The Latest Legislative Update from UCP

As October comes to an end we wanted to provide you with a quick wrap up of what’s happened, what is on the horizon and why it matters for you.iStock_000012685951XSmall

Let’s recap where we are with funding for the federal government: Early in the month Congress was faced with an expiring budget and the threat of a government shutdown. In quick action they voted on and passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) – this extends the current budget through December. The CR really serves as a patch to provide Congress with a bit more time to put together and vote on a longer-term budget. Conversations are currently underway to have a budget on the table that may possibly even extend through November 2016. We are constantly watching the discussions to see how disability programs funded through National Institutes of Health, Administration for Community Living, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are shaping up. These are the programs that provide services and supports necessary to live independent, high quality lives and have the most impact on our UCP universe. On the horizon is the upcoming debate of reauthorizing the debt ceiling. During all of these important discussions, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he is resigning and the search for his replacement is currently ongoing. As Congress continues to work through these issues we will continue to monitor and keep you posted.

In addition to the federal funding issues, there have been a few policy developments we want to update you on:

Home Care Rule

First, the Supreme Court issued a statement that it would not revisit the Department of Labor’s rule focused on compensation and coverage of personal care assistants, referred to as the Home Care Rule.This new rule, set to go into effect by the end of the year, would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home-care workers. The new rules do not apply to home-care workers who are hired directly by patients or their families, but only to those who are employed through businesses, including nonprofit organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy. At UCP, we want to ensure the best outcome for both the workers who provide in-home care as well as those who depend on receiving it. With the rule in place, our focus is now to work with others to ensure that Medicaid state agencies provide reimbursement rates that enable caregivers to continue to provide the quality critical support people with disabilities need to live independently. Read our latest update here.

As implementation of the rule moves forward, we will provide you with information and resources on how to ensure these services are covered.

Reimbursement for Complex Rehab Technologies

The process for which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) reimburses tools and technologies used by the disability community through a competitive bidding program and over the years, we have updated you on the potential harms that competitive bidding has when it comes to accessing wheelchairs and other equipment classified as complex rehabilitation technology. There are two pieces of legislation right now that are attempting to address this harms. First, is a larger piece of legislation called “The Ensuring Access to Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act” of 2015 that seeks to solve the long-standing reimbursement problem by creating a new benefit category for complex rehabilitation technology. We are working with others here in DC to support this legislation and determine the best path forward to insure that those that need and utilize these technologies can have access to them.

Another more pressing issue as it relates to reimbursement of wheelchairs is a recent decision made by CMS to limit payment for complex wheelchair accessories. This is concerning as accessories is being defined as all customizable and individually configured components that are integral to a functioning char. This new decision will go into effect January 2016.

In an effort to reverse this decision, Congressman Zeldin of New York has introduced legislation (H.R. 3229) which would prevent the proposed rates from going into effect.  We sent an alert asking for you to call your Member of Congress and tell them to support this legislation. View our alert here and Call your member!

We also want to hear from you about why complex rehabilitation technology is important to you –what the impact would be if these new rates went into effect and limited your ability to afford and access this equipment? Send us your story so we can share it with decision makers!  

UPDATE: Supreme Court Decides Home Care Rule Can Move Ahead

Over the past months we’ve been updating you on status of implementation of the Home Care Rule.  The most recent activity was in August when the appeals court determined that the Department of Labor could move forward with the long-delayed rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to homecare workers.

Earlier this week the Supreme Court announced that it will not block the implementation of the Department of Labor’s rule.  The new rules do not apply to home-care workers who are hired directly by patients or their families, but only to those who are employed through businesses, including nonprofit organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy.

Several home care providers had sued to block the rule, which provides protections to workers who provide in-home care for the elderly, people with disabilities and others, arguing that it would negatively impact millions of older Americans and people with disabilities.

Many United Cerebral Palsy affiliates provide such vital services for people with disabilities. When the rule was issued, UCP made a statement warning of serious potential consequences people with disabilities and their families faced and urged Medicaid agencies to set reimbursement rates that would enable caregivers to continue to provide the critical support people with disabilities need to live at home.

“We want to see those caregivers fairly compensated for their work, but we don’t want that to come at the cost of someone else’s independence. We have come so far in helping individuals remain in their homes,” said Stephen Bennett, President and CEO of UCP.

A few things to note.The Department of Labor has announced a delay in the enforcement of the new rules, which was supposed to begin in January of 2015. While they Supreme Court has ruled they may still choose to take up the case sometime in the future; this most recent decision declines stopping the Labor Department from implementing the rule in the meantime.  We are working with other organizations to determine options and alternatives for how to proceed.  We know how important this is to you and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.

 

The Pope, A New Speaker and a Budget: What’s Going on in Washington Right Now

It has been an exciting few weeks here in Washington, D.C.  It started with the city in celebration mode to host the pope and ended with the Speaker of the House resigning and the House and Senate passing a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that avoided a government shutdown.iStock_000012685951XSmall

While the CR is only short-term it was necessary as Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills and send them to the president’s desk.  As is the CR will continue to fund the government at fiscal year 2015 levels through December 11, 2015.

The current CR means that funding for programs and agencies important to the disability community, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain intact.

However, the looming December deadline still presents many reasons for us to remain watchful.  In addition to carving out a larger and longer-term budget agreement that must address across the board cuts and extend past the 2016 elections, Congress must also address hitting the federal debt ceiling.   

As for the new speaker of the house, it is likely to be Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).  However, many members are running for the other key positions in the leadership.  What is clear is that no matter who is nominated, they will surely have a full plate to deal with.

Here at UCP, we will continue to monitor the discussions and update you as the process proceeds.