Disability Policy News In Brief

January 3, 2017

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January 2, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 104
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Congressional Schedule
The 115th Congress convened today with new members being sworn in.  Republicans have control of both chambers for the first time since 2006 As expected, Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) today was formally elected speaker of the House for the first session of the 115th Congress. Ryan will lead the House with 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats. According to Congressional leaders, repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act along with Medicaid block grants are among the highest priorities. Other possible priorities include tax reductions; pulling back environmental, labor, education, and financial regulations put forward by the Obama Administration; immigration and border security changes; a defense buildup; possible spending on infrastructure; and more. The Senate will also be busy with confirmation hearings on President-elect Trump's Cabinet nominees. (see Washington Post article for more). 


Speaking of nominees, the Senate HELP Committee could hold a hearing on the nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, a Michigan activist and philanthropist, as soon as January 12.  DeVos actively advocates for the expansion of publicly funded private schools, especially through the use of vouchers. The Judiciary Committee also plans to hold its nomination hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the nominee for Attorney General.  Sessions has been highly criticized for his stance on civil rights, including the educational rights of students with disabilities. Today, Sessions recused himself from serving on the Judiciary Committee on which he currently serves.

Budget and Health

Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY) today introduced a fiscal 2017 budget resolution that begins the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to Hill news sources the resolution contains reconciliation instructions for two committees in the House and two in the Senate to write legislation to repeal the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). Jan. 27 is the deadline for the committees to turn in their portions of the repeal to their respective Budget committees.  In a letter to the editor today economist Robert Greenstein says the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute estimates that repealing ACA's coverage expansions would double the number of uninsured Americans, from 29 million to 59 million.

Prior to the holiday recess, AUCD emailed an action alert with talking points to use to educate members of Congress about the most important provisions within the ACA that must be protected.  More action alerts on this important topic will be coming soon.

Medicaid Resources

Congressional leaders and the incoming Trump Administration have been discussing proposals to block grant or provide per capita caps to limit Medicaid funding.  Both of these proposals would shift significant costs onto states and would lead to significant reductions in health care coverage and home and community based services and supports.  To help the public and policymakers understand the impact of such changes, one of AUCD's coalition partners, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), developed a series of "Protect Medicaid Funding" fact sheets analyzing the impact of legislative efforts to limit Medicaid.   Another succinct analysis regarding the negative impact of Medicaid block grant proposals is provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.   

The Center also published a report analyzing the impact of repealing the Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act.  According to the report, repealing the Medicaid expansion would eliminate health coverage for more than 11 million low-income Americans in the 31 states and DC that have taken up this option.  It would also cut off the possibility of gaining coverage for the 4 million uninsured people in the remaining 19 states who would become Medicaid-eligible if their state expanded.

For noteworthy current developments in State Medicaid policies, please see the January issue of Medicaid Watch prepared by our colleagues at the Community Access National Network (CANN).

Please feel free to share and use these resources to help educate Governors and other state and federal policymakers.

Long Term Services

On December 30, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to states on the implementation of the Community First Choice State Plan Option, a home and community-based benefit package available to states to promote community integration.  The purpose of the CFC option is to provide individuals meeting an institutional level of care the opportunity to receive necessary personal attendant services (PAS) and supports in a home and community-based setting.   The guidance package includes three documents: (1) a State Medicaid Director's (SMD) letter, (2) a state plan amendment (SPA) pre-print, and (3)  a technical guide that provides information to assist states with completing the pre-print.  The letter is available online on Medicaid.gov at https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/federal-policy-guidance.html.


AUCD is pleased to report that the Department of Education published on December 18 the final regulations and a Fact Sheet regarding Equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The regulations address a number of issues related to significant disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities based on race or ethnicity.  AUCD submitted comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking.

Today The U.S. Department of Education released three new sets of important package of guidance to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of educational institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn. The guidance includes a parent and educator resource guide to Section 504 in public elementary and secondary schools; a Dear Colleague letter (DCL) and question and answer document on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools; and a DCL and question and answer documents on the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools. In addition to these documents, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document designed for parents to provide a brief overview of the rights of public charter school students with disabilities and the legal obligations of charter schools under Section 504 and the IDEA.  Please share these resources widely.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All                   

This week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Siddarth Nagaraj about the 21st Century Cures Act that includes mental health reforms and an infusion of resources into the National Institutes of Health for research into cancer, precision medicine, and other research intended to lead to cures.  In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Taylor Carley, the host of Chit Chat with Taylor, where they discuss his video show. 

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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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