Policy News – December 2017/January 2018
Welcome to the latest edition of the Sibling Leadership Network Policy News. Every month, the SLN will publish a newsletter summarizing policy developments important to people with disabilities and their families, and include links to more information. SLN’s Chair of Policy & Advocacy, Rachel Patterson, authors the newsletters. If you have questions or ideas related to public policy, please contact Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more regular updates, follow her on Twitter @racheljpat and follow the SLN @sibleadership.
On December 22, the President signed House Resolution 1 into law, also known as the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. As the SLN noted in our post early in December, this bill was fiercely opposed by disability advocacy organizations. The final bill made several changes to earlier versions. The final version:
- Does Not Repeal of Disabled Access Credit, that assists small businesses to improve their accessibility
- Does Not Repeal the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which incentivizes employers to hire people with disabilities
- Does Not Repeal, the Medical Expense Deduction, which offsets the cost of high out-of-pocket medical bills
- Repeals the “Individual Mandate” for health insurance coverage, a key provision to ensuring that everyone has access to health coverage, including people with pre-existing conditions.
- Includes significant reductions in revenue that will likely result in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on September 30, 2017. Congress has still not acted to reauthorize the program. CHIP covers children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but still do not have access to private insurance. Unlike Medicaid, Congress must act to continue the program every couple of years. States have been using reserve funds to continue coverage, but those funds are dwindling. At least five states (CO, CT, TX, VA, and UT) have announced plans to end coverage. The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan bill (S 1827) in October 2017, but a floor vote has not been scheduled. The House of Representatives passed a partisan bill (HR 3922) on a mostly party-line vote, but the Medicare and Medicaid cuts in that bill are expected to be non-starters in the Senate.
Home and Community-Based Services
On December 21, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked 25 pieces of guidance, including many related to disability rights and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision (which ruled that segregation of individuals with disabilities into institutions constituted discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act). Guidance documents are frequently issued by agencies regarding the enforcement of existing law. Among the rescinded documents include guidance on implementation of the ADA and the application of Olmstead to employment services. While the ADA and Olmstead decision remain in place, this move signals that the Department of Justice is unlikely to act to enforce disability rights laws.
On December 5, 2017, Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and John Larson (D-CT), introduced the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017 (HR 4547). Representatives Johnson and Larson are Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. Representative payees help Social Security beneficiaries manage their benefits, if the beneficiaries are children or need support due to their disabilities. The bill is aimed at increasing monitoring and oversight of the program. The committee has prepared a summary of the bill and held a hearing, and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has sent a letter of support. The SLN will continue monitor and report on the bill.