July 20, 2012

July 20 Washington Update

Greetings from Washington.  This update provides information about several issues of interest, including the F2F funding bill, ACA implementation and Medicaid expansion, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, newly announced initiatives to increase employment among people with disabilities, and new dates for ACA implementation forums.

F2F funding bills (S. 2123 and H.R. 4083).  We have one new cosponsor of the House bill this week - Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) (Yeah, Hawaii!), for a total of 12 cosponsors in addition to Representative Pallone. There are no new cosponsors of the Menendez bill, so the tally stands at nine Senate cosponsors in addition to Senator Menendez.  Cosponsors of both bills are listed at the end of this update.

If you will be in DC next week for the OSERS conference, please consider doing a visit to your Senators and/or Representative, and let us know about it.  We can help you prepare and may be able to accompany you if you wish.  And if you do a visit, please let us know how it went.

The policy team continues efforts to garner congressional support for the legislation by meeting with Hill staffers, particularly those of Senate Finance Committee members.  As some of you know, we are copying the F2Fs from the applicable states on email correspondence with the staffers, and letting them know that they can get more information from you about the F2F in your state. 

If we hope to get the F2Fs re-funded, Members of Congress will need to hear from F2Fs about how effectively they are spending their federal grant funds, and from families about how important F2F services have been in their lives.

If your Members of Congress have not yet cosponsored the legislation, please contact them to ask that they do so.  See the guidance at the end of this update or click here now to send a pre-drafted letter to your Representative.  Please forward this information to your family, friends, health care providers, and other families of CYSHCN and ask them to contact their Members of Congress as well. 

And, if you haven't done so already, please thank your Senator(s) and Representative who have cosponsored the legislation. You can find their contact information by clicking on their names on the list of cosponsors at the end of this update.

ACA implementation

Medicaid expansion.  As discussed in last week's update, the Supreme Court's decision essentially made optional the ACA's Medicaid expansion, which was intended to cover all individuals under age 65 with incomes below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).  A number of governors have rejected or expressed doubt about an expansion in their state.  Twenty-seven states have not decided or have not commented.  To see each state's current position on the Medicaid expansion, see http://ahlalerts.com/2012/07/03/medicaid-where-each-state-stands-on-the-medicaid-expansion/

According to a report of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, states' concerns that the expansion will be overly burdensome on their budgets in the long run are not well-founded. This report might be helpful if you are advocating for your state to pick up the expansion.

Regional forums on ACA implementation.  The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be holding four regional forums at which state officials and others can pose questions and provide comments about ACA implementation. The dates have been changed since last week's report.  The new schedule is:

August 14:  Washington DC, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Great Hall, 200 Independence Ave, SW.  This session will also be webcast.

August 15:  Atlanta, National Archives at Atlanta, 5780 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, GA

August 21:  Chicago, Social Security Administration, Center Auditorium, 600 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL

August 22:  Denver, Davis Auditorium in Sturm Hall, University of Denver, 2000 E. Asbury Ave., Denver, CO

To register for a forum, go to https://www.quickbase.com/db/bg92mriu2.

Webinars on the ACA.  The HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been hosting a series of interactive webinars on the ACA, in English and Spanish.  To RSVP, or for more information, go to http://www.hhs.gov/partnerships/resources/aca_101-invite.html. The remaining webinars are:

July 24, 2:00 pm ET - The Health Care Law 101 (in Spanish)

August 8, 11:00 am ET- for Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Although the United States has signed the CRPD, the treaty must be ratified by the Senate for the US to fully participate in its implementation.  The treaty is supported by Senators from both sides of the aisle, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and John Barrasso (R-WY).  On July 12, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), held a hearing on the Convention.  The Committee was scheduled to meet on July 19 to develop its recommendations to the full Senate. That meeting was postponed until July 26, however, due to opposition to the treaty from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, supported by former Senator Rick Santorum, and several current Senators, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).  Opponents are concerned about the treaty usurping the rights of parents and the authority of US laws, although experts refute these arguments.  For answers to frequently asked questions about the Convention, see the website of the US International Council on Disabilities

Treaty advocates are asking proponents to contact both of their Senators to express support.  Senators can be reached through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. Additional contact information can be found at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Employment for People with Disabilities.  As we all know, children/youth with special health care needs eventually become adults, many of whom will continue to have health challenges or disabilities but will want to join the workforce.  This week, in anticipation of the July 26 anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) issued a report entitled "Unfinished Business: Making Employment of People with Disabilities a National Priority."  The report notes that there has been little to no change in the overall employment rates of people with disabilities since passage of the ADA almost 22 years ago.  Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), announced a goal to increase the number of people with disabilities in the workforce from under five million to six million by 2015.  He plans to introduce a series of bipartisan bills aimed at:  improving outcomes in transitioning young adults from school to work; increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to own a business; encouraging states to be innovative with programs that provide support to people with disabilities; and providing incentives for people with disabilities to save in order to ensure their economic security. 

In related news, the new chairman of the National Governors Association, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D), announced his chair's initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, aimed at increasing employment among individuals with disabilities.  A major emphasis of the initiative will be on people who have significant intellectual and developmental disabilities and may require supports like job coaches and personal attendants in order to live and work in the community. Gov. Markell plans to engage other governors, businesses, disability leaders and others to share ideas with him about how to achieve his goals.  He expects to create a blueprint for businesses and states that identifies best practices and outlines steps to increase employment of people with disabilities, and to heighten awareness and launch a campaign to help governors increase employment for people with disabilities in their states.


As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions. 

 Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.

Janis Guerney, Esq.


NOTE:  Past issues of the Washington update can be found on the Family Voices home page by scrolling down in the "News Feed" section.


Cosponsors of House F2F funding bill, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): Rep Carson, Andre [IN-7] - 4/26/2012
Rep Cicilline, David N. [RI-1] - 2/17/2012
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] - 2/17/2012
Rep Green, Gene [TX-29] - 3/5/2012
Rep Hanabusa, Colleen W. [HI-1] - 7/18/2012
Rep Langevin, James R. [RI-2] - 2/17/2012
Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] - 2/17/2012
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] - 2/17/2012
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] - 2/17/2012
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] - 3/8/2012
Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille [CA-34] - 3/20/2012
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] - 7/9/2012

Cosponsors of Senate F2F funding bill, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez:

Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 6/4/2012
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 2/17/2012
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 2/17/2012
Sen Franken, Al [MN] - 6/5/2012
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 3/13/2012
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] - 5/8/2012
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 2/17/2012
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] - 2/17/2012
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] - 2/17/2012

Contacting your Members of Congress about F2F funding bills

All of you who are concerned about the future of F2Fs should contact your Members of Congress to urge that they cosponsor the Menendez or Pallone bill. You can call them through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  (To find the names of your Members of Congress, go to http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm.)  When you speak to the receptionist, state that you are a constituent and ask to speak to the staff person who handles health issues.  If that person is not available to talk, you can leave a BRIEF message identifying yourself as a constituent who has a child with special health care needs (if applicable) and asking that the Representative/Senator cosponsor a bill that would extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers.  Refer to the appropriate bill number and sponsor - in the Senate, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Menendez; in the House, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Pallone.  Leave your home phone number and email address.

You can also write to your Representative (even if you call) via the "Advocacy" section of the Family Voices website, where you will find a pre-written letter that you fill in with your personal information.  (You do not need to know the name of your Representative.)  Please ask families you have worked with, friends, and relatives to write their Representatives through the Family Voices website also.  The URL is http://www.familyvoices.org/action/advocate.   At this time, the website is not configured to automatically send the letter to Senators, but simple instructions about how to contact your Senators, and text to copy and paste, can also be found on that page.  (You do not need to know the names of your Senators.)

Remember:  Federal resources may not be used for lobbying activities.

Please feel free to call Brooke or Janis (contact information above) if you have any questions.