Health – House Leadership Announces Plans to Resurrect Health Care Bill

On April 6, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent a letter to House Republicans prior to their two-week recess announcing that the House has resumed its work on the American Health Care Act. The House Rules Committee approved an amendment to create a $15 billion risk sharing program. Additionally, members are considering eliminating requirements that insurers offer certain benefits such as habilitation services as well as eliminating the prohibition of charging higher premiums to beneficiaries with chronic health conditions. McCarthy stated that they may end the recess early if they achieve a consensus among enough members to pass the bill. See The Arc’s Action Alert for more information including how to fight back.

Rights – Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Associate Justice

On April 7, the Senate confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch as Associate Justice by a vote of 54-45. This followed the invocation of “cloture” or forcing an end to unlimited debate. Traditionally, this requires 60 votes. However, the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” which allows reinterpretation of the rules by a simple majority vote (51 votes) to change the vote required for cloture on Supreme Court nominees to a simple majority. Issues important to people with disabilities often come before the U.S. Supreme Court. They span such important concerns as rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the right to fair, non-discriminatory treatment in health care settings, and the death penalty.

Criminal Justice – Supreme Court Rejects Arbitrary Definition of Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Case

The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in the case Moore v. Texas, reversing the death sentence of Bobby Moore. Moore was convicted of killing a store clerk as part of a botched robbery and was sentenced to death. He challenged the sentence on the grounds of intellectual disability. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that he did not meet its criteria for intellectual disability under the criteria it established in a previous case, Ex Parte Briseno. The “Briseno factors” are not based on any clinical standards, but rather stereotypes derived in part from the character of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Using these standards, the Texas CCA ruled that Moore’s ability to live on the streets, mow lawns, and play pool for money precluded a finding of intellectual disability. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the death sentence, ruling that a state must base its standards for determining intellectual disability on the medical community’s diagnostic framework. For more information, read The Arc’s statement on the Supreme Court decision here.

Tax – Pennsylvania Opens ABLE Program

On February 27, Pennsylvania became the 19th state to launch a qualified ABLE Program. This program is open to eligible individuals nationwide. The plan has seven investment options, one of which is an interest-bearing checking account with a debit card. There is a quarterly fee of $15, or $11.25 if program statements and information are sent electronically, along with annual asset-based fees that range from 0.34% to 0.38% for investment options. Additionally, there is a $2 monthly fee for the checking account option unless account holders choose to receive bank statements electronically or maintain an average balance of at least $250 a month. More information about state implementation the ABLE Act can be found here. General information about ABLE programs can be found in the National Policy Matters: ABLE Accounts for People with Disabilities here.

Miscellaneous News – FINDS Survey Deadline This Month!

We need your input and help disseminating this crucial survey! The Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota in collaboration with The Arc, is seeking caregivers to share their perceptions on a range of life-span issues impacting individuals with I/DD. We are inviting family or unrelated caregivers aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with an I/DD to participate. The results of the 2010 Survey provided unique insight into the growing gaps in education, employment, and other life-span activities that exist between persons with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, which has informed further dialogue and policy changes at the Federal and State levels. Take the survey and share it widely in your networks! Deadline: April 30.

Miscellaneous News – FINDS Survey Deadline This Month!

We need your input and help disseminating this crucial survey! The Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with The Arc, is seeking caregivers to share their perceptions on a range of life-span issues impacting individuals with I/DD. We are inviting family or unrelated caregivers aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with an I/DD to participate. The results of the 2010 Survey provided unique insight into the growing gaps in education, employment, and other life-span activities that exist between persons with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, which has informed further dialogue and policy changes at the federal and state levels. Take the survey and share it widely in your networksDeadline: April 30.

Employment – Senate Committee Votes to Approve Secretary of Labor Nomination

On March 30, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 to recommend that the full Senate confirm Alexander Acosta to be the Secretary of Labor. The Department of Labor is the agency responsible for the implementation of federal labor and employment laws, including those relating to wages and hours. Additionally, it includes the Office of Disability Employment Policy which is a non-regulatory agency that promotes employment of people with disabilities.

Medicaid – HHS Secretary and CMS Administrator Write Letter to Governors Regarding Medicaid Changes

On March 14, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Thomas Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma sent a letter to Governors expressing the Administration’s priorities in Medicaid policy. Among the topics mentioned were speeding up the review of state plan amendments and waivers, allowing more premiums or contributions from beneficiaries, the use of alternative benefit plan designs such as health savings accounts, and waivers of retroactive coverage and presumptive eligibility. The letter also referred to the Administration’s openness to using demonstration authority to develop health care plans that focus on training and employment. This has been widely interpreted to indicate that the Administration will consider work requirements for adults applying for Medicaid, a proposal that a number of states had included in demonstrations but the previous Administration would not approve. The letter also indicated the Administration would be pursuing additional time for states to implement the Home and Community-Based Services settings rule and looking at ways to engage with states on the implementation of the rule. The Arc has expressed concern about the letter.

Miscellaneous News – FINDS Survey Deadline Extended!

We need your input and help disseminating this crucial survey! The Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota in collaboration with The Arc, is seeking caregivers to share their perceptions on a range of life-span issues impacting individuals with I/DD. We are inviting family or unrelated caregivers aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with an I/DD to participate. The results of the 2010 Survey provided unique insight into the growing gaps in education, employment, and other life-span activities that exist between persons with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, which has informed further dialogue and policy changes at the Federal and State levels. Take the survey and share it widely in your networksDeadline: April 30.

Education – Senator Murray Sends Memo and Keynotes Event on School Privatization Policies

On March 22, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, sent a memo to Senate colleagues on the repercussions of school privatization efforts. The 20-page memo includes select stories on school privatization policies and provides an overview of the main types of such policies (vouchers, direct tax credits or deductions, tax credit vouchers, and education savings accounts) and how these policies fall short in three areas: 1) accountability and transparency, 2) challenges in rural areas, and 3) protecting students’ rights. On the same day, Senator Murray keynoted an event at the Center for American Progress entitled, “Federal Voucher Programs: Implications for Public Schools and Vulnerable Students.” Watch the archived webcast of the event here.