Disability Policy News

February 21, 2023


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)
                 February 21, 2023   |   Vol. MMXXIII, Issue 56

118th Congress – Members Back in District This Week

On January 3rd, the 118th session of Congress began and the proposed calendars for when the Senate and House of Representatives are in session are available.

The House and Senate are out of session until February 23, 2023. This is a great time to see what events your Representative or Senator are holding in your district or state and to introduce your program and the issues that matter to you. You can use these resources to help: Get to Know Your Members of Congress, Learn About a Congressional Recess and Other How To Resources (scroll to bottom). Consider sharing AUCD 118th Congress Priorities (AUCD Priorities in Plain Language).

The Republicans have control over the House of Representatives, and Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) is the Speaker of the House, and Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8) is the Minority Leader. The Democrats will continue to control the Senate, and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the Majority Leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the Minority Leader.

There have been some changes to committee leadership in both chambers that will impact employment, healthcare, education, and other policies impacting persons with disabilities. 

Plain Language

On January 3rd, the 118th Congress started its session. The House of Representatives is led by Republicans, and the Senate is led by Democrats. Committee members have been announced and Committees have announced what they will work on this session. Congress is not meeting in DC this week, so it is a good time to see if you can attend an event to meet with them while they are back in state.

Federal Policy Updates for State Advocates 

The Coalition on Human Needs is hosting a new meeting called The Federal Connection. The meetings will be twice-monthly Zoom meetings and an email group for state advocates to share federal policy updates.  Sign up for the meeting invite and listserv. The Coalition on Human Needs will send recordings and all information shared from meetings after the Zoom meetings.

White House Recognizes Black History Month

During Black History Month, the White House and the Biden Harris Administration will celebrate the contributions of Black disabled leaders to American history. The Administration will host a roundtable with the next generation of Black disabled young leaders, and highlight Administration actions to promote equity.

WHAT: Black History Month Roundtable with Young Black Leaders with Disabilities

WHEN: Thursday, February 23 10:30 AM ET

WHERE: Register for the webinar.

ASL and CART will be provided.

House and Senate Appropriations Committee Assignments Announced

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives and the Senate announced who the leadership will be for the appropriations committees. In the House, the Chair of the Full Committee on Appropriations is Representative Kay Granger (R-TX-12) and the Ranking Member is Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3).  The Chair of Labor, Health Human, Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) subcommittee is Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL-4), and the Ranking Member is Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3). See A full list of members on the House Appropriations Committee.

The House LHHS subcommittee has announced that it will hold a public witness hearing on Thursday, March 23, 2023. The deadline to submit requests to testify is Friday, March 3, 2023. In addition, written testimony will be accepted. See the guidelines on the website. The deadline to submit written testimony is Thursday, March 23, 2023.

In the Senate, the Chair of the Full Committee on Appropriations is Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and the Vice Chair is Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).  The Chair of the Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies is Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and the Ranking Member is Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  See a full list of members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and subcommittees.

Plain Language

The House of Representatives and the Senate announced the members on the appropriations committees.  The members of the appropriations committees are in charge of deciding how much money different Federal programs get, like the AUCD programs.  Click here to see which Senators are on the appropriations committee, and click here to see which Representatives are on the appropriations committee.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Proposes To Cover Seat Elevation Systems As A Medicare Benefit

On February 15th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed decision that will allow seat elevation systems to be covered by Medicare. CMS is proposing that power seat elevation equipment on Group 3 power wheelchairs falls within the benefit category for durable medical equipment (DME) because the evidence is sufficient to determine that power seat elevation equipment is reasonable and necessary when certain conditions are met.

This new rule would allow more people who use power chairs under Medicare to live independently and safely in their homes and communities. CMS is seeking comments on the proposed decision.  Additionally, CMS seeks specific comments on whether power seat elevation equipment on Group 2 power wheelchairs primarily and customarily serves a medical purpose and thus also falls within the benefit category for DME. Comments are due by March 17th, 2023. Submit comments.

Plain Language

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new decision that would allow wheelchairs with seat elevation systems to be covered by Medicare.  Seat elevation systems are parts of wheelchairs that lift people out of their seat and allow them to move around more easily.  CMS is giving people 30 days to submit comments.

Action Steps

Submit comments by March 17th, 2023.

President Biden Signs Executive Order Aimed At Advancing Racial Equity

On February 16th, President Biden signed another Executive Order focused on advancing racial equity for underserved communities through the Federal government. The Executive Order builds on the prior Executive Order by requiring Federal agencies to “produce an annual public Equity Action Plan that will assess and include actions to address the barriers underserved communities may face in accessing and benefitting from the agency’s policies, programs, and activities.” It also strengthens community partnerships, invests in underserved communities and small businesses owned by minorities, promotes data transparency, and addresses emerging civil rights risks. 

The White House released a fact sheet explaining the goals of the Executive Order, and how it will impact different communities.

Plain Language

President Biden signed an Executive Order on February 16th about racial equity. Executive Orders are orders from the President telling every Department in the Federal government to do something. They are similar to a law, but they do not have to be passed by Congress. This Executive Order tells different parts of the Federal government to work to address racism, and make sure people of different races and ethnicities are treated equally by the federal government. The White House released a fact sheet on the Executive Order.

Action Steps

Read the fact sheet explaining the Executive Order from the White House here.

Senator Casey Introduces the Better Care Better Jobs Act

On January 26th, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act (S.100).  The bill is originally cosponsored by 39 Democratic Senators.  The bill will increase Medicaid funding for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) with a 10 percent increase in the federal match, increased funding for administrative activities, provide more benefits for direct care workers, improve oversight, make spousal impoverishment protections permanent, and will make the Money Follows the Person program permanent. The bill will improve HCBS for millions of people with disabilities, their families, and direct support professionals. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Plain Language

Senator Casey (D-PA) amd 39 Democrats have introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act. This bill makes changes to and gives states more money so they can improve HCBS. The bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.

Action Steps

Read the bill.  Read a summary of the bill. Call your Members of Congress and educate them on the importance of home and community-based services for people with disabilities. You can reach your Members of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Biden Administration to End the Public Health Emergency on May 11

The Biden Administration has announced that they will be ending the Public Health Emergency (PHE) related to the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11th. Declaring a PHE has allowed the healthcare system to access emergency services and increase funding to ensure that everyone in our country had access to medical care and treatment. The Biden Administration has previously stated they would give 60 days’ notice to allow the healthcare system to prepare for the switch back to funding and resources levels pre-pandemic.  The U.S, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)held a briefing for stakeholders on the process of ending the Public Health Emergency, you can read more about that roadmap here.

Plain Language

President Biden announced the emergency that started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will be ending on May 11th. The emergency gave more money and resources to our healthcare system to respond to COVID. 

Action Steps

Read the announcement regarding the Public Health EmergencyRead this roadmap on ending the Public Health Emergency from HHS.. Read this resource from the Kaiser Family Foundation

Policy related “How To” materials can be found on our website here. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the resources! 

 Tuesdays with Liz: Did you know that Liz has a YouTube Channel? 

'Tuesdays with Liz' is a weekly video series highlighting current issues in disability policy. It is hosted by Liz Weintraub, a long-time disability advocate, and produced by AUCD.

You can help spread her message by:

  • Subscribing to the Tuesdays with Liz YouTube Channel!
  • Liking videos on the channel
  • Making comments on the channel

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