Disability Policy News

May 2, 2022


Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
                 May 2, 2022   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 36

White House Increases Access to COVID-19 Treatments and Boosts Patient and Provider Awareness

On April 26, 2022, the White House announced new measures to increase access to COVID-19 treatments. The Administration plans to almost double the number of oral antiviral medicines available, such as Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill, Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90 percent. In the United States right now, antivirals are available at about 20,000 pharmacies, community health centers, hospitals, urgent care centers, Veterans Affairs clinics, and Department of Defense Medical Treatment Facilities. The goal is to nearly double the number of locations that oral antivirals are available at in the coming weeks. Also, all pharmacy partners in the federal antiviral pharmacy program can order free oral antiviral treatments directly from the federal government.

In March, the Administration also announced the Test-to-Treat initiative. The Test-to-Treat initiative makes it easier for people at high-risk of severe COVID-19 to quickly access oral antiviral treatments by co-locating the availability of testing, healthcare, and antiviral treatment. Currently, there are 2200 Test-to-Treat sites. The Administration plans to create additional sites in collaboration with state and local health agencies based on available data. 

The Administration will also continue to broaden awareness and understanding of these treatments by providing more guidance to healthcare providers about the availability and usage of antivirals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory to public health agencies regarding antiviral treatment availability and efficacy. In addition, the Administration is requesting that electronic health records companies incorporate antiviral treatment information into the interfaces for their health records. Finally, the Administration will expand its public information efforts and will publicize that antiviral treatment must begin within five days of the start of symptoms.

Plain Language:
Antivirals are a type of medicine that help a person to get less sick from COVID-19. The White House has announced several new steps to make these medicines more available to people with COVID-19. It is important to start antiviral medicine within five days of starting to feel sick.

What It Means For You:
One potential treatment for COVID-19 includes antiviral medicines. According to the Administration, there are more antiviral medicines available now for people who need them. Therefore, the White House is increasing the number of healthcare sites where someone who has COVID-19 can get the medicine. It is important to contact your healthcare provider if you have COVID-19 because you need to start taking antiviral medicine within five days of the start of symptoms.

Action Steps:
Read the Fact SheetRead the CDC’s Health Alert Network health advisory.

Office of Minority Health Releases Framework for Health Equity

The Office of Minority Health of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued the Framework for Health Equity for 2022-2032. The Framework looks to strengthen CMS’ infrastructure for assessment, create greater collaborations across the healthcare system to drive important structural changes and identify and eliminate barriers to CMS-supported benefits, services, and coverage for people who are underserved or disadvantaged and service providers. 

The Framework focuses on five priority areas including: 

  • Expanding the Collection, Reporting, and Analysis of Standardized Data
  • Assessing the Causes of Disparities Within CMS Programs, and Address Inequities in Policies and Operations to Close Gaps
  • Building Capacity of Health Care Organizations and the Workforce to Reduce Health and Health Care Disparities
  • Advancing Language Access, Health Literacy, and the Provision of Culturally Tailored Services
  • Increasing All Forms of Accessibility to Health Care Services and Coverage 

Plain Language:
CMS has written a new plan for how to improve access to quality healthcare by people with disabilities and people of color over the next ten years by federal healthcare programs, including Medicaid and Medicare.

What It Means for You:
CMS is working to improve access to quality healthcare by people with disabilities and people of color over the next ten years by issuing a new Framework for Health Equity from 2022-2032.

Action Steps:
Read the Framework for Health Equity for 2022-2032.

Money Follows the Person Expansion 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will offer more than $110 million to expand access to home and community-based services (HCBS) through Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. MFP was first authorized in 2005 and has provided states with $4.06 billion to support people with disabilities who choose to transition out of institutions and back into their homes and communities. “From the start of the program in 2008 through the end of 2020, states have transitioned over 107,000 people to community living under MFP.”

The Notice of Funding Opportunity makes individual awards of up to $5 million available for more than 20 states and territories that currently are not participating in MFP. The funds will support initial planning and implementation to get the programs started so more people with Medicaid can receive high-quality, cost-effective, person-centered services in a setting they choose. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2022. The anticipated start date is September 1, 2022.

On March 31, 2022, for states already participating in MFP, CMS announced an increased reimbursement rate for MFP “supplemental services”. These services will now be 100 percent federally funded with no state share. CMS is also expanding the definition of supplemental services to include additional services that can support an individual’s transition from an institution to the community, including short-term housing and food assistance.

Plain Language:
CMS is offering new grants to some states and territories to create programs to help people who live in institutions to move into the community. States and territories currently participating in programs will received increased federal funding for providing some additional services.

What It Means for You:
With a new funding for MFP, more states and territories will be able to help people with disabilities to move from institutions into the community. States  currently participating in MFP will received increased federal funding for “supplemental services.”

Action Steps:
Check whether your state participates in the MFP by clicking here for a list of participating states. Read the Notice of Funding Opportunity. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2022.

The Health Equity and Accountability Act

On April 26, 2022, Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-2nd), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA). Since 2003, the Congressional Tri-Caucus, comprised of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has introduced the HEAA. The HEAA works to improve health equity. The “HEAA is a comprehensive and strategic legislative roadmap that aims to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities.” HEAA is the only comprehensive legislation that “directly addresses the intersection of health inequities with race and ethnicity, as well as immigration status, age, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, language, and socio-economic status.”

The bill focuses on ten main topics to ensure health equity:

  • Collecting and reporting data
  • Ensuring culturally and linguistically appropriate health and healthcare
  • Improving health workforce diversity
  • Improving healthcare access and quality
  • Improving health outcomes for women, children, and families
  • Improving treatment for mental health conditions and substance use
  • Addressing high impact minority diseases
  • Improving health information technology
  • Ensuring accountability and evaluation
  • Addressing social determinants and improving environmental justice

Plain Language:
The HEAA was introduced in the House of Representatives. The HEAA will work to eliminate the differences in healthcare experienced by people with disabilities and people of color to ensure everyone can access high-quality healthcare.

What It Means For You:
The HEAA has the goal of eliminating health inequities. The bill works to meet this goal by addressing ten important areas that need to be addressed to achieve health equity for people of color and people with disabilities. 

Action Steps:
Read the fact sheet or the full text of the bill. Call and educate your Members of Congress about the importance of ensuring that people of color and people with disabilities receive equitable quality healthcare. You can reach your Members of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

The Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act

On April 28, 2022, Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5th), Jim Banks (R-IN-3rd) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2nd) introduced The Protecting Health Care for All Patients Act. The bill would expand access to treatment and prevent discrimination against people with disabilities by prohibiting the use of “quality adjusted life years” (QALYs) in all federal programs. Currently, only Medicare is prohibited from using QALYs. QALYs are a metric used to determine the cost-effectiveness of medications and treatment in healthcare. The metric is a subjective quality of life standard that anticipates a person’s lifespan. The use of QALYs can lead to denying medications and treatment to people with disabilities.

In 2019, the National Council on Disability issued the report Quality-Adjusted Life Years and the Devaluation of Life with Disability. “The lives of people with disabilities are equally valuable to those without disabilities, and healthcare decisions based on devaluing the lives of people with disabilities are discriminatory.” In an effort to lower healthcare costs, some public and private health insurance providers have utilized QALYs to determine the cost-effectiveness of medications and treatment. QALYs place a lower value on medications and treatments which extend the lives of people with and disabilities. In the report, NCD found sufficient evidence of the discriminatory effects of QALYs. The use of QALYs in a state-run program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Plain Language:
People with disabilities may be denied medicatation and treatment if QALYs are used to make decisions. The use of QALYs discriminate against people with disabilities in receiving healthcare. Some members of Congress are working to be sure federal programs do not use QALYs.

What This Means For You:
Public and private health insurance providers may use QALYs to decide whether to cover the cost of medicines and treatments. The use of QALYs discriminate against people with disabilities. Members of Congress are working to be sure QALYs are not used in making healthcare decisions.

Action Steps:
Read the National Council on Disability (NCD) report on QALYs. Call and educate your Members of Congress about the importance of ensuring people with disabilities are not discriminated against in receiving healthcare by the use of QALYs. You can reach your Members of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

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