Proposed rule would set goals for federal contractors to hire people with disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor proposed a new rule to require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having 7 percent of their workforces be people with disabilities, among other requirements. The proposed rule seeks to strengthen the affirmative action requirements established in Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 obligating federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities.  Current rules require federal contractors to make a “good faith” effort to recruit and hire people with disabilities, but set no numeric hiring goal.  In contrast, the proposed rule sets a 7 percent hiring goal and details specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping, and policy dissemination — similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities.  Click here to read the proposed rule.

Regulatory Reform Passes in the House of Representatives

On Friday, December 2, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3010 with a vote of 253-167. This bill will radically reform the federal rule-making procedures to make them more complex and require additional analysis and justification for rules. Federal rules are developed to implement and explain federal legislation. Often major laws such as the recent Affordable Care Act leave important definitions and provisions to the regulatory process. The intent of this legislation is to make it much harder to produce regulations, particularly those that protect the public health, the environment, and workplace safety – areas that major businesses and industries feel are over regulated – and require agencies to choose the least costly rules. The Arc is concerned that this legislation could make it difficult to produce critical regulations and would weigh too heavily in favor of special interests who oppose many regulations that we have supported. The President has announced his intent to veto the legislation.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B

The Department of Education released a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the regulations governing Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Changes being proposed concern when a school district wants to use a parent’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education services (such as therapies). The notice will be published in the Federal Register within the next few weeks.

Workforce Investment Act Mark-up Postponed

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has postponed its August 3rd mark up of legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The Committee has not yet set a new date. Title IV of WIA provides state formula grants for vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by federally-funded programs. The HELP Committee recently circulated a staff discussion draft and solicited feedback from workforce investment stakeholders, including disability groups.

Secretary Announces Key Regulations

Today, Health and Humans Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the release of proposed regulations that will govern how states are to set up and run new marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. The Arc and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities had provided comments to HHS about several issues important to the disability community including accessibility, interaction with Medicaid, ensuring fair insurance rules and other issues and will also comment on the notice of proposed rulemaking.

Data Collection Regulations Announced

On June 29th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced proposed regulations for data collection for minority and disability communities pursuant to Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act.  The disability-related questions are consistent with those used by the Census Bureau and other national surveys.  Comments on the regulations are due August 1, 2011.

Electronic Health Information and Privacy

The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to change its privacy rules that pertain to electronic health information. Under the proposed rule, people could request a report detailing who had electronically accessed their protected health information. To review the rule, which is open for comment through August 1st, read it online at the Government Printing Office website.

Rule published on waiver for states to implement their own health plans

HHS published a proposed rule on the waivers authorized by the ACA which allow states in 2017 to implement their own plans to achieve health reform as long as it achieves the same level of coverage expansions and affordability as the ACA. This would allow the states to waive requirements that individuals must have and employers must provide health insurance or make other changes. The President also announced his support for legislation to move the date forward to 2014. Critics of the law have criticized this attempt at state flexibility because the states would still have to have the plans approved by HHS and they would still have to meet the standards set by law.

CMS issues proposed rules on the Community First Choice Option

On Friday, Feb. 25, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register regarding the Community First Choice (CFC) Option. The CFC Option is a new Medicaid provision, added by the Affordable Care Act, to allow states to provide a comprehensive community-based service to people who would otherwise need a nursing home or institutional level of care. The CFC Option will provide states with an additional 6 percent federal matching rate in reimbursement for services provided to eligible people under the option. The DPC will be analyzing the proposed regulations for the CFC Option over the next several weeks and provide that analysis and suggested comments to chapters and affiliates prior to the due date for comments. Public comments must be received by CMS no later than 5:00 pm on April 26. View the NPRM at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-25/pdf/2011-3946.pdf

SSA Clarifies Explanation of Proposed Disability Rule for People with Mental Disorders and Extends Comment Period

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that it will publish a notice clarifying part of the recently proposed “Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders.” In order to address some public misunderstanding, the notice will better explain how Social Security would consider the use of standardized testing when it determines disability for people who have a mental disorder. The original public comment period ended on November 17th, but Social Security will reopen the comment period to provide an additional 15 days to allow additional comment on their proposed policy regarding the use of standardized tests. Stay tuned for the action alert. For more information, see http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2010-29577_PI.pdf