Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Continues Through December 15

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the health care website). During open enrollment a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available to people with low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2018.

Rights – President Nominates William Barr for Attorney General

On December 7, President Trump nominated William P. Barr as Attorney General. Barr previously served as Attorney General from 1991 to 1993. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for law enforcement efforts and is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Budget & Appropriations – President Signs Two-Week Continuing Resolution

On December 7, President Trump signed a continuing resolution to continue government operations for several federal departments until December 21. Earlier this year, legislation was enacted to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) for fiscal year 2019. The bill signed last week prevents a partial government shut-down of seven federal departments, including the Departments of Justice, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. Congressional leaders and the President will continue to negotiate a spending bill to cover those agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Tax Policy – Arkansas Opens Qualified ABLE Program

Arkansas recently opened a new Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program, bringing the total number of jurisdictions with ABLE programs to 41. The program is open to all eligible individuals nationwide. It has three investment options and a cash option. The program has a quarterly maintenance fee of $15 with a $3.75 discount for opting to receive statements via email, and monthly asset-based fees ranging from 0.34% to 0.38% depending on the investment option chosen. There is an additional $1.25 discount for Arkansas residents. More information about state implementation of the ABLE Act can be found here.

Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Continues Through December 15

Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the healthcare.gov website). During open enrollment a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available to people with low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2018.

Tax Policy – House Tax Bill Introduced

On November 26, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a tax bill. The measure has five main elements: technical corrections to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA); extension of 26 tax breaks (such as credits for biodiesel fuel and regional railroads); an overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service; tax breaks for disaster area residents; and retirement savings provisions. It is estimated to cost $53 billion over 10 years. Since the measure requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass, it is not expected to advance. Some Members of Congress have stated their opposition to making technical corrections to the TCJA unless other provisions that benefit the very wealthy and encourage corporate offshoring are changed.

Congress – House Democrats Select Leadership

On November 27, House Democrats held their leadership elections. They elected Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as Majority Leader, James Clyburn (D-SC) as Majority Whip, Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) as Assistant Leader, and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as Caucus Chair. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) won the caucus nomination for Speaker of the House by a vote of 203-32. The Speaker will be elected by the full House of Representatives on January 3, 2019. To be elected Speaker, one must receive a majority vote, which is 218 if all members vote.

Education – NCD Releases Reports on School Choice

On November 15, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released two reports on school choice. The first report relates to charter schools. This report highlights many concerns with the charter school system, including the disproportionately low percentage of enrollees who have disabilities, frequent non-compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), harsh codes of conduct, increased racial segregation, and the negative impact on students remaining in the traditional public school system. The report makes several recommendations to policy-makers to remedy these concerns. The second report relates to private school choice. This report recommends that schools receiving voucher funds be required to follow the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and accountability requirements that currently apply to public schools.

Social Security – Senate Finance Committee Advances SSA Commissioner Nomination

On November 15, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted to favorably report the nomination of Andrew Saul to be Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA administers Social Security programs such as Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Visit the Committee web site for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.

Housing – Fair Housing Improvement Act Introduced

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) have introduced the “Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018” (S. 3612). The bill would expand the Fair Housing Act’s protections to prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income or veteran status. Under the bill, source of income includes a Section 8 housing voucher or other form of federal, state, or local housing assistance; Social Security or Supplemental Security Income; income received by court order, including spousal support and child support; and payment from a trust, guardian, or conservator. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.