Health Care – Senators Release Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Cost Sharing Subsidies

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), along with 22 other co-sponsors (11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, 1 Independent), released a bill to continue cost-sharing reductions payments under the Affordable Care Act for two years. The bill also partially restores federal funding for consumer outreach and enrollment assistance. Additionally, it makes changes to the Section 1332 waiver process, making it easier for states to get waivers of certain parts of the law, provided certain standards are maintained. For more information, read The Arc’s blog post.

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

On October 19, the Senate passed its FY 2018 Budget Resolution by a near party line vote of 51 to 49.  Passing the measure (H. Con Res 71, as amended) is a critical step toward the Administration’s current top priority to cut taxes.  Though the budget resolution is not a legally 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 Senate budget resolution provides instructions to the Finance Committee and appropriate House 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 (50) 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 Senate budget assumes 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.  According to press reports, the House is likely to pass the Senate’s budget, making a conference between the two chambers unnecessary.  This could result in tax cut legislation being developed within the next month.  Click here for an analysis on how tax cuts that add significantly to the deficit may affect programs for people with disabilities.

Family Support/Employment – The Arc to Host Webinar on Paid Family and Medical Leave from the Disability Angle

People across the United States are talking about the need for paid family and medical leave. New research by The Arc and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) highlights how access to paid leave can promote economic security and stability for people with disabilities and their families. Join us on Monday, October 23 at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time at http://bit.ly/2xrvEQF to learn more! Presenters will include Kali Grant, GCPI; T.J. Sutcliffe, The Arc; Erika Hagensen, North Carolina; and Lauren Agoratus, New Jersey.

Social Security – Social Security Administration Announces Cost of Living Increases for 2017

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a two percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2018. The Social Security Act provides for annual COLA increases based on inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Because the CPI-W rose modestly over the last year, the 2017 COLA will increase benefits modestly. According to SSA, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker will increase by $27, from $1,377 in 2017 to $1,404 in 2018. The average monthly benefit for a Social Security “disabled worker” beneficiary will increase by $24, from $1,173 in 2017 to $1,197 in 2018. In addition, the SSI Federal Payment Standard will increase from $735 per month in 2017 to $750 per month in 2018. Important work incentive thresholds for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities will also increase, including the Substantial Gainful Activity level and the Trial Work Period earnings level. View SSA’s fact sheet for more details on the 2018 Social Security COLA.

Health – President Announces Changes in ACA Implementation

On October 12, President Trump issued an executive order aimed at weakening protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The order instructs agencies to identify and consider ways in which plans can be offered that do not meet the ACA’s requirements. These changes, if implemented, have the potential to drive up the cost of plans that provide adequate benefits and coverage for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. See The Arc’s statement here.

Later that day, the White House announced that it would stop cost-sharing reduction payments. The ACA requires insurance companies to substantially reduce out-of-pocket expenses for beneficiaries with incomes under 250% of the poverty level and provides for reimbursement from the federal government. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this decision is likely to increase the number of uninsured Americans, premiums, and the federal deficit. For more information, see The Arc’s blog post.

Budget & Appropriations – Senate Expected to Vote on FY 2018 Budget Resolution, Helping to Set the Stage for Tax Cuts and Possible Program Cuts

The full Senate is expected to take up its fiscal year (FY) 2018 Budget Resolution this week. The Senate Budget provides instructions to the Finance Committee to allow the Committee to develop legislation that increases the deficit by up to $1.5 trillion over the next decade. 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 Senate Budget also assumes, but does not require, trillions of dollars in cuts to mandatory programs and proposes a cut of nearly 30% in inflation adjusted dollars to non-defense discretionary programs by 2027. It also includes an amendment by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) that was passed by the Senate Budget Committee for implementing work requirements for all means-tested federal “welfare” programs.

If the measure passes as expected, it will set up a conference with the House to iron out the substantial differences between the two budgets. If both chambers are able to pass the same version, it would allow for legislation that can be passed by a simple majority (51) in the Senate. If the House defers to the Senate version, as is presently being reported, any resulting tax cut legislation that exceeds $1.5 trillion over ten years could result in cuts from mandatory programs (such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income) to make up the difference. Click here for an analysis of the Senate 2018 Budget Resolution.

Health – Bipartisan Health Bills Move Forward

On October 4, The House Energy and Commerce Committee also approved several bills addressing a variety of issues supported by The Arc including extending funding for community health centers (H.R.3922), a two year extension of the Family to Family Health Information Centers, extending the Medicare Independence at Home Medical Practice Demonstration (H.R.3263) making permanent a provision that allows Medicare coverage for speech generating devices (H.R.2465) and several other bills. Unfortunately, the Committee also voted to reduce $6.35 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund over 10 years. The fund supports many prevention and public health programs throughout the country.

Health – CHIP Reauthorization Clears Senate and House Committees

On October 4, the Senate Finance Committee passed the Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act (S.1827). This bipartisan bill reauthorizes federal funding for the next five years to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a program which currently 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 at the end of FY 2017. However, some states have been able to carry over this federal funding and keep their programs running longer than others. The Finance Committee has not yet indicated how they plan to fund the $8 billion needed for CHIP to continue. The bill is set to move to the Senate floor for consideration after the forthcoming recess.

Also on October 4, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Helping Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Youth by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable (HEALTHY KIDS) Act of 2017 (H.R.3291). This bill also reauthorizes the federal funding for the CHIP program for five years. While there was bipartisan agreement on the reauthorization, the Committee members disagree about how to pay for the bills. The bill included an increase in Medicare premiums for high income people, changes to Medicaid third party liability provisions and changes to the treatment of lottery winners to pay for the reauthorization.

Budget & Appropriations – Senate Committee Passes FY 2018 Budget Resolution

The Senate Budget Committee passed its fiscal year 2018 Budget along a party line vote of 12 to 11 on October 5. It also passed an amendment by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) for implementing work requirements for all means-tested federal “welfare” programs. The Senate Budget provides instructions to the Finance Committee to allow the Committee to increase the deficit by to $1.5 trillion over the next decade. 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 Senate Budget also assumes trillions of dollars in cuts to mandatory programs and proposes a cut of nearly 30% in inflation adjusted dollars to non-defense discretionary programs by 2027.

The full Senate is expected to take up the measure the week of October 16. If it passes as expected, it will set up a conference with the House to iron out the substantial differences between their budgets. If both chambers are able to pass the same version, it could allow for legislation that can be passed by a simple majority (51) in the Senate. Click here for an analysis of the Senate 2018 Budget Resolution.