposed settlement addresses the rights of people with I/DD to receive state-funded employment services in integrated settings, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops. The agreement also provides relief to transition-age youth at risk of segregation. The DOJ released a fact sheet on the proposed agreement over Oregon Supported Employment.

Performance-Based Payment Options for Employment Services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new performance-based options for funding employment supports through a §1915(c) waiver. CMS will begin accepting payment structures that include outcome payments for Discovery or Supported Employment Assessments; or Job Development, Customized Employment Position as a single unit of service. Under this new payment structure, states can make milestone payments in addition to fee-for-service payments to reimburse providers when certain employment outcomes are achieved.  This would allow states and service providers to capture funds for all phases of job placement based on outcomes. CMS will soon be issuing a formal guidance, but in the meantime have provided an informal outline.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

For this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviewed Alison Barkoff (Director of Advocacy, Bazelon Center), mainly addressing the issue of home and community based waiver services. Also, in case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed former Senator and strong disability leader, Tom Harkin (D-IA). Subscribe to Tuesdays with Liz so you do not miss out on any interviews. 


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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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