Health Care/Medicaid – Senate Version of Health Care/Medicaid Bill Released, Drawing Condemnation from Disability Advocates

On June 22, 2017, the Senate Budget Committee released a discussion draft of health care reform legislation, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”  Some Senators are claiming that provisions have been added to this bill to protect people with disabilities. However, provisions related to people with disabilities are wholly inadequate.  Click here to see key points on why the disability provisions fail to provide any meaningful protections for people with disabilities.

The Senate draft is substantially similar to the harmful bill (H.R 1628) passedby the House in May.  Among other things, both measures radically restructure the financing of the Medicaid program to pay for the repeal of the tax provisions and other revenue producing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  As a result, deep cuts to health care and community living supports for low income people would be used to fund tax breaks that largely benefit corporations and wealthy individuals.

Reactions to the Senate draft were swift and overwhelmingly negative from the disability community and others, evidenced by a highly-publicized protest in the Senate. Click here to watch MSNBC’s coverage of the protest which included numerous arrests and an extensive analysis of Medicaid’s significance to people with disabilities.

As The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns noted in his statement on the day the Senate draft was released, “This bill will have a devastating impact on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Make no mistake – people’s lives and independence are on the line.”

Tax Policy – Georgia Opens Qualified ABLE Program

On June 13, Georgia became the 22nd state to launch a qualified ABLE Program. This program is currently only open to Georgia residents. The program has five investment options. There is a quarterly fee of $3.50 and asset-based fees that range from 0.19% to 0.34% for investment options. The minimum initial deposit is $50. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here. General information about ABLE programs can be found in the National Policy Matters: ABLE Accounts for People with Disabilities here.

Social Security – Social Security for Future Generations Act Introduced in House

Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL) and 17 cosponsors have introduced the Social Security for Future Generations Act (H.R. 2855). The bill would extend Social Security student benefits to age 22, enhance Social Security benefits for widow(er)s, provide annual cost-of-living increases in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits that better reflect beneficiaries’ living expenses, apply Social Security payroll tax on wages above $250,000, and increase the Social Security special minimum benefit for long-term low-wage workers. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Education and the Workforce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Energy and Commerce. The Arc supports this legislation.

Social Security/Income Support – Bill to Cut Social Security, SSI Introduced in House

Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Sam Johnson (R-TX) have introduced legislation to bar payment of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to people with an outstanding arrest warrant for an alleged felony or for an alleged violation of probation or parole (H.R. 2792). This would revive an old, failed policy that had catastrophic effects for many people with disabilities and seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny. This bill would not change existing policies and procedures, which already bar payments to people fleeing from law enforcement and direct the Social Security Administration to exchange information about fugitive felons and probation or parole violators with law enforcement. Instead, the bill would primarily affect people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing; most of the warrants in question are decades old and involve minor infractions. Cutting off benefits will not help resolve warrants – but will threaten the means of survival of hundreds of thousands of Social Security and SSI beneficiaries. The Arc strongly opposes this bill. Learn more from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.

Health Care/Medicaid – The Arc Continues Advocacy to Preserve Medicaid

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to seek Senate passage of the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), which passed the House of Representatives in May. News reports continue to indicate that the Senate may vote on the bill as soon as the end of June. While the Majority Leader has not released proposed Senate changes to the bill, reports continue to indicate that Medicaid per capita caps will remain in the bill, jeopardizing the availability of Medicaid home and community-based services for people with I/DD.

The Arc is continuing its efforts to preserve health care and long-term services and supports under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. On June 16, The Arc hosted a Facebook Live briefing (part 1part 2) with Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy. On June 19, The Arc co-hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill on “Understanding the Devastating Impact of Medicaid Per Capita Caps on People with Disabilities” with Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy, as a panelist. Additionally, The Arc released a fact sheetdetailing Medicaid’s optional and waiver services that are at risk if per capita caps are enacted.

Data Collection – Census Bureau Releases “Facts for Features”

In commemoration of the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Census Bureau is releasing a “Facts for Features” report providing a demographic snapshot of the U.S. population with a disability and examining various services available to them. The demographic snapshot includes information about institutionalization, transportation, employment, accessibility, and other useful information.

Social Security/Income Support – The Arc Releases Video on Proposed Social Security Disability Program Cuts

The Arc has released a new video on the proposed $72.4 billion cuts to Social Security disability programs, and its contrast to President Trump’s promise to save Social Security without cuts. The video features Will, a child with a disability who relies on Supplemental Security Income to pay for his seizure medication, and Heather, who needed Social Security Disability Insurance when she was unable to work due to her cancer. Please share this videowidely with your networks to show the impact of cutting Medicaid and repealing major health care protections. For an especially easy option,retweet The Arc of the US and share our Facebook post.

Transportation – Senate Introduces Bill to Improve Airline Accessibility

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has introduced the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act (S.1318) along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Ed Markey (D-MA). This bill will strengthen the Air Carrier Access Act by providing a private right of action and increasing civil penalties for injury of a passenger with a disability or damage of a wheelchair or other mobility device. Additionally, it requires a study of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems that would allow individuals to sit in their wheelchairs during a flight and to put forward guidelines based on those findings. The Arc supports this legislation.

Health Care/Medicaid – Senate Plans Vote on Health Care Act by End of Month

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has placed the American Health Care Act on the Senate calendar with a vote planned by the end of June. The Senate is planning to skip the committee process. The bill is expected to be substantially similar to the version that passed the House. Very few details of the bill have been made public. One likely change is extending the time frame for phasing out the Medicaid expansion. However, Medicaid per capita caps are likely to remain in the bill, jeopardizing the availability of services for people with I/DD. The Arc is continuing its efforts to defeat the bill, and recently released a new video.

Javi, a man with autism and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and his mother Linda have benefitted from Medicaid. Linda became a single parent when Javi was just seven years old, and was able to work full time because of the support Javi received through Medicaid. Last week, The Arc released their story, the sixth in a series featuring people who rely on Medicaid and/or the Affordable Care Act. Please share this video widely with your networks to show the impact of cutting Medicaid and repealing major health care protections. For an especially easy option, retweet The Arc of the US and share our Facebook post.

If you missed The Arc’s first five videos, check them out & share them now:“If I could say one thing”“Calvin’s Story”“Meet Thelma”“Meet Bryan.”, and “Meet Soojung & Alice”

Please Share! New Videos on the Importance of Medicaid, Affordable Care Act to People with Disabilities and their Families

Soojung’s daughter, Alice, was born with Rett syndrome and relies on Medicaid to get the health care and services she needs to survive and thrive. Last week, The Arc released their story, the fifth in a series featuring people who rely on Medicaid and/or the Affordable Care Act. Please share this video widely with your networks to show the impact of cutting Medicaid and repealing major health care protections. For an especially easy option, retweet The Arc of the US and share our Facebook post.

If you missed The Arc’s first four videos, check them out & share them now:“If I could say one thing”“Calvin’s Story”“Meet Thelma”, and “Meet Bryan.”