Employment – Andrew Puzder Withdraws as Labor Secretary Nominee, President Nominates Alexander Acosta

On February 15, Labor Secretary-Designate Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination. The next day President Trump nominated Alexander Acosta, Dean of the Florida International University School of Law. 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.

Health Care – House Releases Outline of ACA Repeal

In advance of the President’s Day recess, the House Majority Leadership released an outline of a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and restructure and cut the Medicaid program. The outline indicates that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would be repealed. While states that have already accepted Medicaid expansion would be grandfathered, the federal match rate would be reduced from 90 percent to the state’s traditional rate, reducing the incentive for states to continue the program. It would allow for an unspecified transition period, and then states that chose to keep the program open to new adult enrollees would be reimbursed at their traditional rate.

The plan would further destabilize the Medicaid program by reducing and capping federal spending. The proposal, known as a per capita cap/allotment, is a financing tool that will dramatically cut Medicaid funding. Unlike the current funding system, the amount provided under a per capita cap will not automatically increase when the cost of providing covered services to eligible individuals goes up. The intent of the per capita cap is to reduce federal spending by restructuring the program and significantly cutting the cost to the federal government. It is unlikely that states will be able to achieve these cuts without scaling back benefits, reducing reimbursement rates, or shifting costs to beneficiaries. Furthermore, states will no longer receive a federal match beyond the cap for changes that increase costs, such as increasing direct support professional wages. States would have the option to accept the per capita cap approach or a block grant (which would also have many of the same features).

The savings from the Medicaid per capita cap would help pay for the tax cuts included in the proposed plan. The outline proposes repealing the taxes on corporations and providers that helped pay for the ACA and the provisions that helped make health insurance affordable to the individual. The ACA replacement plan would combine a universal, refundable health care tax credit, based on age rather than income, to purchase insurance, changes to health savings accounts, and state funding for high risk pools or other projects. Health savings accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts, tied to high-deductible plans.

The bottom line is that during the week of February 27 the House is expected to begin legislative action on a proposal to restructure the Medicaid program in a manner which will undermine the federal/state partnership upon which it has been built. If successful, this restructuring would result in cost savings to the federal government that will shift costs to the states and to individuals and their families. It will also ultimately reduce the availability of supports and services to people with disabilities in the community and through the health care system. Read The Arc’s statement on the plan here.

Miscellaneous News – The Arc Seeking Caregivers for FINDS Survey

With the new year comes a new Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) Survey. We need your input! 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. The Arc invites people aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with I/DD to participate. Take the survey here.

Miscellaneous – Paul Marchand Internship Application for Summer 2017 Session Due Feb. 15

The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer session to assist interns interested in pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of people with I/DD and the larger 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, D.C. established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates. See more information here.

Education – House Holds Hearing on Charter Schools and Voucher Programs

On February 2, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing examining charter schools and voucher programs throughout the country. Witnesses included Michael L. William, former Texas Commissioner of Education; Almo J. Carter, a parent of a child with a disability from Washington, D.C.; Kevin Kubacki, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Charter Network in Indianapolis, IN; and Nina Cherry, a parent from Dover, FL. Visit the Committee web site for more information, including testimony and archived video.

Disability Policy Seminar – Registration for the 2017 Seminar is Open

The 2017 Disability Policy Seminar will be held in Washington, D.C. from March 20-22. This event is the premier opportunity to cultivate champions on Capitol Hill and advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). For over 40 years, this unique platform has offered the opportunity to come together with passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to learn about key issues.

The first 100 days of any new Administration and Congress are key to setting the agenda-and this year, more than ever, The Arc needs you in Washington, DC to advocate. Access to health care and community living supports, bedrock civil rights protections, and Medicaid are at risk. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register here.

Posted in DPS

Health – Senate Approves Tom Price as HHS Secretary

On February 10, the Senate confirmed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price by a vote of 52-47. HHS is the cabinet level department that administers most federal health and social service programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act programs, Developmental Disabilities Act programs, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Additionally, it oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Education – DeVos Issues Letter on ESSA implementation

On February 10, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a letter to chief state school officers intended to provide clarity on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This letter follows the announced delayby the Department of Education of the effective date of regulations concerning accountability and State plans until March 21, 2017, as the Administration reviews recently issued regulations. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress 60 legislative days to disapprove of certain regulations recently issued by federal agencies. On Feb 7, the House passed H.J. Res. 57to overturn the regulation on accountability and state plans that went into effect on Jan 30, 2017. The Senate vote on the measure has not yet been announced.

The February 10 letter emphasizes that states should continue to move forward and that the Department will work to ensure that states’ education leaders have the state and local flexibility that Congress intended. States should continue to follow the timeline for developing and submitting their plans for review and approval, building on the work they have already completed. The Department will still accept consolidated State plans on April 3 or September 18, 2017. Further guidance will be issued on the state plan requirements by March 13, 2017. The Arc supports strong accountability regulations in order to provide transparency in the performance of all students, including those with disabilities.