Disability Policy News In Brief

May 2, 2016

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May 02, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 70
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The House and Senate head out for recess this week after a week of sparing over budget and appropriations funding that may make it even more unlikely that any spending bills will be passed before the Oct. 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.  In the Senate, progress stalled on one of the 12 annual funding bills (Energy and Water) over controversial amendments.  On the House side, Democrats and Republicans still have not come to agreement on an overall budget resolution, with fiscally conservative Republican members still insisting on $30 billion cuts in non-defense discretionary programs.  To date, none of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been passed by Congress.  Follow the progress of the 12 funding bills on Congress.gov.


A negotiated rule-making committee has completed its work on how to implement some sections of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The committee was asked to provide input in two areas: assessments (or tests) and supplement-not-supplant, which deals with how states and districts spend their own funds in relation to federal money. While the committee did not come to agreement on the funding issue, it did come to consensus on recommendations regarding assessments, including how to include students with the most significant disabilities in assessments and when to allow the use of alternate assessments. These and other key issues of the law, including accountability, will be part of a notice of proposed rulemaking that will be issued by the Department of Education sometime in the near future.  AUCD and other advocates will be able to provide comments to the proposed rule at that time. 

Because there was no consensus around supplement-not-supplant the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights drafted a letter (that AUCD signed) urging the Department of Education to issue strong regulations that clarify the means by which school districts must demonstrate compliance with the "supplement, not supplant" requirement in Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This requirement ensures that districts that serve high percentages of low-income students can provide supplemental programs and services in areas where poverty is heavily concentrated. It is necessary to have clear regulations with regard to this matter in order to guarantee that Title I money intended to provide services to low-income students is used accordingly.

Health Care

Zika Virus

On April 26, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell announced plans to allocate $5 million to support public health efforts aimed at countering the spread of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico. The funds will be administered to 20 health centers in order to hire more staff and expand an array of voluntary family planning services, including maternal health education, outreach and contraceptive provision. The Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, causes many forms of fetal brain damage, including microcephaly and can lead to loss of pregnancy. The virus is already highly prevalent in Puerto Rico, where more than 400 individuals have been diagnosed, and it is expected to become more deeply embedded and spread to the mainland United States as the weather grows warmer. For more information about Zika, see the CDC website.


On April 27, NIH Director Francis Collins spoke about the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot Initiative at an event at the Bloomberg Government Data Analytics Event. When discussing the Precision Medicine Initiative (which will entail the mass collection of electronic health records and genetic information that will strengthen medical knowledge and support the development of targeted treatment), Dr. Collins stated that the NIH expects to have 80,000 such records collected by the end of 2016 and that it will eventually collect 1 million. The NIH is now inviting members of the public and health providers to participate in the PMI by sharing their records.  

During the event, Dr. Collins also answered questions regarding the NIH's position with regard to the federal government's power over drug pricing. He expressed reservations about using the "march-in right" authorized by the Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act (P.L. 96-517), which empowers the government to bring medical treatments to market if the patent owner fails to do so. Dr. Collins noted that this law was written to ensure new inventions that could benefit people's health were made available to the public, and that it would be inappropriate for the government to use this power to lower drug prices.

Tax Credit for Caregivers

Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have begun working together to promote a broader tax incentive for working family caregivers for relatives requiring long-term care. The Credit for Caring Act of 2016 (S. 2759/HR 4708) addresses the rising cost of health care for the nation's growing elderly population, which has long been a public policy debate, including assistance for the family caregivers. According to a 2015 study by AARP, caregivers provided about 37 billion hours of unpaid care in 2013, worth about $470 billion in total (or about $12.50/hour).  The Senate bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance and with bipartisan support and has five cosponsors: Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jon Tester (D-MT); the House companion bill introduced by Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means and has three bipartisan cosponsors: Representatives Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Dan Donovan (R-NY), and David Cicilline (D-RI). AUCD will continue to monitor the progress of this bill as it moves through committee.

Medicaid Guidance: Transitioning from Incarceration to Communities

On April 28, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) strengthened access to health care for individuals transitioning from incarceration back to their communities. The Medicaid guidance updates policy and clarifies that individuals who are currently on probation, parole or in home confinement are not considered inmates of a public institution. It also extends coverage to Medicaid-eligible individuals living in community halfway houses where they have freedom of movement, improving access to care for as many as 96,000 individuals in Medicaid expansion states over the course of the year. According to a report released by HHS, there are 2.2 million people currently incarcerated and 4.7 million people under probation or parole in the United States. Because over 95 percent of incarcerated individuals will eventually return to the community, their access to quality health care post-release is an important public health issue.


The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (or The Committee), which is mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, held their eighth meeting last week (April 27-28); the final meeting to approve content for the final report will be held July 20-21. The Committee discussed draft recommendations from the subcommittees for the final report and heard public testimony from organization including ANCOR, The Arc, Respectability, TASH, NIB, and Ability One. Also highlighted at the meeting were recommendations regarding 14(c) Certificates of Fair Labor Standards Act. The final report is due to the U.S. Secretary of Labor and Congress on September 15 of this year.          

AUCD Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month

As April came to a close, AUCD marked Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month for the final time by publishing a blog post detailing major accomplishments by scientists from the national network of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Research Centers (IDDRCs) who have conducted research related to autism and other intellectual disabilities since 1963. Researchers at IDDRCs made a number of notable breakthroughs, including the discovery of new evidence that pesticides may influence the development of autism as well as the identification of a possible new form of autism in individuals who share a special gene with others who have Down syndrome. The review of these research achievements from IDDRCs was contributed by Dr. Scott Pomeroy of the Children's Hospital Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center, Harvard Medical School. During Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month, AUCD also published several other blog posts that examined different issues pertaining to autism, including employment, public health, transition to employment and the Autism CARES Act. 

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All                   

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviews Wendy Parent-Johnson, UCEDD Director at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, about transitioning to employment. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Michael Morris, director of the National Disability Institute, about financial literacy for individuals with disabilities.


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

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