The Senate Heard You, and Voted Down the Disastrous House Budget Plan!

Late yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted down a federal spending plan that could have disastrous consequences for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bill aims to make drastic cuts and changes to important programs liked Medicaid, Medicare, the new health care law, and a host of other programs that help people with I/DD achieve. Learn more about the bill.

Here at The Arc, we want to give a big thanks to the hundreds of members who acted on our call to contact their Senator and ask that they vote against this bill! You do make a difference!

For those of you want to get more involved, sign up to get our Action Alerts and become a member of The Arc!

What Did Obama Say About the Budget Battle?

You may have read our CEO Peter V. Berns’ reaction to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday about the budget battle being waged at the Federal level. You know that we at The Arc are unwavering in our conviction that we must preserve the social safety net for the most vulnerable Americans, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We simply can’t balance the budget on the backs of individuals and families who need our support to meet the most basic needs of medical care, housing, employment and education opportunities, much less to meet their expectations that they be fully included and able to participate in their communities and in society. Now, you might want to read the full text of the President’s speech on the matter and judge for yourself where he falls on the subject. Tell us what you think. Is the President pursing the right path? Will he succeed against the opposition he faces in Congress?

The Arc Makes a Statement on Employment

Late last week, The Arc submitted a formal statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to be recorded as testimony in the record of the hearings held to draw attention to the critical issues of employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

We took this opportunity to go on record with The Arc’s position that people with I/DD have a fundamental moral, civil and Constitutional right to be fully included and actively participate in all aspects of society, including having the opportunity to be competitively employed. We pointed out the dismal statistics concerning the state of employment of working age adults with I/DD and urged specific reform in several key areas of public policy. We highlighted the work The Arc is doing to identify and promote best practices in helping people with I/DD become successfully employed through programs such as School-to-Community Transition funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation. And we advocated for forceful, coordinated efforts to build up opportunities for integrated community employment.

We were grateful for this opportunity to be heard by our Congressional leaders and we urge them to take our advice. But our voice becomes louder and stronger when joined by our supporters on the grassroots level, so we encourage you to read the full statement, find out more about the issues at hand and take every opportunity to let your elected officials and community leaders know you support full inclusion for people with I/DD, including but not limited to opportunities for competitive employment. Visit www.thearc.org for more information.

Who Decides Essential Care?

The health care reform law provides categories of care that must be provided for customers of the health-insurance exchanges that are launching in 2014.  An article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Defining Essential Care,” points out that “The next big issue for the federal health law as it moves toward implementation is how regulators will define so-called essential benefits—the basic medical services that health plans must cover under the law.”  So the details are left up to regulators who are now starting to develop the rules on what is an “essential” health care service and what is not.

Habilitative services, used by such children with Autism and other developmental disabilities, have become a particularly contentious point in the debate. The Arc’s Marty Ford provides an example of the difference between rehabilitative and habilitative services. (Visit our website to read Marty’s prior testimony on the importance of defining habilitation as an essential service.)

Does Speaking Up Make a Difference?

In the current political climate, it’s easy to become frustrated and start thinking that your voice doesn’t count. But we’re here to tell you that when you advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, your voice is heard. It does count. And, we have proof.

Every year hundreds of advocates like you come together on Capitol Hill for the annual Disability Policy Seminar for three days. For the first two days of the seminar, you hear from disability policy experts and other advocates about the most pressing issues facing the I/DD community this year. Then, on the third day, you take the Hill by storm with your fellow advocates and personally meet with your Senators and Representatives, including members of key committees that control the legislation you want to see passed or defeated. We have done some research and discovered that at least for the past few years, Congressional sponsorship of crucial bills important to the I/DD community increased in the months immediately following the annual seminar.

So, what issues were discussed during those meetings? What bills were pushed? That was up to you. All we know is, after your visits, many of those Senators and Representatives seemed to suddenly decide to co-sponsor bills to positively impact the lives of people with I/DD.  And, many of those bills were subsequently passed into law. Maybe it was coincidence. We think it was because of you.

The 2011 Disability Policy Seminar is February 14-16 and early registration ends January 11. Are you registered yet?

Affordable Care Act Vital to People with I/DD

Vigorous advocacy by The Arc and a coalition of disability rights and other champions was crucial to the enactment of the historic health care reform legislation nine months ago. The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (together known as the Affordable Care Act) contain numerous provisions of importance to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Now, the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is being tested. A narrow ruling yesterday in Virginia on the constitutionality of a provision of the Affordable Care Act is one of many recent rulings on similar cases in the past few months.

Opponents of reform have filed more than 20 different legal challenges since the law passed. The Administration’s motion to dismiss 12 of these cases has already been granted by judges. Moreover, in two cases, federal judges looked at the merits of the opponents’ arguments and determined that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and upheld the law.

Since the health reform law was passed there’s been tremendous progress to strengthen the nation’s health care system. A new patient’s bill of rights has been implemented to end some of the worst insurance company abuses and we are on a path to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities in health insurance.

It’s vital to our constituency that the courts find the Affordable Care Act constitutional, so that people with I/DD can have access to the following provisions and more:

  • Prohibiting private health insurance exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
  • Expanding Medicaid to cover individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line (approximately $29,000 per year for a family of four).
  • Ensuring that minimum covered benefits include products and services that enable people with disabilities to maintain and improve function, such as rehabilitation and habilitation services and devices.
  • Improving training of physicians, dentists and allied health professionals on how to treat persons with disabilities.
  • Medicaid Community First Choice Option long term services and supportswith a 6 percent increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (or FMAP).

A member of The Arc who is a parent and a sibling in Minnesota said, “People with disabilities — especially young people — can look to a future free from the discrimination of being denied coverage due to preexisting conditions. This legislation is a relief for families and represents the hope we have that our needs will be met.”

Read more on Health Care Court Ruling on The White House Blog.

Marty Ford Appointed Acting Staff Director of the Disability Policy Collaboration

The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) are happy to announce that Marty Ford is now Acting Staff Director of the Disability Policy Collaboration (DPC).  She’ll ensure a seamless transition of leadership in the organizations’ shared public policy office as Paul Marchand prepares to retire in January. During the two-month transition, Paul will retain his public policy portfolio.

“We are very pleased that Marty will assume this critical post. She is one of the nation’s leading advocates on issues that impact our constituency and has ensured that our voices are heard,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Marty has an extensive history in federal public policy issues affecting people with disabilities.  She began her career in 1979 working for The Arc of DC joining the national office in 1984. Since 2003, she has represented both The Arc and UCP on Capitol Hill and in the federal agencies on numerous issues, including long-term services and supports (including Medicaid), the Supplemental Security Income program, and Social Security disability issues.

Marty recently served for three years as Chairperson of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a coalition of more than 100 national disability organizations. She is currently the Vice-Chair of Advance CLASS, the newly created organization dedicated to the proper implementation of the private, employer-based Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) insurance program created by the health care reform law. She is a member of the bars of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also, Marty was recently honored with the 2010 President’s Award at The Arc’s National Convention in Orlando, FL for the significant impact her work over the past year will have on the success of the intellectual and developmental disability movement and the mission of The Arc.

Interpretations of Rosa’s Law Confusing – Clarification from the DPC

Rosa's Law Signing image 1

President Barack Obama speaks at the official ceremony of the signing of Rosa's Law Friday, October 8.

There has been some confusion among intellectual and developmental disability advocates over varied interpretations of the language in Rosa’s Law and how it will be implemented at local, state and federal levels. The Disability Policy Collaboration has offered some clarification on key points in the legislation to help chapters of The Arc respond to questions by their constituents.

Quick Facts about Rosa’s Law

  1. The term “mental retardation” will be replaced with the term “intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor statutes. Rosa’s Law applies only to programs under the jurisdiction of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, such as IDEA, vocational rehabilitation, ADA, health care and a few others.
  2. The law does not require any terminology change in state law. However, since many of the affected federal laws relate to state programs, the states will likely begin using the new term for these programs. More importantly, when a program covered by Rosa’s Law such as IDEA is reauthorized, any rules to implement the changes will then use ID instead of mental retardation.
  3. While most states have changed some terminology voluntarily and by statute, the changes vary in scope. For example, the vast majority of states have changed the names of their respective state agencies, using the term “Developmental Disabilities” in the agency name. But many of the programs overseen by these agencies still use the term mentally retarded (for example: Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Mental Retardation (ICF/MR).

A goal of The Arc is to get a similar bill introduced in the 2011-2012 Congress that will apply to other programs that are just as important to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, namely Medicaid.

You can also download (you must be logged into The Arc’s website) these quick facts as a PDF.