Disability Policy News In Brief

November 2, 2015

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November 2, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 45
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House Leadership

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on October 30, replacing John Boehner (R-OH), who retired after holding the post for nearly five years. Ryan's election concludes weeks of uncertainty over who would succeed Boehner. The new speaker now faces the difficult task of overseeing a House that remains divided along partisan lines. In his opening remarks, Speaker Ryan criticized the Congressional gridlock, stating that "the House is broken". He called upon all members to set aside grudges and re-engage with one another.  In 2012 Ryan was the vice presidential running mate of Mitt Romney.  As former Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan was the chief architect of several budget proposals that would have made severe cuts to programs important to people with disabilities, including Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Budget and Appropriations

After weeks of uncertainty, Congressional leaders and the White House reached a two-year budget deal late in the evening on October 26 (see AUCD's press statement on the deal). The deal includes an increase to the debt limit, which was set to reach its limit on November 3. Defense and nondefense spending will both be raised by $50 billion in FY 2016 and $30 billion the following year. The increases in spending will be divided between defense and nondefense programs evenly, one of the President's chief principles in the negotiations. The increases are enough to prevent any sequestration cuts this year, at least.  The deal also contains a reallocation between Social Security trust funds which will prevent pending cuts to SSDI beneficiaries. The budget bill passed the House 266-167 and was approved by the Senate 64-35. President Obama signed the bill today, November 2, 2015.  The next step is for the Budget Committees to provide new allocations to the 12 appropriations subcommittees.  An omnibus bill combining the 12 bills is expected to be passed before the current continuing resolution expires on Dec. 11.  AUCD will be advocating for the highest possible allocation for the Labor, HHS, Education bill that provides most of the funding for AUCD network and other disability programs.

Social Security

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 that was just signed into law today (see Budget above) not only provides sequestration relief for two years, but also makes several changes to shore up the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, including a reallocation of the payroll tax from the old-age trust fund sufficient to extend the life of the SSDI trust fund for six years.  SSDI provides benefits to workers who pay into Social Security and develop a serious disability that limits their ability to work. The budget deal also renews SSA's demonstration authority to test new ideas for improving SSDI and employment outcomes for people with disabilities.  It also authorizes an evaluation of the demonstration projects to help build an evidence base for future efforts.  The budget agreement also takes steps to strengthen program integrity and improve SSDI procedures. For more details about these provisions, see Title VIII of the budget agreement summary.


There is no formal action currently on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, HR. 5/S.1177), although advocates suspect congressional staff are negotiating behind the scenes on a conference bill.  No formal conference committee has been named.  Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress released a timely report on the need for subgroup accountability in ESEA.  The findings in the report comport with AUCD and other Civil Rights groups' contention that disadvantaged students do better when states and districts are held accountable for the performance of subgroups of students, including those with disabilities.

Meanwhile, the House Education Committee held its first hearing on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act last week and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force put together principles for the reauthorization at the request of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee leaders.

The READ Act (H.R. 3033, Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act) was passed by the House on October 26. The bill, which compels the National Science Foundation's budget to include a specific line item for the Research in Disabilities Education program, also requires the NSF to invest at least $5 million annually in competitively-awarded dyslexia research projects. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it will be considered by the Senate HELP Committee.


Georgetown University Health Policy Institute released a report on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which revealed that the rate of uninsured status among children has reached an historic low following implementation of the ACA last year. The report, which drew upon American Community Survey (ACS) data, found that declines in uninsured status were prevalent throughout the U.S., with 25 states experiencing statistically significant decreases and no state witnessing a rise in the number of uninsured children. States that extended Medicaid coverage to uninsured adults fared especially well, reporting improvement in children's coverage at rates nearly twice as high as those found in states that refused to accept the ACA's Medicaid option.

Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for 2016 health insurance plans through the Marketplace begins this week, starting November 1. The open enrollment period lasts three months, concluding on January 31. There is a two-month gap between the start of enrollment and the beginning of coverage, meaning that coverage for those who enroll on November 1 may begin January 1.  The last dates to enroll in or change plans are December 15 (for plans whose coverage begins January 1) and January 15 (for plans whose coverage begins February 1). More information about the timeline for Open Enrollment can be found on the Healthcare.gov website, as well as the Open Enrollment Toolkit and the "Get Covered" Information Guide.         

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In case you missed last week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviewed Adriane Griffen, AUCD's Director of Public Health, about inclusive health planning and collaborative initiatives that foster early identification. Tomorrow, Liz will discuss the policy-related activities and programs at AUCD's upcoming annual meeting (Nov 15-18), including several excellent plenary sessions and Hill visits by AUCD network members with their congressional delegations.  See the full schedule of events on the AUCD website.

For more from AUCD, follow @AUCDNews and like AUCD on Facebook

For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.

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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