New Public Service Announcement on the Affordable Care Act and People With Disabilities

On November 14, the White House released a new public service announcement on the Affordable Care Act and people with disabilities.  It explains how individuals with disabilities can no longer be denied health coverage because of health history.  The public service announcement was released to coincide with open enrollment, which began on Saturday, November 15, and ends on February 15.  This time period will be a chance for individuals already enrolled in healthcare to re-enroll and for individuals not yet enrolled to sign up to begin receiving healthcare.  To see the new announcement view it on The White House YouTube page.  For additional information on coverage, please visit www.healthcare.gov.

TRICARE Autism Demonstration Program Launched; Rate Cut Delayed

On Sept 19, The Department of Defense’s TRICARE program published its new Autism Care Demonstration guidance.  While the program includes several improvements, it also includes a nearly 50% reduction of reimbursement rates for board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) delivered therapy and more. The program was subsequently launched on Oct. 20; however, after strong opposition from advocates, the BCBA reimbursement policy has been delayed by 180 days. Learn more at Autism Speaks.

Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Begins This Week

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 income. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace, to look at the plan and determine if it will continue to meet the needs of the person, or select a better plan. 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.

2015 Open Enrollment

November 15, 2014 – Open enrollment begins

December 15, 2014 – Enroll before this date to have coverage January 1, 2015

February 15, 2015 – Open enrollment ends

For more information and where to get help, read more on The Arc’s blog.

Autism CARES Signed by President Obama

The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014 was signed into law on August 8, 2014 by President Obama. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for an additional five years and makes a number of improvements to it. Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. This has resulted in an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention. The new law continues these efforts and makes the following improvements – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self-advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth.For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

Autism CARES Is Law

The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014 was signed into law on August 8, 2014 by President Obama. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for an additional five years and makes a number of improvements to it. Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. This has resulted in an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention. The new law includes continues these efforts and make the following improvements – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth.For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

Senate Passes Autism CARES Act

Late on July 31, the Senate unanimously passed “Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014” or the “Autism CARES Act” (S. 2449), sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) . The bill reauthorizes the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 for an additional five years. Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has advanced the science and practice in the autism field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts.   The new measure will continue these efforts and includes a number of welcome changes: a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self-advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth. For more information on the accomplishments of the Combating Autism Act, visit the HHS website.

Legislation Introduced to Extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Congress is considering what actions to take regarding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  CHIP was enacted in 1997 and after FY 2015 there will be no new funds for the program.  CHIP has had bipartisan support and has helped expand affordable health insurance coverage to low and moderate income children.  Earlier this summer, Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced S. 2461 to extend the program for four years.  Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.  Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) joined Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) in sending a letter to governors asking for input on extending the program and seeking additional information about enrollment and design of each state program. The Arc has supported the CHIP program and will be closely monitoring Congressional actions.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Clarifies Medicaid Coverage of Autism-Related Services

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an information bulletin outlining options for Medicaid to provide children with coverage of autism-related services. The bulletin discusses the opportunities and associated requirements for covering services under a variety of authorities including the Medicaid EPSDT mandate.  The bulletin does not require states to cover the services but clarifies how states can cover the services if they choose.  View the information bulletin.

The Department of Health and Human Services Announces Availability of Navigator Grants

The Department of Health and Human Services released a Notice of Funding Availability for grants for the navigator program authorized by the Affordable Care Act. The grants are available to organizations in states that the federal government is running or partnering with to maintain the private health insurance marketplaces. Navigators assist people with enrolling in health insurance programs. Organizations that are interested must submit a letter of intent by July 10. For pre-application webinars or more information, visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website.

Senate Confirms New Health and Human Services Secretary

The Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last Thursday. The vote was 78 in favor and 17 voting against confirmation. Burwell is moving into the position from her post as the director of the Office of Management and Budget where she was easily confirmed in a 96-0 vote last April.