Late last week, a draft bill believed to be under consideration for the House Republican approach to restructuring Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act was “leaked”. It is believed that the draft bill and perhaps other draft bills have been sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to obtain cost estimates (known as “scoring”) expected to assist the House Energy and Commerce Committee in preparing legislation for possible mark-up during the week of March 6. It is, of course, unknown until the Committee releases its own bill what the actual legislation will try to achieve. However, given the elements of the leaked version and the proposals that have been discussed to date, it is likely to involve repeal of key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and drastic cuts to Medicaid through permanent restructuring of the federal/state partnership relationship. Therefore, continued advocacy is more urgent than ever. See action alert: TAKE ACTION TO PREVENT GUTTING OF THE ACA AND MEDICAID.
Last week, Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Ron Kind (D-WI), Ryan Costello (R-PA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced H.R. 5204, the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act. H.R. 5204 is the House companion bill to S. 2800,introduced in April 2016 by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), and Rob Portman (R-OH). The bills would end federal taxation of discharged federal student loans under the “Total and Permanent Disability(TPD)” standard or in the event of the death of a borrower. Under current law, federal student loan debt forgiven in these situations is considered income for tax purposes. As a result, borrowers who have their federal student loan debt forgiven due to a qualifying disability, and families of borrowers who die, can be charged tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. The Arc supports H.R. 5204 and S. 2800, which will end this unnecessary and harmful tax provision. H.R. 5204 was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Committee on Ways and Means.
We need YOU in Washington, D.C. to help us build bipartisan support in Congress for high-priority disability issues. When you attend the Disability Policy Seminar on April 11-13, we’ll arm you with all of the information you need to help educate your Members of Congress and their staff on the priorities of the I/DD community. Then, you can return to your hometowns with the ability to spread the word, educate new advocates, and reach out to your elected officials throughout the year, to help put the needs of people with I/DD front and center every day in your community. And since it’s an election year, this year there will be sessions to brush up on your right as a citizen to vote. The early registration deadline is March 11.
In conjunction with the Leadership Institute for Cultural Diversity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence, the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence is now seeking applicants for its second Leadership Academy. Scheduled for June 13-16, 2016 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this four day, in-person learning opportunity empowers leaders within the disability community to effectively harness the diversity among people with disabilities. The application deadline is February 7, 2016. To learn more about this event and apply, please do so here.
Last week, President Obama announced a set of “New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.” As part of this initiative, the Administration proposes to increase mental health treatment by $500 million. The initiative also includes two actions to increase reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NICS is a federal database used to help identify people who are prohibited by gun control laws from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm. The law and regulations broadly define who is subject to the mental health prohibition, including:
- Individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution for reasons such as mental illness or drug use;
- Found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity; or
- Otherwise determined by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or unable to manage their own affairs, as a result of “marked subnormal intelligence”, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.
As part of the initiative announced last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published final rules, effective February 5, 2016, modifying the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to allow some covered entities to report information to the NICS. Additionally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will propose rules to report information to the NICS about Social Security beneficiaries with mental impairments who have representative payees to manage their Social Security benefits.
The Arc is concerned about the well-being of all Americans. As an organization that protects and promotes the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), The Arc is also concerned about the potential for these actions to impact people with mental disabilities, including people with I/DD, who are not currently prohibited by law from purchasing firearms. The Arc will be closely monitoring implementation of the HHS final rules and will review and comment on any proposed rules by SSA.
On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on “Welfare and Poverty in America.” Witnesses will be Pamela Loprest, Labor Economist and Senior Fellow, Income and Benefits Policy Center, Urban Institute; Aretha J. Jackson, disabled veteran and TANF recipient; H. Luke Shaefer, Associate Professor, School of Social Work and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Jon Pierpont, Executive Director, Utah Department of Workforce Services, Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit the Committee web site to view testimony and live video the day of the hearing.
As The Arc celebrates Social Security’s 80th anniversary this August, we kick off the month by marking the 59th anniversary of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Signed into law on August 1, 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, SSDI insures nearly all American workers and their families in the event of life-changing disabilities. Without SSDI, millions of people with significant disabilities – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – would face financial dire straits and often unthinkable choices. Learn more about SSDI and the action that we need Congress to take to maintain this lifeline on The Arc’s blog and in a new edition of National Policy Matters, Social Security and SSI for People with I/DD and Their Families. This edition of National Policy Matters explores how Social Security, SSI and related health insurance under Medicare and Medicaid operate, the vital support they provide, and current policy proposals that may impact people with I/DD and their families.