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Major Recent Events
Medicaid – Government Accountability Office Releases Report on Medicaid Per Capita Caps
On September 9, 2016, the Government Accountability Office released a report on the policy considerations of Medicaid per capita spending caps at the request of the Senate Finance Committee leadership. The report outlines important details to be considered in drafting future legislation including coverage and flexibility, allocation of funds across states and over time, accountability, and broader effects.
Health – Bill Introduced to Improve Medicare Coverage and Enrollment Process
On September 21, 2016, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) have introduced the Medicare Affordability and Enrollment Act of 2016 (S.3371/H.R.6109). This bill would make several improvements to Medicare, such as establishing maximum out-of-pocket costs, increasing eligibility for premium and cost-sharing subsidies, eliminating the 2-year waiting period for Disability Insurance beneficiaries, and reducing late-enrollment penalties. The Arc supports this legislation.
Tax – Senate Finance Committee Approves ABLE Act Changes.
On September 21, 2016, the Senate Finance Committee approved the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2016 with amendments to include the concepts from the ABLE to Work Act (S.2702/H.R.4795) and the ABLE Financial Planning Act (S.2703/H.R.4794). The ABLE to Work Act allows individuals who work to deposit earnings up to the poverty level ($11,770) annually in addition to the standard annual contribution limit (set at $14,000 in 2016). The ABLE Financial Planning Act allows individuals to transfer funds from a (Section 529) Qualified Tuition Plan into an ABLE account.
Budget & Appropriations/Prevention – Senate funding bill released; Negotiations stalled
Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the text of a short term fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending bill that would run through Dec. 9. This bill would fund most federal agencies and provide funding to address the Zika virus. Key elements include:
- An across-the-board cut of about 0.5 percent from FY 2016 to comply with the spending caps set by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. This cut would apply to all discretionary disability-related programs such as education, housing, employment, and transportation.
- $1.1 billion in emergency funding for response to the Zika virus, about $400 million of which is offset with funding that has not been spent (such as unused funding for Affordable Care Act exchanges in territories). It does not include controversial riders related to Planned Parenthood and pesticides that had been central issues stalling previous spending packages.
The measure was met with immediate opposition from many members of Congress who object to several riders that remain (such as one related to campaign finance) and the fact that no emergency funding is included to support recovery from the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. Congress must pass a spending bill by the end of FY 2016 on Sept. 30 (Friday) to avoid a partial government shutdown.
Tax Policy – House Committee Favorably Reports Bill to Stop Taxation of Forgiven Student Loan Debt Due to Death or Disability
Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved H.R. 5204, the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act. The bipartisan bill would end federal taxation of federal student loans discharged under the “Total and Permanent Disability (TPD)” standard or in the event of the death of a borrower. Under current law, discharged student debt assumed after the death or permanent disability of the student is counted as income by the Internal Revenue Service, and is therefore subject to federal taxation. The Committee on Ways and Means cleared the bill with an amendment by Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) that would delay the bill’s date of effectiveness until after the end of calendar year 2016. H.R. 5204 has also been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has not yet taken action on the bill. The Arc supports H.R. 5204 as well as a Senate companion bill, S.2800.
Prevention – Congressional Public Health Caucus Holds Briefing; The Arc Provides Testimony
On Sept 23, the Congressional Public Health Caucus sponsored a briefing, “Public Health 101 – Zika: A Case Study in Emergency Response across the Public Health Continuum.” The briefing brought together experts working on the frontlines of the public health continuum to mitigate this public health emergency – from Zika virus surveillance, to vaccine research & development, to maternal, fetal and child health, to supporting individuals with disabilities and their caregivers. The speakers were Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA); Phyllis Arthur, Managing Director for Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics Policy, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO); Janet Hamilton, Surveillance Section Administrator, Florida Department of Health; Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, Chief Medical Officer, March of Dimes; Dr. Laura E. Riley, Vice Chair, Obstetrics, Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine; and Nancy J. Murray, President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA. There over 19,000 cases of Zika in the U.S and territories with over 2,000 cases among pregnant women. See the latest figures here.
Miscellaneous – Paul Marchand Internship Application for Spring 2017 Session Due Oct. 1
The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer session to assist interns interested in pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of people with I/DD and the larger disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc, with substantial contributions from United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and individuals with whom Paul worked during his decades in Washington, established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates. See more information here.
The Arc of Illinois
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Frankfort, IL 60423