Disability Policy News In Brief

February 20, 2017

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February 20, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 111
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In honor of Presidents' Day, the February 20th edition of In Brief is being set out today. AUCD will be closed Monday.

Happy Presidents' Day

Health Care

Action Alert

Last week House Republicans were briefed on a series of policy options to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  The 19 page briefing packet included many of the same proposals put forward in Speaker Paul Ryan's Better Way plan, such as repealing the ACA and providing health savings accounts and tax credits to allow individuals to buy insurance in the open marketplace.  The policy outline does not provide any guarantees that the plans would not discriminate on the basis of disability or other pre-existing conditions.  It does not address the essential benefits package in ACA that includes rehabilitation, habilitation and behavioral health.  Most disturbing is that it appears to pay for the costs related to repealing the ACA by making likely massive cuts to Medicaid and taking away the long-standing guarantee for people with disabilities.  Instead, it provides the option for states to take a block grant or per capita caps with reduced federal support. See press coverage from NYT here and here. See AUCDs talking points and things to consider.

The House is expected to use this outline to develop legislation as soon as they return from the President's Day recess.  AUCD emailed a Recess Action Alert with talking points and other resources.  In addition, many governors will be participating in their annual winter meeting here in DC Feb. 24-27.  They will be attending a briefing on the Republican health care proposals at that time.  Network members and allies are encouraged to contact governors over the next week to educate them about the impact Medicaid cuts would have on people with disabilities. Find out how to contact governors here.

Proposed Rule to Increase Patients' Health Insurance Choices for 2018

On February 15, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule for 2018, which proposes new reforms to stabilizing the individual and small group health insurance markets to help protect patients. This proposed rule would make changes to special and annual enrollment periods, guaranteed availability, determining level of coverage, network adequacy rules, essential community providers, actuarial value requirements, and announces upcoming changes to the qualified health plan certification timeline. These steps will likely lead to greater restrictions in access to exchange-based services for people with disabilities.

Small Business Health Fairness Act

On February 16, Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, and Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, introduced the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 1101). Part of a broader effort to replace the Affordable Care Act with "patient-centered solutions", the legislation aims to have small businesses to join together through association health plans (AHPs) to provide their employees greater access to affordable health care.


ESSA Regulations

The CCD Education Task Force submitted a letter to members of the House of Representatives expressing opposition to H.J. Res 57, which seeks to rescind accountability regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The accountability regulations support crucial components of ESSA, as they clarify statutory language and the roles that families, educators and stakeholders can play in implementation of the law. They are also key to states' development of accountability plans that will create statewide systems to identify schools and districts in need of funds to support at-risk students who are performing below par on state exams. The removal of the regulations could critically undermine the implementation process.  AUCD emailed an action alert to its members with steps to take to educate Senators.  The Senate could vote on this measure at any time after the recess.

IDEA Website

Education Secretary Betsy  DeVos issued a statement on Feb. 17 promising that the website dedicated to resources for  the IDEA special education law had not been scrubbed, rather the site is being moved to a new, more stable server  (see Wash Po article for more details on this issue).

Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), of which AUCD is a member, sent a letter to Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE), in support of the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act of 2017 (S.2800). This legislation changes the tax code to no longer treat student loan discharges on the basis of total and permanent disability as income for tax purposes preventing some individuals.

Trump Cabinet

Veteran Affairs

On February 13, the Senate unanimously confirmed (100-0) Dr. David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. The unanimous vote makes Shulkin the first-ever nonveteran to lead the VA, but that didn't stop him from winning endorsements from most of the major veterans service organizations. He also won bipartisan, unanimous support from the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Treasury Secretary

Also, on February 13, the Senate confirmed (53-47) Steven Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury. Mnuchin was sworn in that night in the Oval Office, where President Donald Trump said Americans should know that "our nation's financial system is truly in great hands."

Secretary of Labor

Andy Puzder, fast food restaurant executive, was scheduled for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee on February 16 to be the Secretary of Labor, and on February 15, he withdrew his nomination. Sources say he was also opposed strenuously by Democrats and labor unions for his past positions on overtime pay and minimum wage.

The following day, February 16, President Trump announced he was nominating Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary. Acosta, the dean of the law school at Florida International University, served as an assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush and is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He also previously served on the National Labor Relations Board and is Trump's first Hispanic nominee to his Cabinet.

Environmental Protection Agency

On February 17, the Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 52-46 vote was almost along party lines. All Republicans except Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) voted for Pruitt, while all Democrats except Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voted against him. Pruitt's confirmation came despite repeated pleas from Democrats to delay the vote due to ongoing litigation regarding emails that a liberal group had requested from the office of Pruitt, who is Oklahoma's attorney general - a position he will leave when he is sworn in as EPA administrator.

Advocates Needed

AUCD is working with its partners at CCD, Families USA, and Protect Your Care to organize state coalitions to help ensure that comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health care is available to everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions. Network members and allies interested in participating, please contact Christine Grosso. In addition, AUCD is seeking stories about how the ACA and/or Medicaid has played a role in the lives of people with disabilities and families (positive or negative). Please send ACA and Medicaid stories to Christine Grosso. Not sure if you or someone you know has benefited from the ACA or is on Medicaid? Not to worry! Use these helpful guides to find out: ACA Questions and State Medicaid Program Names.


On February 16 the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Congressman Bradley Byrne held a hearing on the topic of "Federal Wage and Hour Policies in the Twenty-First Century Economy." The committee discussed a variety of topics including, but not limited to, labor force participation rate, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Department of Labor's Overtime rule's impact on employers. The committee agreed that more must to be done to raise wages for all people and many agreed that raising the wage threshold to $29-$32,000 would be much more reasonable than the $47,000 that Obama enacted.

Social Security

National Instant Criminal Background Check System

The Social Security Administration (SSA) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Rule pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (CRA) Resolution of Disapproval (H.J. Res. 40) passed, 57-43. This rule would require the SSA to forward the names of all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit recipients who use a representative payee to help manage their benefits due to a mental impairment to the NICS. The CCD Rights Task Force co-chairs sent a letter in support of this resolution based on the lack of data related to any connection between the need for a representative payee and the propensity toward gun violence  (see also The Washington Post opinion The Ban on Mentally Ill People Buying Guns Wasn't Ever Based on Evidence.)

Social Security 2100 Act

Representative John Larson (D-CT) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Social Security 2100 Act (HR 1391, S 1904). The Social Security 2100 Act aims to improve benefits with a modest across the board benefit increase, a more accurate cost of living formula (CPI-E), a new special minimum benefit, and a tax cut for over 10 million beneficiaries. Additionally, it would be fully paid for by requiring those with wages above $400,000 to pay Social Security taxes.

Election Commission

Last Week the CCD Rights Taskforce wrote a letter to Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-PA) of the Committee on House Administration opposing the Election Assistance Commission Termination Act (EACTA) of 2017 (HR 634). Voting is a fundamental right and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has played an important role since its creation to ensuring that polling places and the voting process are accessible to people with disabilities. Eliminating the Commission by way of the EACTA would hinder this progress toward accessibility of polling places and the voting process by abolishing the EAC.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews on Mara Youdelman, the managing attorney at the National Health Law Program on Medicaid Per Capita Caps, what they are and the potential impact. In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Rabbi Michael Safra, one of the Rabbis at B'nai Israel congregation, about Judaism and disability.


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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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