National Coronavirus Commission Act Introduced

On September 23, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) introduced the National Coronavirus Commission Act (S.4666 / H.R.8358). This bill creates a non-partisan commission to assess the nation’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to make recommendations to improve readiness in the future. The commission has a specific charge to review the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. The Arc supports this legislation. See The Arc’s statement.

CMS Data Reveal Decline in Preventive Care Utilization

On September 23, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released preliminary data showing that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady decline in rates of primary and preventive services as well as vaccinations among children on Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For instance, between March and May, there was a 22% decline in vaccinations of Medical and CHIP beneficiaries under 2 and a 44% decline in child screenings that assess physical and cognitive development.

Congressional Negotiations Stall on Next COVID Package; Trump Issues Proposals

With stimulus talks stalled, President Trump issued executive actions over the weekend to provide relief to Americans affected by the pandemic. The President proposed the following relief measures:

  • Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Up to $400 additional weekly federal UI benefit. States would be required to pay for 25% of the benefit.
  • Eviction moratorium. The order includes no new resources to assist renters and only directs federal agencies to “review all existing authorities and resources” and consider measures that are “reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.” It does not extend the limited federal eviction moratorium that expired on July 24.
  • Payroll tax. The measure proposes to defer the portion of payroll taxes paid by employees for some low-wage workers from September 1 to the end of the year. There is no provision made to reimbursing the Social Security and Medicare trust funds for these losses and the taxes would need to be paid back after 2020. This measure would not help the unemployed and will hurt the finances of Social Security and Medicare, which are already under fiscal strain.
  • Student loans. The President’s memorandum directs the Education Department to extend by three months the student loan relief granted in previous COVID relief legislation until the end of the year. Student loan payments are presently paused and interest is suspended on federally-held student loans until the end of September.

Numerous questions have been raised about the President’s authority to undertake such actions without Congressional approval.

COVID Relief – Senate Bill Expected Today; Advocacy Still Needed

Senate Republicans have indicated that they plan to release their proposal for the next round of coronavirus relief spending today. While the details are not yet known, it has been reported that the $1 trillion package may include another round of direct payments to individuals, a lower expanded federal unemployment insurance benefit, and funding for schools and COVID-19 testing. The proposal will be used to begin negotiations on the next package.

The Arc’s priorities for the next package include:

  • Increased federal funding for home and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid
  • Increased access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct support professionals
  • Expanded eligibility for economic impact payments to adult dependents and another round of payments
  • Paid leave eligibility for family caregivers of adults with disabilities, including siblings and grandparents

See The Arc’s July 7 update here. We urge you to contact your Senators.

Senate Action Needed on Developing a Fourth Coronavirus Package

The Senate must act to pass legislation that includes the critical needs of people with disabilities, their families, and the direct support professional workforce in a new Coronavirus package. In May, the House passed its fourth coronavirus package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R.6800) with a vote of 208-199.

This package includes:

  • Increased federal funding for home and community based services (HCBS) under Medicaid
  • Expanded eligibility for economic impact payments to adult dependents and another round of payments
  • Paid leave eligibility for family caregivers of adults with disabilities, including siblings and grandparents

See The Arc’s statement. We urge you to contact your Senators now.

The Arc and Partners Release Guidance on Avoiding Discrimination in Medical Treatment Rationing

On April 3, The Arc along with many disability organizations released a guide for states and hospitals on applying the recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) bulletin on avoiding discrimination in treatment rationing. The document emphasizes that federal disability rights laws protecting people with disabilities against discrimination apply to hospitals experiencing a medical equipment, bed, or staffing shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also states that every patient must be treated as an individual, not a diagnosis; and it reminds care providers of effective communication requirements for with people with disabilities, among many other recommendations. Read The Arc’s statement.

HHS OCR Issues Guidance Against Discrimination in COVID-19 Treatment

On March 28, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a guidance bulletin stating that health care providers are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities based on stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgement about their relative worth even during a pandemic. The guidance also says that treatment decisions should be based on an individual assessment. The Arc has filed three complaints with OCR in response to treatment rationing plans in Washington, Alabama, and Tennessee.

The Arc Joins Bipartisan Policy Center Letter Calling for the Filling of Two Social Security and Medicare Trustee Seats

On February 11, Marty Ford, Senior Advisor at The Arc, joined over 100 individuals, including former government officials of both parties, academics, and representatives of organizations with a broad spectrum of viewpoints, in calling on the U.S. Senate to act on the pending nominations for the two public trustees for the Boards of Trustees of the Social Security, Disability Insurance, and Medicare Trust Funds. These positions have been vacant since 2015, leavings the boards without independent voices.

Health: Appeals Court Rules Part of ACA Unconstitutional

On December 18, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional and sent the case back to the lower court to determine which parts of the law will remain in effect. Many of the law’s most popular provisions are in jeopardy, including the protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to cover their children until age 26, eliminating annual and lifetime limits on coverage, and other provisions. The ACA provides many critical protections for people with disabilities and The Arc will continue to support the law. Read The Arc’s statement.