The Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that individuals who purchase health insurance before March 31, 2014 will not face the tax penalty for being uninsured for three consecutive months. March 31, 2014 is the end of the open enrollment period. Originally it was assumed that insurance would have to be purchased by February 15th so that coverage could begin on April 1. Under that scenario anyone who purchased coverage after February 15 would be uninsured for three consecutive months (January, February and March) and would face penalties. If individuals want insurance to begin on January 1, 2014, they must purchase insurance by December 15, 2013.
The Administration continues to experience difficulties with the website (www.healthcare.gov) that individuals use to purchase health insurance in the states that chose to have the federal government run the marketplaces. The technical problems are frustrating people trying to purchase insurance and giving opponents of the law a new target to criticize. Key Congressional Committees are planning a series of hearings about the problems. The Administration has pledged to have the website fixed by the end of November. Individuals can use the toll free number 1-800-318-2596 to enroll or to find enrollment help in their community.
Civil Rights – Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Arguments in Florida Death Penalty Case Hall v. Florida Concerning the Definition of “Mental Retardation”
On October 21st, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the death penalty case Hall v. Florida concerning the definition of “mental retardation”* (intellectual disability) which states may use in deciding whether an individual with that disability is protected by the Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, that execution of people with intellectual disability (ID) is unconstitutional. The Arc hopes the Court will use the opportunity to clarify its landmark decision barring the execution of people with ID and prevent states from using an artificial “ceiling” of a particular IQ score to determine whether someone does or does not have an ID.
[*Although terminology has widely changed to intellectual disability, the Atkins decision and many other death penalty cases still use the older term.]
Major Events This Week
Budget & Appropriations – Budget Conference Committee to Hold First Meeting This Week
The special House Senate Budget Conference Committee created by the deal to end the government shutdown and extend the debt ceiling will hold its first meeting on Wednesday. The Committee is charged with coming up with long-term spending plans by December 13. It will seek to find common ground between the FY 2014 House and Senate Budgets that were passed earlier this year, which had starkly different spending and revenue goals. See a comparison of the House and Senate 2014 Budget plans for Medicaid, Social Security, SSI, and other programs at: http://insider.thearc.org/2013/03/25/house-and-senate-pass-fiscal-year-2014-budget-resolutions/
The 29 members of the Budget Conference Committee are:
Other – Temporary SNAP Benefit Enhancement Ends November 1
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided a temporary increase in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as the food stamp program). Under ARRA, that temporary enhancement is scheduled to end on November 1, 2013. As a result, every household receiving SNAP will experience a benefit reduction. A household of one will see an $11 cut in monthly benefits, a household of two will see a $20 cut in monthly benefits, a household of 3 will see a $29 cut in monthly benefits, and a household of four will see a $36 cut in monthly benefits. Learn more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Family Support – Older American Act Reauthorization to be Marked Up
The Older Americans Reauthorization Act, S. 1562, introduced by Bernie Sanders (VT-I) on September 30 is expected to be marked up in committee this week. While this bipartisan bill is a fairly simple reauthorization, it makes changes to National Family Caregiver Support Program to make it more available to caregivers of persons with disabilities of all ages. The definitional fix would make the program apply to caregivers of persons with disabilities between 18 and 59 years of age, who presently are excluded. The Arc supports this change and will work to secure its enactment.
Employment – DOL Announces New Webinar Dates on Final Rule, “Application of Fair Labor Standards to Domestic Service”
The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced new dates for its webinars on the new final rule on the “Application of Fair Labor Standards to Domestic Service.” The rule extends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime protections to most direct support professionals by narrowing exemptions for companionship service and live-in domestic service. The final rule will take effect January 1, 2015. DOL has planned five webinars on the final rule, which were postponed due to the government shutdown. Click here to view the webinar schedule and to register.
Long Term Services and Supports/ Dual Eligibles – South Carolina Enters MOU With CMS to Coordinate Care for Dual Eligibles
South Carolina entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to begin implementing its demonstration to align financing and coordinate care for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Individuals receiving services in intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ICF/ID) or through a home and community-based waiver will not be included in the demonstration. South Carolina is the seventh state with an MOU.
Voting – New Report on the Experiences of Voters with Disabilities in the 2012 Election Cycle
The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a reportentitled, “Experience of Voters with Disabilities in the 2012 Election Cycle.“ The report found that people with disabilities continue to confront barriers to voting including physical, architectural, and attitudinal barriers at registration and polling sites and problems accessing accessible voting technology. The report highlights a barrier that is particularly troublesome for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – guardianship. The report makes several recommendations, including one specific to guardianship:
- NCD recommends that state legislatures and local rulemaking authorities conduct a review of state guardianship laws and modify them where necessary to ensure that all people with intellectual, developmental, or psychiatric disabilities have full access to the right to vote, independent of their legal capacity.