President Obama Provides Clear Alternative on the Budget

Preserving Safety Net for Most Vulnerable, Not Tax Breaks for Millionaires

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Arc’s Chief Executive Officer Peter V. Berns issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s George Washington University address:

“President Obama today reaffirmed his commitment to reducing the federal deficit while holding true to our most cherished American values.  We believe that the President’s plan to preserve our vital safety net programs – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – is more balanced and fair than the plan advanced by the House Budget Committee. Instead of relying on cuts to vital programs for the most vulnerable Americans, the President is proposing to raise revenues by ending the unfair tax advantages enjoyed by the richest individuals and corporations in America and balancing the spending cuts.”

“We take heart in hearing the President’s frequent mention of people with disabilities in his speech.  This shows that he understands that the over 7 million Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be among those most harmed by the House Budget plan to block grant Medicaid, end Medicare as we know it, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and decimate funding for housing, education, transportation and employment programs by making deep cuts over time. We appreciate the President’s call to stand for the rights of people with disabilities.”

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.

The 
Arc
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Amicus 
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Sebelius 
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Advocates
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Protect Americans
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 from Insurance 
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Abuse

The Arc of the United States (The Arc), the nation’s oldest and largest advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, joined with other disability and disease‐specific organizations to support the arguments of the United States in opposing the Commonwealth of Virginia’s legal challenge to the constitutionality of the new health reform law.

People with disabilities are often denied health coverage because of their pre‐existing conditions. Developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disability, autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy, originate in childhood and constitute pre‐existing conditions for purposes of access to health insurance coverage. Without the new health care reforms, these disabilities can mean the loss of health coverage, resulting in economic hardship and bankruptcy for a family, and huge uncompensated care costs for the system, which will be borne by those who have coverage.

The recently enacted health reform law, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act), offers people and their families the promise that they will be able to access affordable, nondiscriminatory health care coverage. The Arc believes this helps all Americans and that these protections must remain in place.

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will finally open the doors to health insurance coverage for many of our constituents. Many of our family members have had vital health coverage denied to them due to their child’s pre‐existing disability. It is disconcerting that litigation to remove this critical protection is already being pursued,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc joined with more than a dozen other advocacy groups in its statement to the courts to protect patients and keep health law intact, including The March of Dimes Foundation, The American Association of People with Disabilities, Breast Cancer Action, Friends of Cancer Research, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Virginia’s Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli filed suit against U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. No monetary damages or awards are being sought. Specifically, Virginia challenged the minimum coverage provisions which require that individuals maintain health coverage. Experience in several states has shown that it is necessary to require minimum individual coverage in order to successfully eliminate insurance company use of pre‐existing exclusions for coverage.

Disease and Disability Groups to Hold Media Conference Call on Amicus Brief Supporting Health Reform Law in Virginia Case

Washington, DC – On Thursday, June 17 at 11:00 a.m., leading disease and disabilities advocacy groups are expected to file a formal amicus brief defending the need for the health reform law’s minimum coverage provision being challenged by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia.

The March of Dimes Foundation, The American Association of People with Disabilities, The Arc of the United States, Breast Cancer Action, Families USA, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Friends of Cancer Research, Mental Health America, National Breast Cancer Coalition, National Organization for Rare Disorders, National Patient Advocate Foundation, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Senior Citizens Law Center, National Women’s Law Center, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, and United Cerebral Palsy have all signed on to the brief, which is expected to be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Thursday.

Representatives from these groups will hold a media conference call to discuss the brief and the necessity of standing in opposition of frivolous lawsuits that undermine the new health law’s protections from insurance company abuses on THURSDAY, JUNE 17 at 11:00 am via Teleconference.

Who: Ian Millhiser, Attorney for the Amici
Marty Ford, The Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy
Fran Visco, National Breast Cancer Coalition
Portia Wu, National Partnership for Women & Families
Chris Jennings, National Organization for Rare Disorders

What: Discussing their opposition to frivolous lawsuits that threaten the minimum coverage provision and the new health law’s protections from insurance company abuses.

When: THURSDAY, JUNE 17 at 11:00 a.m. EASTERN

CONFERENCE NUMBER: (877) 210–8943 Conference ID # 82831840

The Arc Applauds House Passage of Health Care Reform Legislation

The Arc of the United States applauds the House of Representative’s passage of the historic
health care reform legislation that is certain to rank among the top domestic legislative
achievements of this generation. “This legislation will bring about comprehensive health care
reform that will benefit nearly all Americans while reducing the federal deficit. We are
extremely pleased that the House- and Senate-passed Patient Protection and Affordable Health
Care Act contains numerous provisions of importance to people with intellectual and
developmental disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Provisions include:

Coverage

  • Prohibiting private health insurance exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
  • Eliminating annual and lifetime caps in private insurance policies.
  • Restricting the consideration of health status in setting premiums.
  • 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).

Benefits

  • 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.

Access to Quality Care

  • Improving training of physicians, dentists and allied health professionals on how to treat persons with disabilities.
  • Requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to collect data on beneficiaries with disabilities, access to primary care services and the level to which primary care service providers have been trained on disability issues.
  • Ensuring prevention programs include a focus on individuals with disabilities.

Long-Term Services and Supports

  • Increasing the federal share of Medicaid, known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (or FMAP), for home and community-based services (HCBS) and during periods of economic downturn.
  • Allowing states to offer additional services under the 1915(i) Medicaid HCBS Waivers State Plan Option.
  • Providing spousal impoverishment protections for HCBS beneficiaries.
  • Strengthening long-term services and supports through a two-pronged approach:
    1. Taking pressure off of the Medicaid program: The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act would create a national long-term services insurance program, which assists eligible individuals and their families to meet long-term needs with a cash benefit and without forcing them into poverty to receive Medicaid benefits.
    2. Improving the Medicaid program: The Community First Choice Option would help to eliminate the institutional bias by encouraging states to cover personal attendant services under the state’s optional service plan instead of through the waiver system by offering a 6% increase in the federal share of Medicaid for these services.

Cindy Johnson, Chair of the Public Policy Committee of The Arc and a member of its national board said, “People with disabilities—especially young people—can look to a future free from the discrimination of being denied coverage due to preexisting conditions.” Johnson, who is a parent and a sibling to individuals with disabilities, added “this legislation is a relief for families
and represents the hope we have that our needs will be met. We are grateful to the advocates and the legislators who fought to have these provisions included.”

The Arc greatly looks forward to President Obama’s expected signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) into law early this week. Enactment of this landmark law will result in the attainment of several of The Arc’s priority public policy goals. “We are hopeful that the subsequent consideration by the Senate this week of the Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 48772) will also be successful, resulting in fundamental and lasting improvements to the Nation’s health care system,” Berns said.

The Arc urges families with individuals with disabilities to call their congressional representatives who supported this legislation and thank them. To learn more about the impact of health care reform and other legislative priorities impacting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, register for the Disability Policy Seminar (www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org) from April 12-14, 2010, in Washington, D.C.