Current Issues: What We’re Watching
- The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is having, and will continue to have, an outsized impact on the disability community.
- Congress is working quickly to begin addressing the crisis. On March 14, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes increased Medicaid funding, emergency paid leave, increased funding for food assistance, and free coronavirus testing.
- It is an important first step, and we are asking the Senate to pass this bill NOW, with some improvements to the paid leave to accommodate people with disabilities.
Money Follows the Person (MFP)
- This program has helped over 88,000 seniors and people with disabilities move out of institutional settings and into the community with their families and loved ones, leading to better health outcomes, improved quality of life, and less state spending.
- On January 25, 2019, the Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019, a bill that includes short-term funding for the Money Follows the Person program, became law. The bill includes three months of funding for MFP that states have until September 31, 2019 to spend. While this is only a short-term extension, it will give us momentum as we work with members of Congress for a longer extension of these critical programs.
- A number of federal and state proposals to expand access to affordable healthcare will be introduced and debated in the 116th Congress.
- This includes “universal healthcare” proposals to expand public healthcare options.
- Disability advocates must continue to educate Congress about the services that people with disabilities need – long-term services and supports (LTSS), particularly Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – to ensure they are included in any healthcare proposals being considered.
Disability Integration Act (DIA)
- The DIA aims to fully implement the integration mandate for people with disabilities.
- The bill proposes that every person eligible for long-term services and supports should have a federally protected right to be meaningfully integrated the community and receive community-based long-term services and supports.
- The DIA was reintroduced in the 116th Congress on January 15th, 2019 (S. 117 in the Senate, H.R. 555 in the House).
Administrative Attacks on the Affordable Care Act
- The Administration continues to issue executive orders, participate in lawsuits, and change federal regulations that undermine the ACA’s goal of making insurance affordable and accessible for everyone.
- These attacks remove and undermine key parts of the ACA that protect people with disabilities from discrimination, including provisions that stop insurers from denying coverage or charging more for people with preexisting conditions, or seek to get rid of the law as a whole.
- The federal government has approved, and is reviewing more applications from multiple states to impose work requirements for people to receive Medicaid.
- These requirements are supposed to exempt people with disabilities, but they fail to do so for a variety of reasons and will result in the loss of Medicaid for many families.
- The Administration is trying to add work requirements in other crucial public benefits as well that would hurt people with disabilities.
Electronic Visit Verification (EVV)
- EVV is a tracking system that requires electronic verification of Medicaid-funded personal care services, which states will be required to use by January 1, 2020.
- On May 16, 2018, the federal government released guidance about EVV, but questions and concerns remain, including the harmful impact these changes will have on the independence of people with disabilities.
- We continue to work with advocates, CMS and Congress to address the concerns of people with disabilities.
- State EVV Good Faith Effort Exemption Requests should be submitted to CMS.
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a proposed rule that could prevent individuals with disabilities and their families from legally entering the country.
- This rule could also prevent individuals living in the U.S. from accessing needed services.
- The public comment period closed on Dec. 10, 2018. DHS must now review and respond to the comments received.
We need to keep up our advocacy and educate our Representatives on the importance of Medicaid to people with disabilities. Take action now!