Disability Policy News In Brief

January 30, 2017

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January 30, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 108
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Nomination Hearings

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee (Chaired by Lamar Alexander, R-TN) will hold a hearing on the nomination of Andy Puzder to be Secretary of Labor on February 7th. The Senate committee will vote on Betsy DeVos' nomination to be Secretary of Education on January 31. Last week Mrs. DeVos sent a letter in response to questions by Senator Isakson (Member of Senate Committees on Finance as well as HELP) clarifying her position on protecting the rights of students with disabilities and enforcing IDEA. In the letter, DeVos expresses her commitment to "enforcing all federal laws and protecting the hard won rights of students with disabilities," but remained largely short on specifics.  AUCD wrote a letter following the hearing expressing serious concerns with a number of responses related to special education and asking for clarification of her understanding and support of federal enforcement of the civil rights of students with disabilities under IDEA before there is a committee vote on her confirmationThe Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities wrote a similar letter asking for specific answers to important questions regarding her views on civil rights and special education signed by 40 national CCD member-organizations.  The CCD letter was cited in last week's Disability Scoop article on DeVos.

Congressman Price has now been through two different hearings and will soon be scheduled for a vote to confirm his nomination. Timing for this vote is likely to be in early to mid-February. Democrats raised a number of ethical concerns and expressed frustration by the lack of specificity of his responses to committee members' questions.  Congressman Price has suggested that the repeal and replace legislation is the prerogative of Congress and that he will administer whatever Congress passes.  In the hearings, he did not reaffirm support for his own legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (which he introduced in the 114th Congress) and avoided specific endorsement of block grants for Medicaid and moving Medicare toward a defined contribution, rather than a defined benefit, program.

For more information about each of these and other nominations, see the New York Times summary: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/politics/donald-trump-administration.html

Supreme Court

President Trump has said he will announce his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court this week. If confirmed, the nominee will replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13.  The Court has been operating with only eight justices since then.

Health Care


Republican lawmakers are set to move swiftly on plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Last Tuesday, January 24, the House Budget Committee held a hearing titled "The Failures of Obamacare: Harmful Effects and Broken Promises," while the Ways and Means Committee examined the "effectiveness" of the individual mandate to buy insurance, and important piece of the ACA's model to expand insurance and make it more affordable. Next week the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a pair of hearings on key policy topics:  January 3, "Medicaid Oversight: Existing Problems and Ways to Strengthen the Program" and February 1, "Strengthening Medicaid and Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable". The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on February 1 entitled "Rescuing Americans from the Failed Health Care Law and Advancing Patient-Centered Solutions". The HELP Committee will hold a hearing on February 1 called "Obamacare Emergency: Stabilizing the Individual Health Insurance Market".  AUCD emailed an action alert urging network members to educate state and federal policy makers about the health care needs of people with disabilities and families.

Medicaid Resources

To help educate policymakers and families about Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Kaiser Family Foundation has developed these helpful  fact sheets and interactive map that provide a snapshot with key data for Medicaid in every state related to current coverage, access and financing.

Vaccine Safety

A number of organizations representing families, providers, patients, and consumers, wrote a coalition letter developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to President Trump expressing unequivocal support for the safety of vaccines. Stating that vaccines protect the health of children and adults, saves lives and prevents life-threatening diseases, including forms of cancer. The letter is in response to President Trump's statements that he believes vaccines are harmful and erroneously suggested that they cause autism.

Home and Community Based Services

Initial Approvals

Two more states have received initial approvals of their Statewide Transition Plan: Hawaii and New Mexico. These letters are the communication CMS sends to the state notifying the state that public comment, input and summary requirements are met, the STP is sufficient, but systemic and/or site-specific assessments are not yet completed.  The response to the state will vary dependent on whether the state has or has not identified settings that are presumed to have institutional characteristics and any information the state may wish CMS to consider under the heightened scrutiny process. It is expected that several more states will receive initial approvals within the next month. Please contact Christine Grosso for more information.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

This week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Caitlin Morris and Dee Mahan. They both work on health policy for Families USA and staff a new coalition called "Protect our Care." In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Stephanie Meredith (Information and Dissemination Coordinator at the Kentucky UCEDD) about why the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") is so important to her family.



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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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