FEDERAL (Accurate as of 1/13/2021)
On December 21, both chambers passed H.R.133, a COVID relief and omnibus appropriations deal. The package funds all parts of the government for the remainder of the Fiscal Year (through September 2021), provides some additional resources and relief to respond to the impacts of the COVID epidemic, and extends key programs. The President signed the bill on December 27. Some highlights include:
Many in the I/DD community had hoped to see additional funding for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which did not occur. Also, the stimulus payments did not include any payment for dependents who are over the age of 17.
The 117th Congress officially began work on January 3, 2021. Democrats will retain control of the House of Representatives with 222 seats compared to the 211 Republican seats (note: 2 vacancies). Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) secured a fourth term as Speaker of the House in a narrow vote largely along party lines.
In the Senate, the Democrats have officially gained the majority following the wins of two Democratic candidates in the January 5th Senate runoff elections in Georgia. Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will replace the two Republican incumbents to create a 50-50 party split in the Senate. Vice President-elect Harris, serving in her capacity as President of the Senate, provides the tiebreaker for a Democratic majority. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will serve as Senate Majority Leader and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will serve as Senate Minority Leader, reversing their roles in the previous Congress.
The legislature convened on January 13 for a day of organizing which included passing rules and appointing committees. The Senate will continue to be led by Sen. Phil Berger as President Pro Tempore and Sen. Ralph Hise as Deputy President Pro Tempore. The House will continue to be led by Rep. Tim Moore as Speaker and Rep. Sarah Stevens as Speaker Pro Tempore. The legislature will reconvene on January 27.
While COVID-19 and vaccine distribution will rightfully get much attention in the early days of session, passing a two-year budget is a usual part of the long session. There are certain Standing Committees, as well as Oversight Committees, that the Council is most interested in tracking.
Both the House and the Senate have standing committees that are focused on public policy areas in order to move legislation. When a bill is introduced in the legislature, it is typically sent to a standing committee. Some of the key standing committees in both the House and Senate we follow include:
Oversight Committees are established by State law for a specific purpose and usually focus on providing oversight of a state agency or policy area. There are several oversight committees, but the ones we follow most closely include:
When the session is underway, the Council’s policy team will provide updates on the budget process and pertinent bills, especially those related to the Council’s priority areas for educating policy makers. These include: Registry of Unmet Needs (RUN), Olmstead Plan, Medicaid Transformation/Tailored Plan, and direct support professional (DSP) wages.
Medicaid Transformation continues to move forward. The Standard Plan is scheduled to launch on July 1, 2021. Information on how to enroll in a Medicaid Managed Care health plan will be sent to beneficiaries soon. The open enrollment will be from March 15, 2021 through May 15, 2021. The Department of Health and Human Services is re-engaged with Prepaid Health Plans (PHPs) and focused on items such as provider contracting, rates, and payment processes. One of our concerns is that PHPs contract with sufficient providers to meet the needs of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (I/DD) who may be in the Standard Plan.
The RFA for the Tailored Plan was released and the applications are due February 2, 2021. The LME/MCOs are the only entities who are allowed to respond to this RFA. The contracts will be awarded on June 11, 2021 which allows for about a year of planning before Tailored Plans launch on July 1, 2022.
The Olmstead Plan Stakeholder Advisory (OPSA) group was initiated by the Department of Health and Human Services to develop an Olmstead Plan that ensures the right of all people with disabilities to choose to live life fully included in the community. There are several committees currently working on these topics: Housing, Employment, Community Capacity Building, Transition to Community, Children/Youth/Families, Workforce Development, Older Adults, and Quality Assurance/Quality of Life. The Council is represented on these committees and provides input to make sure our priorities are included in the plan. For more information about the committees, which are open to all, visit the website: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/about/department-initiatives/nc-olmstead