January 25, 2013

January 25 Washington Update


This week's update discusses the federal budget situation, Congress' interest in mental health policy, proposed regulations relating to Medicaid and CHIP, the rights of students with disabilities to participate in school sports, the future of F2F funding, and upcoming webinars on topics of interest.

Inaugural Address by President Barack Obama

It was a nice surprise to hear President Obama mention parents of children with disabilities in his inaugural address.  In case you missed it:

"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.   For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn."

The full inaugural address can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/21/inaugural-address-president-barack-obama.

Budget negotiations and FY 2013 F2F funding

The President's speech alluded to the ongoing budget negotiations and expected spending cuts.  The House voted this week to suspend the debt limit until May, and the Senate is expected to follow suit.  This debt-limit legislation addresses only one aspect of the budget negotiations, however.  Still remaining are the automatic budget cuts (sequester) scheduled to take effect March 1 in the absence of an alternative deal, and an extension of the appropriations needed to run the federal government beyond March 27, when the current "continuing resolution" expires.  Most likely, any sequester deal will affect the FY 2013 funding for F2Fs (which would affect grants beginning in June).

Child health advocates are concerned that Medicaid and SSI could be targets of cuts and/or modifications during the budget talks, and will be working to defend these programs.

Mental Health

An outgrowth of the Newtown shootings has been an increased interest in the nation's mental health system.  The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing this week on that topic.  Among the witnesses were the heads of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institutes of Mental Health.  A video of the hearing and copies of testimony can be found here.  Additional congressional hearings are expected, and some mental health advocates are optimistic that action will be taken on legislation.  A major obstacle, however, will be budgetary constraints.  Under the sequester and budget caps for discretionary programs, agencies like SAMHSA will see a cut in funding.

Proposed Rule on Medicaid, CHIP, Health Insurance Marketplaces

As noted last week, CMS released a proposed rule to provide states with additional information on implementing ACA.  The proposed rule addresses state options for coordinating eligibility notices and appeals among Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Exchanges (now called "Marketplaces"); and Medicaid benefits, cost-sharing, appeals of eligibility determinations, and streamlining of eligibility categories.  An HHS fact sheet on the proposed changes is available here.  Detailed explanations are also available from the Administration on Aging and HealthReformGPS (George Washington University).  Comments are due February 13, 2013, and may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov.

Children's Core Quality Measures And Business Performance Indicators For Medicaid And CHIP

On January 24, the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS) issued an informational bulletin to announce a State Health Official Letter on updates to the Children's Core Set of Health Care Quality Measures for Medicaid and CHIP, and Performance Indicators for Medicaid and CHIP Business Functions.

The Rights of Students with Disabilities to Participate in School Sports

Today the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued guidance clarifying school districts' legal obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities.  According to a Department press release, the guidance also urges school districts to work with community organizations to increase athletic opportunities for students with disabilities.

According to the guidance, schools should make reasonable modifications to allow athletic participation for students with disabilities (e.g., the allowance of a visual cue alongside a starter pistol to allow a student with a hearing impairment to participate in the track team, if he/she is fast enough to qualify).  The guidance clarifies that the law does not require that a student with a disability be allowed to participate in any selective or competitive athletic program, so long as the selection or competition criteria are not discriminatory.  In some cases, schools may be required to set up alternative teams for students with disabilities, such as a wheelchair basketball league.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan posted a blog entry about the guidance.

F2F funding in the future

F2F funding for FY 2014 is dependent upon further congressional action. The first step toward that end is to thank the Members of Congress who supported the funding legislation that was just enacted.  So, if you have not already done so, and if one of your Members of Congress was a cosponsor of the legislation (listed at the end of this update), please send a note of thanks for their support of F2Fs.  To gain future funding, it is vitally important for Members to know that F2Fs really help their constituents, and that their constituents appreciate their support of the program.

It is possible that the next legislative "vehicle" in which to incorporate an F2F funding extension will be whatever legislation emanates from a sequester/debt-limit deal, so it is important that family leaders continue to educate their elected officials about the importance of F2Fs and how much they help children and families with the small amount of federal funding they receive.

Webinars

Promising Practices for Medicaid Managed Long-Term Services and Supports. January 29 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. EST.  As part of a series of webinars on the ACA, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) will be presenting a webinar on the ACA's impact on older adults, people with disabilities and the aging and disability networks, focusing on managed long-term services and supports.  The webinar will focus on examining promising practices for managed long-term services and supports from existing state programs.  Click here to register. 

CDC Public Health Grand Rounds: Where in health is disability? Public health practices to include people with disabilities.  Rebroadcast w/Live Q&A: January 30, 1:00-2:00 pm ET.  The Division of Human Development and Disability of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities will rebroadcast and hold a live question and answer session on the CDC Public Health Grand Rounds: Where in health is disability? Public health practices to include people with disabilities, which was originally held on December 18, 2012.  The live question and answer session will begin aftter the rebroadcast from 2:00-2:30 p.m. ET.  The program can be accessed at www.cdc.gov/about/grand-rounds.  (The webcast links are only available during the date and time of the session.) To ask questions:

  • By Twitter: enter the hashtag #cdcgrandrounds between 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET
  • By Email: email grandrounds@cdc.gov between 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET
  • By Phone: Between 1:45-2:30 p.m. ET, call 800-369-1170 and use passcode "CDC Meeting"

Relay Conference Captioning is available by clicking http://fedrcc.us//Enter.aspx?EventID=2091528&CustomerID=321 at the start of the event.

Health Care Reform's Impact on People with Disabilities: The Road Ahead­­­­­­
January 30, 2013 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EST. 
This free webinar, sponsored by United Spinal in conjunction with the American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD), will focus on health policy basics and essential issues that pertain to wheelchair users and other people living with disabilities found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The webinar will highlight: pre-existing conditions; the elimination of certain coverage limits; health insurance marketplaces; and state incentives to expand Medicaid coverage.  Participants will also learn how U.S. health care has changed since the ACA was signed into law, and discover ways to be proactive in their states to get the best health care coverage.  The webinar can be accessed at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/922978498.  There will be an opportunity to share questions and comments.

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

Best, Janis & Brooke

Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.
202-333-2770
blehmann@familyvoices.org  

Janis Guerney, Esq.
202-546-0558
jguerney@familyvoices.org  

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To reach your Members of Congress, go to http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm.  You can submit a message through their contact forms, and/or call their offices. 

Cosponsors of Representative Pallone's bill (H.R. 4083):

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
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] - 11/16/2012 

Cosponsors of Senator Menendez's bill (S. 2123):

Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 6/4/2012 [retired]
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 2/17/2012 [retired]
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 2/17/2012 [retired]
Sen Franken, Al [MN] - 6/5/2012 
Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] - 8/2/2012 [retired]
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 3/13/2012 
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] - 5/8/2012 
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 2/17/2012 
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] - 9/21/2012 
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] - 2/17/2012 [retired]
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] - 2/17/2012 
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 9/19/2012