Disability Policy News In Brief

September 4, 2017

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September 4, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 138
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Happy Labor Day

Congressional Schedule

Congress returns to DC September 5. Within the first four weeks of returning, Congress will need to work on a number of time-sensitive issues: passing the 12 annual spending bills for FY2018 (the new fiscal year begins October 1), lifting the federal debt ceiling, and reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) (funding expires September 30). The President also announced his tax cut proposal on Wednesday.

Zika Funding

The House may plan to take up a consolidated "omnibus" appropriations bill that may include the Labor, HHS and Education bill (along with seven others). Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL) has submitted an amendment that would increase funding for the CDC's Zika Pregnancy Registry and Birth Defects Surveillance Registry programs by $20 million, using abstinence only program funding as an offset. AUCD signed onto a letter (drafted by Friends of NCBDDD) endorsing Representative Castor's amendment to the House Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations package (HR 3354).


On September 6, AUCD is participating in a press conference and rally (sponsored by Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) United coalition). House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will be the featured speaker.  The purpose of the event is to bring awareness and urge Congress to once again lift the discretionary budget caps, avoid sequestration, and pass the annual appropriations bills with sufficient funds for programs that support employment, education, research, and other programs that support people with disabilities. Following the press conference, coalition members will visit members of Congress to urge them to work on a bipartisan agreement to lift the caps to avoid sequestration cuts. NDD United also opposes additional cuts to these programs that have already been deeply cut over the past decade. NDD united created a media toolkit that can be used and shared to activate grassroots leading up to Raise the Caps Day 2017.

Health Care Updates/Related Hearings

ACA Stabilization Plan

Eight governors have signed onto a bipartisan ACA stabilization plan led by Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D). Other Governors who signed on include Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Steve Bullock (D-MO), Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), John Bel Edwards (D-LA), Tom Wolf (D-PA), and Bill Walker (I-AK). The blueprint includes a menu of options for states, as well as recommendations for Congress and the new administration:


  • Appropriate cost-sharing subsidies through at least 2019;
  • Create a temporary stability fund for reinsurance or similar programs;
  • Exempt insurers from the health insurance tax if they are the only remaining company on the exchange in a county, and allowing residents of "underserved counties" to buy into the health benefit program for federal workers;
  • Continue ACA/Obamacare outreach efforts to maximize sign-ups;
  • Make it easier for states to obtain Obamacare waivers and streamline the approval process;
  • Give states more leeway on the law's requirement that insurance plans must cover 10 categories of essential health benefits;
  • Boost price and quality transparency for consumers to help lower costs.


On the same day, the Trump Administration announced that it would be cutting funding for ACA enrollment outreach by $90 million. Department of Health and Human Services officials said on a call with reporters that funding for advertising and other outreach support for ObamaCare enrollment will be cut from $100 million last year to $10 million this year (see CMS public notice here).

On a positive note, several Senate Committees are holding bipartisan hearings over the next two weeks to discuss ways to improve health care coverage and protections:



Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) "wants to have a market stabilization package ready by September 27 to keep premiums steady for people who buy their plans on the individual market," and as of now he plans to "include one-year funding of the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing reduction payments and more flexibility around 1332 waiver rules for states".

Sources say, some conservatives are also rallying around legislation by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would funnel all ACA-related state funding into block grants and then redistribute it to states. The proposal would also convert Medicaid to per-capita caps -- a proposal fiercely opposed by AUCD and other disability advocates as well as Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Staff say they expect the latest iteration of this bill to be unveiled shortly after Congress returns. (See also analysis by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Cassidy-Graham Would Deeply Cut and Drastically Redistribute Health Coverage Funding Among States).

Specialty Care

AUCD signed onto two letters: Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act and Support for Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment in Title VII Reauthorization. The first letter is an endorsement letter for the Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act of 2017. This bill is identical to the bill by the same title introduced in the last Congress. The bill (S. 989) has been reintroduced by Senators Blunt (R-MO) and Reed (D-RI). Soon after the House re-convenes, Representatives Long (R-MO) and Courtney (D-CT) will introduce an identical companion bill in the House. The second letter is a letter to Representatives Burgess (R-TX) and Green (D-TX) urging them to include support for pediatric subspecialty loan repayment in any reauthorization of the Title VII programs. This letter does not support any specific legislation or proposal, but is a general opportunity to urge members of Congress to also consider supporting pediatric subspecialty loan repayment through a discretionary program.


The Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on September 6, entitled "Sharing Economy: Creating Opportunities for Innovation and Flexibility". Witnesses and testimony can be found on the Education Committee website.


Special Advisor for International Disabilities Rights

AUCD has just learned that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Chairman Bob Corker (US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations) requesting feedback on steps to improve the ability of the U.S. Department of State and USAID to achieve critical foreign policy goals. Tillerson proposes that the following title be removed and the functions and staff be assumed by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) - Removal of the U.S. Special Advisor for International Disabilities Rights, whose functions include "leading the comprehensive strategy to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities internationally", which involves realigning three positions and $445,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary of State to the DRL.

Maltreatment/Administration for Community Living (ACL)

On August 29, ACL released the first "consistently, systematically, and nationally collected data on the abuse of older adults and adults with disabilities". This report is the first of a series based on data from the first year of the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS). While NAMRS is still in its infancy, the information provided could directly inform prevention and intervention practices at all levels of the adult maltreatment field. The goal of this series is to eventually provide a better understanding of the characteristics of those experiencing (and perpetrating) abuse, and to also identify system gaps for responding to maltreatment and preventing repeat maltreatment. Because of the need for national data on adult maltreatment and following the passage/funding of the Elder Justice Act, ACL awarded the first-ever federal grants to enhance Adult Protective Services. These grants were used by many states to build data systems and align them with NAMRS.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In light of the devastating and emotional impact of Hurricane Harvey, this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All is dedicated to the importance of emergency preparedness for people with disabilities. Liz interviews Jerry Alliston (Community Education Director at the Mississippi UCEDD) about his experience and lessons learned during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In case you missed last week, Liz interviewed Lael Mohib, who is the wife of the Afghanistan Ambassador. Liz and Lael spoke about what life is like in Afghanistan for people with disabilities.



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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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