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.
Lisa Pugh, Director of The Arc Wisconsin appeared on “Upfront” on WISN Channel 12, Milwaukee’s ABC News affiliate, to discuss President Trump’s proposed federal budget. She discussed the proposed $600 billion in cuts to Medicaid beyond the cuts in the American Health Care Act. Additionally, she explained that a block grant or per capita cap would punish Wisconsin because the initial funding would be based on the previous year’s spending. She stated “It locks us in. I think because we have been efficient, the amount of money we would be receiving in that scenario would be lower than a lot of other states and I think it puts people at risk.”
Jon Meyers, Executive Director of The Arc Arizona, wrote a letter to the editor published in the Arizona Capitol Times opposing HCR 2013, which petitions for the creation of an Article V constitutional convention for the purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment. The constitution requires petitions from the legislatures of two-thirds (34) of the states in order to create an Article V convention. The State Legislature’s approval makes Arizona the 28th state to petition for an Article V Convention. Meyers describes the risk involved in creating a convention, given that it is unclear whether state legislatures can limit its scope. Additionally, he explains that a balanced budget is not always prudent, especially during economic downturns. The inability to run a deficit during an economic downturn could endanger many programs that benefit people with disabilities, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Meyers proposed solving federal budget woes using “scalpel, rather than an ax.”
Lisa Pugh, Executive Director of The Arc Wisconsin, appeared on WisconsinEye Newsmakers, a state-wide television program, to discuss the threats to Medicaid in the American Health Care Act. She explained the overlooked role Medicaid plays in the lives of people with disabilities by providing the opportunity to live outside of institutions. Additionally, she explained that per capita caps in the federal legislation are inevitably reduction in federal funding that shift costs to states. She noted: “this is a decision being made in Washington, but it’s going to come right here to the Capitol Dome.”
The Arc Minnesota testified in favor of SF 807 and HF 1182. These bills reduce the income-based parental fees for participation in TEFRA (a medical assistance program for children with disabilities) by 50%. Parents testifying at the hearing discussed how the fees were depleting their savings, driving them into debt, and in some cases forcing them out of the program. Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director at The Arc Minnesota, stated in his testimony: “It’s unconscionable that children in our state are not receiving the health care and therapies that they need because of these parental fees.” The Star Tribune covered the hearing.
NYARC has continued to advocate for an additional $45 million to fund a DSP wage increase. The chapter’s most recent advocacy efforts in this area included a press conference at the State Capitol, a radio interview with NYSARC President Laura Kennedy on the Capitol Pressroom, and a sit-in outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. During her interview, Kennedy stated: “Unless we get the funding to even just stabilize the staff right now, we’re going to have some very very ugly situations.”
The Arc Connecticut recently testified before the state legislature regarding revelations of excessive overtime costs at Southbury Training School, an institution for people with I/DD, encouraging the state to move away from this institutional model of care and to use the savings to provide more services to people with I/DD in the community. The Southbury Training School paid $12.3 million in overtime to its 615 staff members in the last fiscal year. One direct care worker with a base salary of $60,225 received total compensation of $237,886. The average cost per resident on the Southbury campus was $360,000, more than twice the cost per resident in the private sector, according to an analysis from the state of Connecticut. Learn more about the issue here.
The Arc of New Jersey has been actively involved in the “Protect the Lifeline” campaign spearheaded by The Arc of the United States and has launched a new section of its website for the effort. Recently, Board President Robert Hage wrote a letter to the editor on the Affordable Care Act, which has been published in Express Times, NJ.com, Daily Journal, Asbury Park Press, and Shore News Today. The letter notes that: “The ACA, by increasing access to private health insurance and allowing states the option to expand their Medicaid program, has helped people with I/DD live healthy and independent lives.”
The Arc of Minnesota has issued its 2017 public policy priorities. These include, among others, implementing new employment services, expanding consumer-directed community supports, and increasing funding for housing. On January 10, The Arc of Minnesota and the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance will host the first “Tuesday at the Capitol” of the new legislative session where they will provide a brief update on legislative priorities, distribute fact sheets, and hold a press conference. This will also present an opportunity for members of The Arc of Minnesota to meet with their state legislators.
The Florida Times-Union published an editorial calling for measures to end Florida’s 20,000 person waitlist. Florida ranks 48th out of 50 in spending on community programs for people with disabilities, according to a research project from the University of Colorado. Deborah Linton, CEO of The Arc of Florida, is quoted as saying “You might not think their needs are critical, but if you walked a mile in their shoes, you would think differently.”