Disability Policy News In Brief

November 6, 2017

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November 6, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 147
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Tax Legislation

On November 2, 2017, the House introduced its tax bill.  The bill will make deep cuts to the Federal revenue base ultimately requiring huge cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and other programs people with disabilities rely on to live independently in the community, to give huge tax cuts to millionaires and corporations.  Although neither the tax bill nor the budget resolution explicitly requires these cuts, deep cuts to these programs will result either now to meet reconciliation deficit targets contained in the concurrent budget resolution or in the future due to increased pressure to rein in the debt and deficit created by the inadequate level of revenue these tax cuts would create.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) recently released principles to guide the consideration of any significant changes to the tax code. Unfortunately, the House bill violates virtually all of CCD's principles, including:

  • Unacceptable Process: Failing to provide for a transparent bipartisan process, moving forward to consideration without a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, failing to hold hearings on the specific proposals contained in the bill, and moving the bill under reconciliation rather than through regular order.
  • Tax Provisions for People with Disabilities: Eliminating tax provisions important to people with disabilities, such as the medical expense deduction for individuals and the disabled access tax credit for corporations.
  • Making It Difficult to Provide Sufficient Funds for Programs for People with Disabilities: The tax proposal fails to consider the impact of the tax cuts on the independence and economic security of people with disabilities.  Even if it the reconciliation bill does not include direct cuts to these programs, it will gut Federal revenue creating enormous pressure to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and all the discretionary programs providing support to people with disabilities in the future or now to stay within the $1.5 trillion limit on the increase in the deficit allowed by the reconciliation instructions contained in the FY 2018 budget resolution.
  • Exacerbating Income and Wealth Inequality:  A majority of these tax cuts go to corporations and millionaires and will increase the unprecedented level of income and wealth inequality in America.

AUCD will work with CCD to urge the House to reject this tax bill and work on bipartisan solutions that will address our nation's priorities without harming people with disabilities. See also analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


President Trump sent to the Senate his nomination of Kenneth Marcus to lead the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. Marcus is the president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a group that combats anti-semitism. The majority of Senate-confirmable posts at the Education Department remain unfilled by permanent leaders. Of the 15 positions requiring Senate approval, Trump has moved to tap nominees for eight of them.

Health Care

Opioid Assistance

On November 1, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a letter to State Medicaid Directors, announcing a new plan to combat the nationwide opioid crisis, which the President has declared a public health emergency. According to Medicaid, nearly 12 percent of all adults on Medicaid have been diagnosed with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Included in this letter is the introduction of new Special Terms and Conditions (SPTs) - a shortcut for states to apply for funding in hopes that speeding up the process of states receiving this funding will help reach its goals of reducing the number of opioid-related deaths, reducing the number of patients in long-term inpatient care, and easing other opioid-related issues. CMS laid out two clear goals in addressing the opioid crisis: accessibility and quality. Currently, people who are on Medicaid are unable to access the proper treatment they need for their SUD for a number of reasons: living in a rural area, practitioners not accepting Medicaid patients, a lack of addiction-treatment programs, and more. CMS wants to improve the quality of SUD treatment as well, trying to make changes such as requiring treatment facilities to have nationally-recognized program standards (as laid forth by the American Society of Addiction Medicine) and making it easier for state Medicaid programs to obtain funding for a greater variety of pain treatments, increasing patients' options beyond fentanyl, the most commonly prescribed pain medication.

AUCD Conference

The 2017 AUCD Annual Conference in Washington, DC is taking place this week (Nov 4-8). The conference contains many exciting sessions and speakers related to public policy.  Tomorrow morning, we will hear from Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. Following Secretary Acosta, AUCD's Policy Committee Co-chair, Kara Ayers (from Cincinnati UCEDD and LEND) will moderate a panel that includes Mary Lazare (ACL Deputy Assistant Secretary at HHS) and Kimberly Richey (Acting Assistant Secretary of OSERS at the US Department of Education). On Wednesday (prior to Hill visits) a dynamic plenary includes Kristine Lucius (Executive VP for Policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights), Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (a freshman from Delaware with strong ties to the AUCD network) and two key Hill staffers to speak about a new Bill that would accelerate the transition away from subminimum wage and segregated employment and toward competitive-integrated employment. All speakers will discuss how disability issues are connected to a broader agenda for civil rights and social justice, and where there are opportunities to advance that agenda with bipartisan support in the current political climate.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, about leadership and people with disabilities. In case you missed last week, Liz interviewed Emily Ladau (author of the blog Words I Wheel By) about dating and 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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