The US Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in Wisconsin directing it to ensure that private voucher program schools do not discriminate against students with disabilities. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, and Disability Rights Wisconsin filed a complaint in 2011 alleging that the programs discourage students with disabilities from participating in the voucher program, deny admission to students with disabilities, and expel or otherwise force students with disabilities to leave the programs by failing to accommodate their needs. DOJ told DPI that, regardless of the fact that the voucher schools are private or secular, the voucher program must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act since public funds are used.
Congressman George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, and Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act, H.R. 1893. The bill would ban restraint and seclusion except in emergency situations where there is a threat of imminent physical danger. It would require schools to inform parents on the same day if their child were restrained or secluded. Mechanical and chemical restraints would be prohibited as would physical restraints that impede breathing. The bill would promote positive behavioral alternatives for all children, require schools to collect data about the use of restraint and seclusion, and require training for school staff. The Arc supports the legislation.
Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a physician, introduced H.R. 1853, the Medicaid Accountability and Care (MAC) Act of 2013. The bill would provide for a base amount of funding for each Medicaid beneficiary regardless of where they lived. People who receive Medicaid would be put into one of four categories: elderly, blind or disabled, children, or adults. The base amount would be adjusted for “factors known to influence their cost of care.” The Arc is very concerned that the individual entitlement to Medicaid services would be lost under a per person cap payment system and that the long-term services and supports needs of individuals with significant disabilities might exceed the average per person cap.
On May 16, at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Senator Tom Harkin, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, will be a special guest on a Community Leadership call for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the CRPD. There will be updates about the status of the CRPD and the plan for hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sign up for the call.
From May 13 to May 27, 2013, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration will host a public online dialogue on federal agency strategies for helping youth with disabilities successfully transition from school to work. The dialogue will seek to identify federal legislative and regulatory barriers and opportunities to improve transition outcomes and to foster the alignment of agencies’ policies, programs, and practices that support successful transitions. The dialogue will be open to the public. Online registration began May 7, 2013. From May 13 to 27, participants will be able to submit ideas, submit comments about ideas, and rate ideas. The dialogue will be facilitated. Once the dialogue has closed, a summary report will be made public.
For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of people with I/DD and the entire disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc, with substantial contributions from United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and individuals with whom Paul worked during his decades in Washington, established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates. The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer session which can assist interns pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. See Application information and Internship FAQs for more information.
Do you need to learn the basics about the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? On May 23, at 2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is offering a webinar “The Health Care Law 101”. The presentation will be on the main provisions in the ACA, and how to access care in your community. Information on the Health Insurance Marketplace, how to help enroll others in health insurance, and how to receive updates on implementation of the law will also be shared.
Additionally, the National Health Law program has a new resource entitled “Ensuring Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities in the ACA’s Marketplaces”. It provides an excellent overview of what state advocates should know about the ACA and accessibility features.
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) released the “Making Medicaid Work” blueprint to modernize the Medicaid program. A key provision included in the plan is per capita caps which would limit the amount of federal dollars spent on each beneficiary.
The plan states that health care needs of the aged, people who are blind and people with disabilities “should be customized and targeted appropriately to improve care and reduce costs.” The plan calls for placing four separate capped spending amounts on each of four major groups: the aged, people who are blind and people with disabilities, children, and adults. The number of individuals in a group would be multiplied by the cap amount for that group resulting in the amount of federal dollars the state would receive for each person in that group. The cap for each group would be based on what a state currently spends on that group. Annual increases to the per capita caps would be based on “a realistic exogenous and appropriate growth factor for each state.” States that currently spend more on each person would be less than increases to states that currently spend less on each person until spending were “normalized” across states. If state spending exceeded the caps, there would be no additional federal dollars.
The plan proposes creating shared-savings and risk corridor models to encourage states to provide healthcare services at lower cost. States that achieved savings could use them “to determine how to protect vulnerable populations such as the disabled from unpredictable spending above the state’s cap.” States that exceeded their spending caps could deny Medicaid to “high income recipients.”
The 20-page blueprint includes two broad goals and 11 sub goals. There is little detail about how the proposal would actually work. The plan’s authors state that Congress and the governors “will enact comprehensive and sustainable Medicaid reform.” The Arc will monitor details of the blueprint as they become available.
Thirty-two men with intellectual and developmental disabilities each were awarded $2 million in punitive damages and $5.5 million in compensatory damages by an Iowa jury for discrimination and harassment they endured while working at Henry’s Turkey Farm. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case against Henry’s Turkey Farm alleging discrimination and harassment for the treatment they received while working at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa. For decades, Henry’s sent hundreds of men with I/DD from Texas to Iowa to work for 41 cents an hour. The men lived in a 100-year old Atalissa school building that had been converted to a bunkhouse. The Atalissa operation was closed down in 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed the case, was restricted to the final two years of operation limiting the number of workers who could seek compensation. The settlement is groundbreaking in that the jury put a value on the lives of men with I/DD comparable to that of men without disabilities.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest in a case in Illinois in which the plaintiffs argue that the Olmstead decision created a right to institutionalization. The case was filed by guardians of individuals who reside in one of the state’s Developmental Centers. Illinois plans to close two of its centers and redirect the dollars to community-based services. In its brief, DOJ stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not confer a right to remain in any given institution and that courts have found that it does not violate federal law for states to close an institution.