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.
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.
On January 8, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee will mark up seven bills, including the Protecting Patients Transportation to Care Act (H.R.3935). This bill clarifies that non-emergency medical transportation is a mandatory benefit under Medicaid. Visit the committee website for more information.
On November 6, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released a report titled “Quality-Adjusted Life Years and the Devaluation of Life with Disability.” The report details the use of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) in the evaluation of treatment coverage. QALYs are based on the premise that the value of one year of the life of a person with a disability is less than the value of one year of the life of a person without a disability. The report recommends, among other things, prohibiting the use of QALYs in Medicare and Medicaid.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) recently released “Genetic Testing and the Rush to Perfection,” the third report in a series on Bioethics and Disability. This report examines the range of scientific, commercial, professional, and social factors that converge around prenatal genetic testing and their effect on the lives of people with disabilities; and it provides an update on the interaction between genetic testing and employment discrimination.
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 healthcare.gov). 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.
The House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor have approved the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R.3). This bill requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to negotiate prices on insulin and at least 25 drugs each year. These negotiated prices would apply to all Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. Additionally, it creates an out-of-pocket limit of $2,000 for Medicare Part D plans. The Arc is pleased that provisions were added to ensure that the value of drugs is not measured based on quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), which are based on the premise that the value of one year of the life of a person with a disability is less than the value of one year of the life of a person without a disability. The amended bill makes several improvements for Medicare low-income subsidy recipients that The Arc supports, such as eliminating co-payments for generic medications.
In June, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new proposed rule that weakens the current interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits health programs or activities that get federal funds from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. The proposed rule would diminish the ACA’s anti-discrimination protections for people with disabilities. To learn more about how the proposed rule impacts people with disabilities, read The Arc’s blog post and this fact sheet from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) on the topic. CCD has also provided a comment template with instructions for submitting comments. Comments are due on August 13.
On May 24, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an advance copy of a proposed rule to weaken its regulations implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in health programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The proposed rule would narrow protections for all people experiencing discrimination under the law, eliminate protections for LGBTQ people, and roll back protections for people with limited English proficiency, among other impacts. The Arc is reviewing the proposed rule and will provide further analysis.
On May 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R.987, which reverses administrative actions weakening the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It rescinds the Department of Health and Human Services regulation expanding the use of short-term limited-duration insurance (STLDI). STLDI plans are not required to cover people pre-existing conditions, and can charge higher premiums based on age, gender, or health status. Additionally, it restores funding for consumer outreach and education programs and the Navigator Program, which were cut by the Administration.