Disability Policy News In Brief

January 29, 2018

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January 29, 2018   |   Vol. XV, Issue 159
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As reported in last week's In Brief, the President signed a continuing resolution that funds the government through February 8, extends the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through FY 2023, delays three taxes: the medical device tax for two years, the "Cadillac" tax on health plans for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to take up a bill to address border security and the DACA program next month. Negotiations continue as policymakers continue to meet on the contentious issue of immigration.


The House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are each meeting at the end of the month to determine their respective caucus' legislative priorities for 2018.  This is a good opportunity to continue educating your Members of Congress on the importance of the Medicaid program, which plays an important role in education, employment, home and community based services and supports, and healthcare for people with disabilities, and the implications of cutting or capping the program.

Health Care

Opioid Use

The National Institute on Disability , Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has issued a new Request for Information (RFI) (PDF), seeking input on the incidence of opioid use disorder among people with disabilities. This information will help NIDILRR determine what research might be needed to inform interventions and/or policies to mitigate the effects of opioid use disorder on people with disabilities. Topics of particular interest include opioid use among common subgroups of people with disabilities and their secondary conditions, and/or the effectiveness of existing or adapted treatment strategies for opioid use disorder among people with disabilities. Comments should be submitted via email to [email protected]. All comments must be submitted by February 20th to be assured consideration.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Last year two proposals were introduced that aimed to revoke the federal requirement and/or reduce federal funding to provide non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). Representative Susan Brooks (R-Indiana) introduced the resolution that would have revoked NEMT in an effort to "provide states with more flexibility". Though these efforts were stalled, we are concerned with the possibility of this critical program becoming optional given the new guidance from Centers of Medicaid and Medicaid Services and states including option not to provide NEMT in waiver applications. It is important to continue educating your Representatives on the importance of NEMT for people with disabilities as a means to access employment and other important social, health, and educational opportunities.

Money Follows the Person

The Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration - first authorized in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 with strong bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bush - was designed to assist states with: (1) supporting Medicaid enrollees who want to transition from nursing facilities back to community-based settings and (2) developing infrastructure to promote and enhance access to HCBS.

Since its inception, 47 states have participated and over 75,000 individuals have been transitioned back to the community.

However, this important demonstration program expired September 2016 and has since been up for reauthorization. Recently, Senators Portman (R-OH) and Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the bipartisan Empower Care Act (S. 2227), which extends and improves MFP. Currently this bill only has one co-sponsor. Given the positive impact MFP has had on people with disabilities as well as on state budgets, AUCD has partnered with other national groups to organize three days of advocacy to encourage additional Senators to support this crucial program: February 1 national call-in day, February 2 national social media day, and February 3-8 national email day. Use this toolkit to call your Senators, for sample tweets, and a pre-crafted email.


Higher Education Act Reauthorization

On January 25, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its first hearing in preparation for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The hearing focused on areas for innovation and strategies to increase Americans' access to higher education. Witnesses spoke to Senators about the need for greater legislative focus on promoting competency-based education (CBE) and the importance of mandating greater data collection across the higher education sector.

The Senate hearing follows the House Education and Workforce (HEW) Committee's passage of its own higher education reauthorization bill on December 13. The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER Act) proposed in the House eliminates funding for all federal inclusive higher education programs apart from Transition to Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID programs). The Senate HELP Committee has yet to unveil its own higher education reauthorization bill.

New Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

On January 25, the Senate HELP Committee approved the nomination of Frank Brogan to be Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. Brogan previously served as the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education from 2013 to 2017, and chancellor of the State University System of Florida from 2009 to 2013. He was also the President of Florida Atlantic University from 2003 to 2009 and the Lieutenant Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2003 under Governor Jeb Bush.

Brogan is currently an adviser to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos within the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. During the hearing, Senate Democrats asked him about his interpretation of the federal government role's in implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and shared their concerns about the Trump Administration's approval of state accountability plans that they believe do not adequately protect vulnerable student groups. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked Brogan for his input on the use of "super-subgroups", which combine student minority groups into a larger group for data collection and analysis purposes. This has been shown to result in inaccurate analysis of needs and achievement gaps among at-risk student groups (including students with disabilities).

Brogan declined to comment on whether he would restrict the use of super subgroups and also avoided giving clear answers on other questions regarding the use of restraint and seclusion and his support for school vouchers. However, Senate Democrats indicated their approval of Brogan's experience in higher education and the hearing saw relatively little criticism directed towards the nominee.  

Members of Congress

Last week, the Senate confirmed Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, by a 55-43 vote. Six Democrats and Independent Senator Angus King voted in favor while one Republican, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), voted against his confirmation. Paul has previously expressed concern over Azar's reticence to let drugs be imported from overseas. Azar replaces Tom Price as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Today, January 29, Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that he will not seek reelection. It has not been decided who will fill this position.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

The Tuesdays with Liz series is taking a break while Liz Weintraub is on detail working with the Senate Aging Committee. Tuesdays with Liz will return to a regular taping schedule and new episodes will air in the late Spring when Liz returns to AUCD. Until then, we will be highlighting some of our favorite Tuesdays with Liz episodes from this past year here and on social media at @AUCDnews.

This week, let's take a look back at some of Liz's favorite videos from 2017 in the 2017 Recap Episode.

In case you missed last week, Liz interviewed Kara Ayers on the rights of parents with disabilities and discriminatory state laws that interfere with these rights, while also exploring why parents with disabilities face discrimination. Kara is the Associate Director at the UCEDD at the University of Cincinnati and Co-Founder of the Disabled Parenting Project.



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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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