Action AlertAction Alert: Second Hearing on the Disability Treaty – Senators Need to
Hear From YOUAsk Your Senators to Support Behavioral Health Care for Children of Military FamiliesMajor Events Last Week
Budget & Appropriations – Budget Conference Committee Holds Second Public Meeting
On November 13, the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Conference Committee held its second public
meeting. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Doug Elmendorf presented on CBO’s budget
and economic outlook and answered questions. Committee Members inquired about numerous
budget issues including spending for entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare), investments to spur job creation, income inequality, and overall federal spending and revenues. The Committee’s recommendations are due by December 13. View the archived webcast.
Shortly afterwards, CBO released its report “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014-2023” which
include numerous options for spending cuts and increased revenue and the estimated costs of those
options. The list includes a number of options that would be harmful to people with disabilities, including eliminating Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for children; reducing Social Security benefits
for new beneficiaries by 15%; using an alternative measure of inflation (the “chained” consumer price
index (CPI) to index Social Security and other mandatory programs; and raising the full retirement age
for Social Security.
Health Care – House Votes to Allow Health Insurers to Continue Selling Policies That Do Not
Meet the Standards Established by the Affordable Care Act
Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted 261-157 to allow health insurers to continue to sell
policies that do not meet the standards established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for consumer
protections and comprehensive benefits. While the House has voted numerous times to repeal all or
part of the ACA, this vote received more bipartisan support than previous votes. The ACA’s consumer protections included numerous provisions to prevent discrimination against people with health conditions
and disabilities and to ensure fair health insurance premiums for people with health conditions. The law
required health plans to provide a minimal level of benefits. The intent of these reforms was to make
insurance sold in the individual and small group market more like plans offered by employers. It is not
likely that the Senate will take up the legislation at this time, but several Senators have introduced
similar bills. The Administration has threatened a veto.
Before the vote, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would allow states
and insurance companies to renew plans that did not meet the new consumer protections and essential
health benefit provisions for a transition period of one year. Insurers would not be allowed, as they would
in the House plan, to sell new polices that do not meet the standards. The Administration announced the
policy in a letter to state insurance commissions sent on Thursday, November 14th. States and insurance companies will decide if they will use this flexibility to continue to sell plans that do not meet the ACA
minimal consumer protection and essential health benefit standards.
Civil Rights – White House Hosts Observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act
On November 15, The Arc participated in a celebratory event at the White House observing the
enactment of legislation which later led to the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights
Act (DD Act). Speakers discussed the considerable progress made for people with disabilities since the enactment of the DD Act as well as remaining challenges. Panelists on education, employment, and
long term supports and services provided overviews and offered their thoughts on improving the service delivery system. Common themes that emerged include the need to focus on people’s strengths, fully
include people with disabilities in the policy process, respect the fundamental rights of people with
disabilities in decision making, and the need for true integration in community living.
Education – Requirements Changing for States Interested in Renewing Their No Child Left
The Department of Education contracted with Mathematica Policy Research to examine access to
effective teaching in grades 4 through 8 in 29 diverse school districts over the 2008-2009 and
2010-2011school years. In a November 2013 report, “Access to Effective Teaching for
Disadvantaged Students,” researchers concluded that on average, disadvantaged students did
not have equal access to effective teaching.
Despite these findings, the Department is changing requirements for states interested in renewing
their No child Left Behind Act waivers that directly pertains to access to effective teachers. Previously,
states would have been required to include plans for spending federal professional development funds
and for improving the distribution of effective teachers to ensure that children who are poor or
minorities are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers. The Department is
backing away from those requirements and, instead, plans to address them for all states, not just the
waiver states, “outside the [No Child Left Behind waiver] flexibility process.” The Department’s
expectation is that states will “continue to move forward with efforts to support high-quality professional development and increase equitable access to effective teachers for all students.”
National Disability Policy – New Report on The State of Disability Policy in the United States
The National Council on Disability released Strength in Our Differences, its annual disability policy report
on the state of disability policy in the United States. The report is organized into four major issue areas: ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), economic empowerment,
health care and access to medical treatment, and community integration. The report includes a number
of recommendations designed to address barriers to inclusion and full participation in society for the
President and Congress to consider.