Health Care – House Passes CHIP Funding Extension

On November 3rd, the House of Representatives voted 242-174 to pass the Championing Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 3922), a bill that extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers. It also reauthorizes several public health programs, including a two year extension of the Family to Family Health Information Centers.  This bipartisan bill reauthorizes federal funding for CHIP for the next five years.  CHIP provides low-cost health insurance to roughly 8.9 million children under the age of 18 who do not qualify for Medicaid or have access to private insurance. Current federal funding expired on September 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2017. However, some states have been able to carry over this federal funding and keep their programs running longer than others. While there was bipartisan agreement on the reauthorization of these critical programs, there was a major disagreement about how to pay for the bills.  The provisions to pay for the reauthorizations included a large cut to the Prevention and Public Health fund, an increase in Medicare premiums for high income people, changes to Medicaid third party liability provisions, and changes to the treatment of certain lottery earnings in the Medicaid program. The Arc supports the reauthorizations but has concerns about the funding proposals. Read more here.

Budget & Appropriations/Tax Policy – House Releases Harmful Tax Bill

On November 3, the House Ways and Means Committee released its tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1).  While the bill does not include cuts to Medicaid or other federal programs, The Arc opposes this bill due to the $1.5 trillion over 10 years that the bill would add to the deficit, thereby increasing pressure to cut Medicaid and other programs in the future.  In addition, The Arc opposes the measure’s disproportionate benefit to wealthy individuals and corporations and it’s repeal of expenditures that benefit people with disabilities – the medical and dental expense deduction, the work opportunity tax credit, and the disabled access tax credit.  The bill also modifies Section 529 education savings accounts to cover elementary and high school expenses of up to $10,000 per year and removes income limits. Such a change would allow for wealthy individuals to receive a tax benefit for sending their child to private schools, which are not required to accept or provide a free and appropriate education to student with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (read more here).  Click here for a section-by-section summary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and click here to read the statement from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) on the bill.

Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Begins November 1

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the health care website). During “open enrollment”, a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available for low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post.

Employment – Senate Holds Hearing on Working and Aging with Disabilities

On October 25, the Senate Aging Committee held a hearing entitled, “Working and Aging with Disabilities: From School to Retirement.” Witnesses were David Michael Mank, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Indiana University; Tamar Heller, Ph.D., Professor, University of Illinois-Chicago; Eric Meyer, President and CEO, Spurwink; and Jeff Smith, Senior Mail Clerk, Arkema. Visit the Committee web site to view the archived video of the hearing.

Education – Department of Education Rescinds Additional Non-Regulatory Guidance Documents

On October 27, the Department of Education announced the “withdrawal of nearly 600 out-of-date pieces of sub-regulatory guidance on its books” to date. “Each item has been either superseded by current law or is no longer in effect. Removing these out-of-date materials will make it easier for schools, educators, parents and the public to understand what guidance is still in effect.” A very preliminary review of rescinded documents indicates that the documents are outdated, however, disability advocates will continue to review the rescinded documents.

This announcement follows the Oct. 19 announcement of the rescission of 72 guidance documents under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) that were rescinded due to being “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective” with no explanation provided. The Department followed up a few days later with a document that included brief justifications. A preliminary review also indicates that these rescissions appear to be valid. The Department’s Regulatory Reform Task Force’s full report and a list of out-of-date sub-regulatory guidance by office is available here.

Budget & Appropriations – House Passes Senate FY 2018 Budget Resolution, Setting the Stage for Tax Cuts and Possible Program Cuts

On October 26, the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2018 Senate Budget Resolution (H. Con Res 71, as amended) by a vote of 216 to 212. Since the House simply passed the Senate’s budget rather than going to conference to negotiate the significant differences between the chambers’ bills, the timeframe for a tax reform bill has been speeded up. Though the Budget Resolution is not a binding document, it provides a blueprint for federal spending and revenues for the next decade and authorizes certain committee and Congressional action for this fiscal year. The final Budget Resolution provides instructions to the Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committees allowing them to develop legislation that increases the deficit by up to $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That legislation would only require a simple majority (51 or 50 plus the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President) in the Senate to pass during FY 18. In addition to taxation, the Finance Committee has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and other health and human services programs. The House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over taxation and several health and human services programs (see list). The Senate budget assumes, but does not require, over $5 trillion in program cuts, including a nearly 30% cut in inflation adjusted dollars to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. Fortunately, however, 60 votes will be needed in the Senate to change the caps for defense and NDD programs established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Health Care – House Schedules CHIP Reauthorization Vote for This Week

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) this week. While there is bipartisan support for reauthorization of the program, there is disagreement on how to fund it. The current bill funds the program with Medicare and Medicaid changes. The Arc does not support paying for bills in ways that hurt Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries and urges the House of Representatives to continue seeking appropriate funding options with bipartisan support. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post.

Budget & Appropriations/Tax Policy – House Committee Expected to Release Tax Bill

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) announced that the Committee would release a draft of its tax bill on November 1. Markup of the legislation is scheduled to begin on November 6. Despite the announcement, there reportedly continues to be disagreement among Members of Congress on tax expenditures (credits, deductions, exclusions, and deferrals) that should be eliminated or reduced in order to offset the cost of cutting tax rates. The Arc will review the legislation to ensure that it is consistent with our shared principles for tax reform which include not cutting essential federal programs to help pay for tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals and corporations. See The Arc’s blog for more information.

Health Care/Rights – Senate Holds Hearing on Wellness Programs

On October 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on “Examining How Healthy Choices Can Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Costs.” Witnesses were Steve Burd, Founder and CEO, Burd Health; Michael F. Roizen, MD, Chief Wellness Officer and Founding Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic; David A. Asch, MD, MBA, John Morgan Professor, Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School, Executive Director, Center for Health Care Innovation, University of Pennsylvania; and Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. In her testimony, Mathis discussed the negative impact that regulations that define programs as “voluntary” when they charge penalties for non-participation have on the rights of people with disabilities. Visit the committee web site to review opening statements and archived video.

Education – Department of Education Rescinds Numerous IDEA Guidance Documents

On October 20, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) announced in a newsletter that guidance documents have been rescinded.  “At this time, OSERS has a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective-63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).”  This announcement follows President Trump’s Executive Order 13777, intended “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens” on the American people.  The Executive Order issued in February listed six criteria for making determinations on guidances, including those that “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation” and “impose costs that exceed benefits.”  The October 20 announcement only refers to documents which meet one of the six criteria, leaving open the door for further rescissions.  The Arc and education coalition partners are reviewing the rescinded documents to determine the potential impact on students with disabilities and their families.  A preliminary review indicates that the rescinded documents clarify existing regulations pertaining the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act, such as Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Placed by Their Parents at Private Schools.  The Arc is concerned about the lack of transparency in this process as no justifications were provided and no additional information is available on the Department’s website.  See the list of rescinded documents here.