The Arc Virginia has been featured in two recent newspaper stories about the chapter’s advocacy opposing Medicaid per capita caps proposed in the American Health Care Act. The first, featured in Work It, SoVa, discusses the potential impact on The Arc Southside and their advocacy efforts in fighting it. Tonya Milling, Executive Director of The Arc Southside, described the tough decisions the chapter may have to make: “Do we serve Sally for free or do Sally and her family have to figure something out?” The second article, featured in The Virginian-Pilot, discusses the impact per capita caps could have on the state, including cuts in eligibility, reduced services, lower reimbursement rates, and shifting of funds from other state programs. Jamie Liban, Executive Director of The Arc Virginia explains: “It’s going to fall on the state to implement cuts, leaving the feds off the hook.” Staff members and volunteers from the chapter network throughout the state also recently participated in the “Rally to Save Medicaid” on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
The Arc California is advocating for lifting the cap on respite services. The caps of 90 hours of in-home respite over three months and 21 days of out-of-home respite per fiscal year were imposed in 2009 during the economic downturn and were intended to be temporary. This proposal was included in the budget approved by California’s Assembly and Senate and awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.
NYSARC, in collaboration with the New York State Association of Community & Residential Agencies and the New York State Rehabilitation Association, recently hosted the fourth annual Community Integration Leadership Institute. The keynote speaker, Deborah Bachrach, former state Medicaid Director, discussed how the per capita caps in the American Health Care Act could result in the state losing $44 billion in federal funding. Since the per capita cap will be based on the 2016 Medicaid Budget, anything added in 2017, such as the increase in DSP wages the chapter fought for, will not be factored in.
The Arc New Jersey is advocating against passage of Stephen Komninos’ Law (S516/A2503) as written. The legislation aims to reduce abuse and neglect, by requiring, among other things, two site visits to every residential and day habilitation by the Department of Human Services. Members of the New Jersey Self-Advocacy Network (a self-advocacy group affiliated with The Arc New Jersey) testified that group homes and supervised apartments are their homes and that state inspections are an invasion of their privacy. The Arc New Jersey has attempted to work the family members behind the bill but has been unable to reach an agreement. The bill has passed the New Jersey Assembly and two Senate Committees and is awaiting a vote on the Senate Floor.
The finalized budget for the State of Maryland contains many victories for The Arc Maryland including:
- A 3.5% waiver rate increase to cover the cost of compliance with the Minimum Wage Act of 2014;
- Funding for 789 individuals with I/DD aging out of the school system to receive employment and other day services;
- Waiver slots for the Crisis Resolution category, or the 101 individuals with the most urgent needs;
- Reducing the Family/Individual Support Capped Waiver and Community Support Capped Waiver Waiting lists by 400 each;
- The use of the Waiting List Equity Fund derived from the sale of state institutions and deinstitutionalizing to fund waivers for 36 individuals with priority given to those with the oldest caregivers;
- Community Services for 26 individuals with I/DD involved in the court system;
- $250,000 for inclusive higher education programs for students with I/DD;
- 100 new Autism Waiver slots; and
- A $3.7 million increase for pre-kindergarten education.
The Arc Michigan has been busy fighting against several harmful legislative proposals including:
- HB 4205, which would restrict the ability of state agencies to promulgate rules that go above federal requirements, such as Michigan’s requirement that public schools provide education to students with disabilities up until age 26, rather than the federal requirement of 21;
- HB 4598, which freezes enrollment in Medicaid Expansion after September 30, 2017; and
- Budget language shifting all Medicaid Benefits into managed care.
The Colorado General Assembly has adjourned with many victories for The Arc Colorado including:
- HB 1343, which creates a conflict free case management system, meaning that case management agencies cannot also be service providers, unless the only willing provider of case management in a region is also the only willing service provider;
- HB 1276, which bans prone, mechanical, or chemical restraint in public schools except in cases where a student displays a deadly weapon, it is performed by a trained police officer who has made a law enforcement referral, or it occurs at a school under the jurisdiction of the Division of Youth Corrections;
- HB 1087, which creates a pilot office of public guardianship for incapacitated adults without family or friends able to serve as guardian or enough money to pay a private guardian;
- HB 1046, which eliminates derogatory terms such as “mental retardation” and “mental deficiency” from state law and replaces them with “persons with an intellectual and developmental disability” and “persons with a mental illness”; and
- HB 1188, which makes harassment based on disability or sexual orientation a class 1 misdemeanor, bringing it to the same level as harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.
The Arc Minnesota, as part of the “This is Medicaid” Coalition, hosted three town halls across the state on the proposed Medicaid cuts in the American Health Care Act. The town halls were held in Bloomington, Northfield, and St. Cloud. Attendance ranged from 20 in St. Cloud to 200 in Bloomington. At each town hall, coalition members discussed the basics of Medicaid and the many supports and services it provides to Minnesotans. Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director of The Arc Minnesota, and Cindy Owen, Executive Director of The Arc Midstate, were panelists at the St. Cloud town hall. Cindy shared her family’s story, and Steve discussed how Minnesotans with a variety of disabilities have benefitted from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, noting that Medicaid is a “lifeline for Minnesotans with disabilities and their families.” Attendees filled out cards sharing their families’ stories for the Congressional delegation.
Thanks to the advocacy of The Arc Minnesota, the Minnesota Legislature passed and Governor Mark Dayton signed a Department of Health and Human Services funding bill that makes modest progress on several key priorities including:
- A 13% reduction in parental fees for participation in the TEFRA program.
- A 1% increase in the Medicaid spend-down, or about $10 per month
- $496,000 for statewide self-advocacy efforts;
- New services for those seeking competitive employment, pending approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and
- A 1.5% increase for personal care attendants under the SEIU contract, however there was no across the board increase for DSPs.
The Arc New Jersey, as part of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, organized a group of more than 50 family members, self-advocates, providers, and DSPs to visit the State House and advocate for higher wages for DSPs. They met with at least 50 elected officials, including Senate President Steve Sweeney and members of both Budget Committees. For more information, visit the Coalition Facebook page.