Health/Rights: Health Care Anti-Discrimination Rule Comments Due August 13

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.

Income Support: The Administration Proposes Cutting Food Assistance for 3.1 Million

On July 24, the Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would cut current eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For the past 20 years, states have had flexibility to adjust SNAP eligibility to reflect local and state dynamics and to help low-income people to avoid a SNAP benefit cliff. Unfortunately, this proposal would eliminate that flexibility and cut off SNAP benefits for 3.1 million individuals. This change will also eliminate eligibility for free school meals for the children in those families. SNAP provides food assistances that helps approximately 11 million people with disabilities. The Arc strongly opposes the changes in the proposed rule. Watch The Arc’s video on the importance of SNAP.

Housing: HUD Proposes Ban on Housing Assistance for Mixed Status Families

On May 10, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that would prohibit “mixed status” immigrant families from living in public housing and Section 8 units. “Mixed status” families are families in which some members are ineligible for housing assistance based on immigration status. The rule would result in family separations and could lead to evictions of thousands of people, including children, who face an increased risk of homelessness. The Arc is working with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to submit comments on the proposed rule by the July 9 deadline. For more information, see www.keep-families-together.org.

Health/Rights: HHS Proposes Weakening Health Care Anti-Discrimination Rule

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.

Immigration/Rights – DHS Issues Proposed Rule Limiting Immigration

On October 10, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed rule that will greatly expand the what is known as the “public charge” test. The public charge test allows for denying entry to or permanent residency in the United States based upon the likelihood an individual will need government benefits. Currently, the only benefits considered are cash benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), comparable state and local programs, and institutional long-term care (including through Medicaid). Under the proposed rule, an individual could be considered a public charge for using or applying for a broader range of benefits including most Medicaid programs, housing assistance, or food assistance. The Arc opposes the proposed rule because it will result in discrimination against legal immigrants with disabilities. Read The Arc’s full statement here.

Transportation – DOT Announces Changes in Services Animal Enforcement Priorities and Regulations

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has released an Interim Statement of Enforcement Office Priorities and Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding regulations of service animals under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). DOT will now prioritize enforcement cases involving dogs, cats, and miniature horses over cases involving other animals. Additional priorities include the general prohibition on advance notice; a requirement that identification cards, other written documentation, presence of a harness, tags, or the credible verbal assurance of a passenger be accepted as proof of that an animal is a service animal; and the prohibition on requiring passengers with service animal to check-in at the counter.

DOT is seeking public comment to help ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also helping to ensure that the fraudulent use of other animals not qualified as service animals is deterred and animals that are not trained to behave properly in public are not accepted for transport as service animals. The ANPRM contains ten questions covering topics such as psychiatric service and emotional support animals, the number of animals allowed per passenger, leash and harness requirements, and allowable documentation requirements. Public comment on the ANPRM is due by June 9. Click here to comment.

Department of Labor Publishes Proposed Rules on Overtime Pay Protections

Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a notice of proposed rulemaking updating the regulations defining who is entitled to overtime pay protections.   The rules have not been updated since 2004. The primary change is to raise the standard salary level to 40th percentile of weekly earning for full-time salaried workers ($47,892). The salary level is one of the three tests to determine if a person’s job is exempt from overtime protection. The other two tests involve being paid a salary and having job duties that primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional functions.   For more information about the rule visit the DOL website.

Managed Care Regulations released

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking toward modernization of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) managed care regulations and to update the programs’ rules and strengthen beneficiary services.  For more information, including summaries of key provisions of the proposed rule, visit medicaid.gov. Staff from The Arc will be reviewing the regulations and providing comments. The deadline to submit comments is July 27, 2015.

Department of Justice Releases A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations

The US Department of Justice released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations in order to incorporate the changes made by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. The NPRM makes changes to Titles II and III ADA regulations to amend the definition of disability which was broadened by the ADAAA and expand the definition of major life activities by including major bodily functions.  The NPRM includes examples of impairments, such as intellectual disability, that should easily be found to substantially limit a major life activity and cause the necessary individualized assessment of the impairments to be simple and straightforward.    The Title I ADA regulations were amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2011.  The NPRM will align the definitions in Titles II and III with those in Title I.  The NPRM is open for comment for 60 days until March 31, 2014.

The Department of Education Has Issued Proposed Rulemaking on Academic Achievement Standards

The Department of Education issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on August 23, 2013 concerning the “2% rule.” Comments about the NPRM are due October 7. The proposed rule would overturn a rule from 2007 which permitted states to define modified academic achievement standards for some students with disabilities, develop alternate assessments based on those standards, and use up to 2% of those the scores for school accountability purposes. Since 2007, much work has been done to create assessments that are more accessible to students with disabilities so that their progress toward meeting college and career ready standards can be accurately measured. Two federally funded consortia are designing new assessments that accommodate a broad range of learners and use the principles of Universal Design of Learning. The two consortia are: Smarter Balanced Assessments and the PARCC Assessments.

“…research has shown that low-achieving students with disabilities make academic progress when provided with appropriate supports and instruction. More accessible general assessments, in combination with such supports and instruction for students with disabilities, can promote high expectations for all students, including students with disabilities, by encouraging teaching and learning to the academic achievement standards measured by the general assessments,” NPRM p. 52468.

States would still be permitted to define alternate academic achievement standards and administer alternate assessments to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities – up to 1% of all students.