Department of Justice reaches agreement with Virginia

The Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia that will avoid costly litigation. Under terms of the settlement, Virginia will cease operations at four of its five training centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by 2021 and will assist individuals receiving home and community-based waiver services to live in the most integrated setting consistent with their informed choice and needs. The state will facilitate individuals living in their own homes, leased apartments, or families’ homes by creating a dedicated housing service coordinator position and creating an $800,000 fund to provide and administer rental assistance to individuals who receive HCBS waiver services. Under terms of the agreement, no individuals may be placed in a nursing facility or any setting with five or more individuals unless the placement is consistent with the individual’s needs and informed choice.

The state must create 4,170 new waiver slots for people currently residing in any of the state’s five Training Centers (currently about 1,000 individuals), people with intellectual disabilities who are on the state’s “urgent” waiting list for waiver services, people with ID who are under 22 and live in facilities other than the training centers, people with DD who are on the state’s waiting list for waiver services and for people with DD who are under 22 and live in facilities other than the training centers. The state also will create an individual and family support program for 1,000 individuals with I/DD most at risk of institutional placement.

Virginia must set up an independent case management system to ensure that individual support plans (ISP) that are person-centered are developed, to assist individuals in accessing needed services, and to monitor implementation of the ISPs. Statewide crisis services, including mobile crisis teams, must be in place to prevent the removal of an individual from his or her home. Virginia must establish an “Employment First” policy (supported employment in integrated work settings where they are paid minimum or competitive wages is the first and priority service option for individuals) and provide integrated day opportunities, including supported employment, to the greatest extent practicable. The state must provide data and set targets to increase the number of individuals who enroll in supported employment and who are employed in integrated work settings for at least 12 months.

Detailed plans for helping individuals transition from institutional settings to community settings and establishing a quality and risk management system are outlined in the agreement. An independent reviewer will oversee the settlement agreement for the court which retains jurisdiction.

To view The Arc’s statement in response to this agreement visit our blog.

The Arc Joins Amicus Brief in Affordable Care Act Case before U.S. Supreme Court

The Arc joined several other advocacy and consumer organizations in filing an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The amicus brief argues that a law requiring health insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions cannot function unless it also requires nearly everyone to carry insurance.   This is because, if allowed, people will delay the purchase of insurance until they need expensive care, thereby draining the insurance plan of funds without paying their share (known as “adverse selection”).   Seven states have already tried to enact a preexisting conditions law without a minimum coverage requirement and all seven states saw skyrocketing premiums or worse; while Massachusetts, the one state to do both, saw its premiums go down 40 percent.   See The Arc’s statement on submission of the amicus brief . Oral arguments are scheduled for late March. Since the Supreme Court will be addressing several issues regarding the ACA, briefs on additional issues are due at different times over the next month.

Register Now for the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar

Make your plans to attend the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. April 23-25 and take advantage of special early registration and hotel rates until March 20. This event is the biggest and best opportunity for advocates to advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But this year it is even more important to make your mark in Washington as we approach a pivotal presidential election in November. This unique platform offers you the opportunity to come together with other advocates, learn about the issues, and speak with your elected officials about what is important to you. Get the best rates and availability for the event at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C. and find out more about this year’s program at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org.

Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act

The Obama administration filed its first brief with the Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of the requirement in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that most citizens purchase healthcare insurance or pay a penalty – the individual mandate. The administration argues that the mandate is an acceptable use of Congress’ taxing power and defends the policy under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Briefs also were filed by opponents of the ACA arguing that if the court invalidates the individual mandate, the remaining components of healthcare reform cannot function properly. The court has scheduled three days of oral arguments in late March when it will address four issues, including the individual mandate, the Medicaid expansion, whether the entire ACA fails if the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional, and whether the court should wait to consider the constitutionality of the law until someone has actually been required to pay a penalty for not having insurance.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta earlier this year declared the law’s individual mandate unconstitutional but left the remainder of the measure intact. Two other federal appeals courts have upheld the law’s constitutionality, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled it would be premature to decide the case.

Super Committee could not reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction announced that it could not reach agreement on a plan to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years and authorization for its work expired on November 23.  As required by the Budget Control Act, $1.2 trillion in automatic, across the board spending cuts (known as sequestration) are now scheduled to take effect from Fiscal Years 2013 to 2021.  Congress can develop other deficit reduction strategies to avoid the automatic cuts, however, it will have to follow the regular legislative process and will not have the advantage of the special legislative procedures authorized under the Budget Control Act for the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee.

Congress grappling with effects of Super Committee not reaching a deal

Congress will return from the Thanksgiving holiday recess this week to grapple with issues resulting from the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s inability to produce a deficit reduction plan (click here to read the Committee’s November 21 statement). With the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across the board spending cuts scheduled to take effect from Fiscal Years 2013 to 2021, some Members of Congress are already discussing ways to undo the cuts, half of which will be made to the Department of Defense budget. Click here to read The Arc’s statement on the Committee not reaching a deal. As Congress works to wrap up FY 2012 appropriations, The Arc will continue to advocate for funding for critical disability programs in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The current Continuing Resolution will expire December 16th for those agencies that have not seen the passage of an appropriations bill.

Super Committee all but certain to not produce a plan

Though the official deadline for a vote by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is Wednesday, November 23, the real deadline is midnight tonight since any plan has to be posted for 48 hours before it is voted on. At this point, it appears that no such plan will be made available.   Republicans continue to criticize Democrats for refusing to accept any spending cuts or substantive changes to entitlement programs (Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security) without comparable tax increases. Democrats counter that Republicans refused to consider any steps that would ensure top earners provide a share of the savings through higher taxes (a “balanced” solution).   Throughout the Committee’s process, The Arc advocated for protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security because the budget cannot be balanced on the backs of people with disabilities, seniors, and low income populations. It is disappointing that the Committee will likely not come to an agreement that would have protected these critical programs while ensuring significant revenues were part of the solution. Unfortunately, “no deal” at the moment leaves lots of unknowns for the rest of the programs on which people with disabilities rely to live independently in the community. Since the Committee is unlikely to reach agreement by tonight the next step as called for by the Balanced Budget Act is $1.2 trillion in automatic, across the board spending cuts, scheduled to take effect from 2012 to 2021.

Republicans and Democrats release proposals, inching towards compromise

On November 7, Democratic members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction released a one-page $2.3 trillion deficit reduction proposal. The plan would cut spending by about $1 trillion and increase revenues by the same amount. It includes $400 billion cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. For Medicare, $250 billion in savings would come from providers and $100 billion from beneficiaries. For Medicaid, $13 billion would come from limiting how states tax Medicaid providers in order to increase their federal share of Medicaid and $5 billion would be saved by changing the reimbursement rate for durable medical equipment. Take a look at the Democratic proposal.

On the same day, the Committee’s Republican members offered a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan, the details of which have not yet been released. It includes $750 billion in spending cuts and $500 billion in revenue over 10 years. Notably, in an apparent concession to Democrats, it would raise $300 billion in taxes from the individual tax code ($250 billion) and through an overhaul of the corporate tax code ($50 billion). It provides an additional $40 billion in tax revenue from changes to the consumer price index used to calculate federal benefits and income tax brackets. Democrats reacted by claiming the tax revenue is not enough, and must be at least $1 trillion. They also criticized the Republican plan as a large tax cut for the wealthy since it would cut the top individual income tax rate to 28 percent in 2013 (it is currently 35% and will go to 39.6 percent in 2013, when the Bush-era tax cuts would expire).

The Committee has until Nov. 23 to produce a plan that includes at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. If Congress does not endorse a plan or produce an alternative, automatic sequestration of funding begins in 2013. Learn more about the deficit reduction efforts.

Supreme Court agrees to take up the Affordable Care Act

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit decision that the health care reform law’s mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court also will consider an appeal of the Circuit Court’s rejection of a challenge to the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program. The 11th Circuit ruling came in a case that was filed by 26 states. Finally, the court will consider a decision made by the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond that said individuals may not challenge the law’s requirement that nearly every American purchase health insurance or face a penalty until the first penalty is due in April 2015. Three federal appellate courts have found the Affordable Care Act constitutional and one has said it is not. The court accepted Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida (11-398); NFIB v. Sebelius (11-393); and Florida v. HHS (11-400). The Supreme Court has not established a hearing date or briefing schedule yet and it’s ruling is not expected until June.

The Arc strongly supports the Affordable Care Act. Learn about how it benefits people with disabilities. The Arc has participated in amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs supporting the ACA in several of the cases addressing the constitutionality of the ACA, including the Florida case addressing the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

ABLE Act to be Unveiled and Introduced

On Tuesday, November 15, The Arc will join Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and other organizations in outlining the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2011 (ABLE Act) at a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.  The ABLE Act would allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation.  The bill would help individuals with disabilities maintain their health, independence, and quality of life.  The Arc’s CEO, Peter V. Berns, will speak along with representatives of the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and other disability organizations.