Budget & Appropriations – House to Vote on Budget Resolution, Setting the Stage for Tax and Medicaid Legislation

The House plans to vote on its fiscal year 2018 Budget Resolution on Wednesday, October 4. Click here for a summary of the House Budget Resolution, which includes plans to “reform” Medicaid, cut spending, and enact tax reform. Passage of the House resolution (H.Con.Res.71) would set up a conference with the Senate on its budget blueprint (see article below). The House and Senate could quickly adopt a joint budget resolution to pave the way for legislation that can be passed by a simple majority (51) vote in the Senate. The Arc opposes the House Budget Resolution.

Health Care/Medicaid – Senators Put Bipartisan Efforts on Hold

The growing Senate interest in the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill last week has derailed bipartisan efforts by the Senate Finance Committee to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has also ended efforts to stabilize the health insurance market places by extending the programs that help make health insurance affordable for people and making other small changes to the Affordable Care Act. These two efforts are critical to maintaining affordable health insurance for children and people in the individual health insurance market and The Arc urges Congress to address these critical issues.

Health Care/Medicaid – Revised Graham-Cassidy-Heller- Johnson Bill Seeks to Win Over Hold Outs

Over the weekend, the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal was revised. The new version appears to make adjustments to the funding provisions designed to benefit certain states. It also allows more state flexibility to waive requirements in the law such the essential health benefits, prohibiting discrimination based on disability, age, and other factors, covering preventive services without cost-sharing, charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums, and other provisions. It is unlikely that the bill will be scored by the Congressional Budget Office in time for a vote this week. The new version does not appear to alter the Medicaid per capita cap provisions which cuts and caps the traditional Medicaid program. The Arc continues to oppose this proposal and is deeply concerned about the impact it will have on people with disabilities who rely on the Medicaid program for access to health care and long term supports and services.

Social Security – House Vote Likely on Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

On Monday, the House of Representatives Rules Committee will lay the groundwork for a House floor vote on legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for certain people with disabilities and seniors. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill at some point this week; a date has not yet been set. As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy targeting SSI recipients with old, outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation. Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals. Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability. To learn more, read The Arc’s press statement condemning recent Committee action to advance this harmful legislation.

Health Care/Medicaid – Senate Finance Committee to Hold Hearing on Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson; Full Senate Vote May Occur This Week

Today, September 25, at 2:00 PM EDT, the Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Proposal. Witnesses will include: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA); former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA); Dennis G. Smith, Senior Advisory for Medicaid and Health Care Reform, Arkansas Department of Human Services; Teresa Miller, Acting Secretary, Department of Human Services, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Cindy Mann, Former Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, United States Department of Health and Human Services; and Dick Woodruff, Senior Vice President, Federal Advocacy, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The is the first hearing on the legislation. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access the hearing live today. Read The Arc’s written testimony here.

While the Congressional Budget Office announced it will not have time to analyze the health care coverage impact of the bill before the September 30 deadline, it is expected to release a report this week on the fiscal implications of the bill. Avalere released an analysis showing that there will be a total reduction of $215 billion between 2020 and 2026 compared to current law with all but 16 states seeing funding reduced. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates there will be a reduction of $160 billion compared to current law with all but 15 states losing funding. Overtime the overall cuts to the Medicaid program would total over $4 trillion through 2036. Cuts to the traditional Medicaid program would be more than $1 trillion over two decades.

The Senate has until September 30 to pass the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill with a simple majority vote. After that date, the legislation will require 60 votes to pass, unless Congress passes a budget resolution for fiscal year 2018 that contains reconciliation instructions intended to address health care. Last week, Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) said that he intended to have a Senate vote this week. The vote is expected to be very close. If successful, expectations are that the bill would go immediately to the House floor for passage and then to the President for signature. This would be a devastating blow to people with disabilities and their families who have worked so hard this year to prevent block grants and per capita caps from destroying the Medicaid program – a program which provides basic health care and long term supports which make it possible for millions of people to live as independently as possible in their communities. The Washington Post printed a letter to the editor from The Arc’s Marty Ford expressing these concerns.

Education – Child Care for Working Families Act introduced in Senate

On September 14, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and 26 original co-sponsors introduced S. 1806, the Child Care for working Families Act. The Arc supports this bill that would, among many other things, support more inclusive, high-quality early learning and child care for children with disabilities, and infants and toddlers with disabilities, including by increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bill was developed to address the current crisis in affordable and inclusive early learning and child care.

Family Support – RAISE Family Caregivers Act Introduced in House

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act (H.R. 3759) was introduced in the House by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) with Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) as original cosponsors on September 13. The Arc supports this bill to implement the recommendation of the federal Commission on Long-Term Care for the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers. The bill would create an advisory body to bring together relevant federal agencies and others from the private and public sectors. The advisory body is charged with identifying specific actions that government, communities, providers, employers, and others can take to recognize and support family caregivers. The Senate’s version of the bill (S.1028) was passed by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in May by unanimous voice vote.

Budget & Appropriations – House Passes FY 2018 Spending Bill, Senate Not Expected to Take It Up

After two weeks spent debating hundreds of amendments, the House passed a $1.23 trillion omnibus spending bill on September 14 to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year (FY 2018). The bill included significant increases in defense spending and cuts in non-defense spending. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate because it exceeds base discretionary spending caps for Defense programs established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by approximately $72 billion. A budget agreement to change the spending caps would be needed to avoid across-the-board spending cuts (known as a sequester). In addition, the House bill includes $1.6 billion for the controversial border wall with Mexico and many other controversial policy riders such as limitations on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The House and Senate will have to negotiate a spending bill before December 8 when the current continuing resolution expires in order to avoid a government funding shutdown.

Social Security – House Committee Advances Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

Last week, by a vote of 23 to 14, the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means advanced legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for certain people with disabilities and seniors. As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy targeting SSI recipients with old, outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation. Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals. Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability. View markup materials from the Committee and learn more in The Arc’s press statement condemning the Committee vote.