Disability Policy News In Brief

November 20, 2017

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November 20, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 149
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Tax Bill

On November 16, the House passed legislation (HR 1) that would make drastic changes to the federal tax code. The measure was approved by a vote of 227-205. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 13 Republicans opposed it. Later that evening, the Senate Finance Committee also approved its version of the tax plan with a vote of 14-12 (see results of session and amendments).

The Senate Finance Committee also adopted a broad manager's amendment from Chairman Hatch (R-UT), that would make a number changes to the underlying Senate package. Next, committee staff will work with legislative counsel to convert the modified "chairman's mark" into legislative text, which must be reviewed by the Senate parliamentarian to ensure compliance with budget rules before the entire tax package can go to the floor.

The House and Senate bills will be negotiated in a conference committee, where they will need to reconcile or align the differences. Leadership in both bodies hope to have a bill on the President's desk before the end of the year.

Thanksgiving Recess

Lawmakers need to hear directly from their constituents about how the proposed tax bills will affect people with disabilities and their families. This recess is an important time to schedule meetings with your Members of Congress to educate them on 1) how these extreme tax cuts will result in reducing needed care for people with disabilities and their families, 2) the importance of Medicaid and other health care programs for people with disabilities, 3) how repealing the Individual Mandate provision of the ACA would result in premiums increasing for approximately 7 million people, large declines in enrollment, and loss of insurance due to marketplace instability, and 4) how these tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy and result in increased taxes for many low-income families. Please see AUCD action alert here.


On November 14, Senate Finance Chairman Hatch (R-UT) released a modified chairman's mark making several changes to the tax plan unveiled just last week. To help comply with budget reconciliation rules, one of the proposed revisions raises $318 billion by repealing the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Requiring all Americans to have health coverage is a key strategy to keep insurance costs affordable for all people. Senate reconciliation rules do not allow the tax bill to add to deficits outside of the 10-year budget window (i.e., it cannot exceed $1.5 trillion within 10 years). However, as stated in last week's In Brief, a new analysis by Penn Wharton estimates that the deficit would increase to roughly $3 trillion between 2018 and 2037. Increases to the deficit have historically led to cuts in programs like Medicaid and Medicare. This is one more attempt to repeal a major part of the ACA without a replacement plan.


Please see report by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that estimates that the Senate bill would increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million in 2027, increase individual market premiums by about 10 percent, and create further instability for the individual market. Also see a report by the Tax Policy Center that explains that this bill overwhelming benefits corporations and high-income households (those with incomes over $1million). 

Congressional Statements

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, issued the following statement on the amendment to repeal the individual mandate - This is a rushed, partisan effort to give millionaires and billionaires a tax cut, and is the exact opposite of where we should be going. Patients and families have made it clear that they want Democrats and Republicans to work together on health care. Senator Susan Collins (R-MA) voiced similar concerns, saying it was a "mistake" to mix the issues of tax reform and health care. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) also said he would oppose the tax package in its current form, and Senator McCain (R-AZ) indicated repeatedly that he could not support the bill until he sees the "whole package".


Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that a short-term continuing resolution (CR) will be necessary to avert a shutdown after funding expires on December 8, adding that such a measure could extend past Christmas, but that it would not extend past January 1. Some conservative lawmakers are voicing opposition, preferring a January deadline over a new December date to allow more time to "digest the details of the omnibus". In any event, appropriators will need about a month to finalize appropriations legislation once Congress is able to agree on the topline spending levels. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, negotiators are talking about increases for both defense and nondefense, as well as CHIP and community health center reauthorizations. 

Health Care

HHS Nomination

November 29, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Alex Azar's nomination to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Medicaid Work Requirements

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a statement on the implications of Seema Verma's (Administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) "vision for the future of Medicaid". AUCD agrees with CBPP that tying eligibility for Medicaid to work or work-related activities would harm many people, including those with disabilities. Many individuals who are not working face significant employment barriers that work requirements do not address. Individuals facing these challenges require specialized supports to find and maintain employment and Medicaid plays a key role in ensuring that people have these necessary supports, such as health coverage, to do so. Changing the Medicaid program's eligibility criteria to add a work requirement and terminating coverage for those who are unable to comply is unlikely to result in substantial gains in employment, and could penalize the people who most need the health coverage that Medicaid provides.


Higher Education Legislation

On November 17, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HIGH) Act (S. 2138 and H.R. 1772). The legislation will authorize the creation of voluntary guidelines to help colleges and universities meet the needs of blind students and students with other disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to read print. AUCD will continue to monitor the progress of this bill.


Johnny Collett, an educator from Kentucky with a background in special education policy and administration, was nominated by the President as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's (USED) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Collett previously served in Kentucky's education department as director of the Division of Learning Services and served on the board of directors of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.


Supported Employment

AUCD signed on to two letters urging Senators Blunt and Murray, and Representatives Cole and DeLaura (Chairs and Ranking Members, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations) to restore funding for the Vocational Rehabilitation Supported Employment (SE) State Grant program, which was eliminated in the FY 2018 budget. Eliminating this runs counter to Congressional intent under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, as well as the goals of this Administration that "every American is successfully employed in a good job at good pay", thereby reducing reliance on public benefits. The letter asks that this funding be fully restored to at least the $27.5 million level that is in the FY 2017 budget.


Last week the Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor. The only witness was Alexander Acosta, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. The hearing focused on the importance of federal oversight, the need for student engagement and increased high quality apprenticeship opportunities, funding for an accurate census, and identifying the "legal authority" that allowed for a final rule that permits moral and religious objections to contraception coverage, among several other issues. See archive here.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Fiorella Guerrero Calle, who was an ADA fellow from Peru and works for World Vision, about life for children with disabilities in Peru. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, about leadership and people with disabilities. 

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For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.

For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms 


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