I am pleased that we are able to have Nicole Jorwic, who is an Illinoisan, actually, who has transplanted out into Washington, DC, and she works at The Arc of the United States as the Director of Rights Policy. Nicole has a bio of her on the website. I know Nicole personally because we worked a lot together on the policy of employment first in the State of Illinois as she was employed for a short period of time before she took her big adventure out to Washington specifically working on advancing the State of Illinois's employment first policies and things of that nature. It was a pleasure to get to know her. She is very grounded and rooted in disability policy-related issues. We asked her, given there are so many questions and people asking about the tax overhaul and what that means to people with disabilities, as well as how things are happening and what might be taking place in 2018 that people may want to keep track of, want to be concerned about, and while some people might say what does that have to do with the ADA? It's a civil rights issue, folks. We are talking about not just many of these things do have implications for our local governmental entities and things to ensure local service providers in providing services and ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of disability and enabling the lives of people with disabilities and their family members and those who live and work directly with them. Hopefully you will find the information Nicole is going to provide you with today to be valuable information, maybe also stimulate you to do some additional research on this particular topic or get some more information of those things that might directly affect you. So at this time, I am going to go ahead and turn over the microphone and the control of the PowerPoint slides to Nicole, and she will take it from here. So Nicole, it is yours.
Okay. Thank you, Robin, and thank you for inviting me today. I am glad to be on the call and obviously always glad to work with you, Robin. As you mentioned, we have a great working relationship. I am glad to be on with all of you from Washington, DC to talk a little bit about what's going on, how the tax bill that was passed at the end of last year, the impact it has on people with disabilities as well as in general what we know is coming this year, what has already happened this year, including just last week the vote on the ADA notification bill. So I will be going through the slides and then happy to take your questions after on a lot of these issues -- as a lot of these issues are obviously complex, and there's a lot to digest. So first I am going to go through a little bit specifics around the tax bill and also what we know about the budget deal and what we are anticipating from President Trump's budget that was just released last week.
So at the end of last year, on December 20, 2017, the House and the Senate both passed a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and it was signed into law. The final version of the bill did remove some things we had a lot of trouble about, specifically repealing the medical expense deduction, work opportunity tax credits that incentivizes to hire people with disabilities, and the disabled access credit, those were removed from the final version of the bill, but there are still some really troubling aspects just in general because of the fact that, in addition to the tax cuts that it added nearly $1.5 trillion to the deficit, which we are fearful that that large addition to the deficit will likely pave the way to threats to programs such as Social Security, Social Security disability, and continuing threats to the Medicaid program that so many people with disabilities rely on. The tax bill also repealed the individual mandate that was included as part of the Affordable Care Act, which means that 13 million fewer individuals will be covered -- will have health insurance over the next ten years because of that mandate being repealed.
We are still kind of -- the tax bill has passed and has become law. In addition, some of the shortfalls that were created by the tax bill, meaning some of the money that the government needs to function, they are already feeling the heat from passing the tax bill, so there became a vague conversation around spending caps and needing to raise them in order to continue to keep the government open. The government actually did shut down as the budget negotiations were coming only for three days. The Senate voted in late January to reopen the government after the three-day standoff, and another short-term funding bill was passed, and the government was funded through February 8. The budget deal that passed in late January did also include a six-year funding extension for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which is very important because as of February 1, many states were getting ready to completely run out of funding around CHIP. Which provides health insurance to over 12 million children all over the country.
So that funded the budget or funded the government until February 8, and technically the government shut down for a few hours because the debate continued overnight, as some of you may have recalled seeing on the news, with Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky on the floor talking because of the large deficits and the large spending packages that were all part of the conversation.
On February 9, the House and Senate passed another short-term but this time a six-week spending bill, and it was signed into law. This bill is considered a continuing resolution, and that expires after the six weeks are up on March 23. And this was also paired with -- so this short-term continuing resolution was also paired with a two-year budget deal that would raise those spending caps that needed to be raised defense and non-defense discretionary program categories for 2018 and 2019. This set the budget totals, and now the Congress has until the 23rd to come up with an agreement on item-by-item spending details, which is known as an omnibus spending package. It's been several years since there's been an omnibus spending package, but we are hopeful because of the bones of an agreement that it will move forward and there's many things that can protect people with disabilities that we are trying to also make sure are included in the omnibus packet, and I will get a little more into that later.
Nicole, this is Robin. Can you just slow down a little bit. I know I talk fast and that's a problem, and I want to make sure people are able to capture because you are talking a lot of technical things, and want to make sure people can hear and have access to that. So thanks.
Yeah, certainly, I will slow down. It's sometimes hard without an audience in front of you, but I will keep that in mind. Thank you. As I mentioned, we are continuing to work to make sure there are things in the omnibus that will continue to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and also ensure that there are not dangerous things included in the omnibus that will impact people with disabilities and the programs that individuals with disabilities rely on. So just to kind of go into some specifics on what the budget deal did, the budget deal that was reached in February, it included an additional four-year extension of the funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, so that six-year extension that was included in the late January package, there's also a four-year extension in the new one, which means there's a total of a ten-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program. There was a permanent fix included for Medicare therapy caps, and you have the slide, so I won't go through all of them, but there were a bunch of Medicare extenders included, additional funds for opioid and mental health treatment services, prevention programs, Child Care and Development Block Grant program; additionally, some infrastructure money specifically around drinking water, which is in direct response to some of the issues that occurred in places like Flint, Michigan, with lead in the water. So that's just some of what was included in the budget deal.
And we will wait -- so now the next steps around the budget is waiting to see what is included and what ultimately gets negotiated for the omnibus package. As we are waiting for all this, last week President Trump, the administration released their budget. It released their fiscal year 2019 budget request last week Monday. The document serves as an outline for the administration's spending and revenue priorities for the next decade, and really, there were some very concerning things. Most of those things of concern specifically for the disability community are specifically that it included drastic cuts to Medicaid through per capita caps and block granting, again, very similar to what we saw throughout the healthcare debate last year. I will be going into a little bit of that more, more specifics on what a block grant and per capita cap are in a moment because we do know that we are going to continue to see these threats, and we want to make sure that those on the ground understand what the impact of Medicaid per capita caps would be on state budgets and on services overall. The president's budget also cut roughly $70 billion over 10 years from the SSI, the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income program, also cuds to DD Act programs, including -- so that includes things like university Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, or UCEDD. Cuts for very important programs. Cuts to the SNAP program, as well as $6.8 billion in cuts to housing programs that oftentimes support individuals with disabilities to live on their own in their communities.
So though the president's budget does not have the force of law, it can set the stage for the congressional budgets, which follow. And obviously, as budget negotiations continue, that's the real concern. At present, the Senate has indicated that it will not submit a 2019 budget due to the recent budget deal, meaning that they are not going to create a new 2019 budget because that budget deal that was reached in February included a deal around the 2019 appropriation. So there's not a need to do its own budget. However, we are still unclear as whether the House plans to submit their own budget, which again, budgets are oftentimes indicative of priorities, and that is what we are going to be looking out for particularly from the House side at this point we don't anticipate seeing a budget for the Senate side.
Get back to the tax bill, there were specific changes made to ABLE, which was -- first became law at the end of between the (unkown). There were changes to the ABLE account. Unfortunately, one of those changes was not a change to the age limit, age restrictions under ABLE. Under the current law, the disability has to occur before the age of 26. Obviously, we know that that does not cover a lot of the disability community, so The Arc continues to work -- The Arc and the broader disability community continues to work on a fix to that. But there were some changes to the ABLE program which are just important to take note of. I am going to go through some of these slides relatively quickly, but you have access to them at any time.
So one instance is that it increased the contribution limit for ABLE account holders. This is just due to, in general, they are going to look at any sort of contribution limit based on inflation. So based on that, as a result, for the 2018 tax year, the limit was increased by a thousand dollars from $14,000 to $15,000. The limit all contributions combined in any tax year, and that includes anyone contributing to the account, that's the limit.
In addition, there was 529 college savings accounts, it is now allowable to roll those into an ABLE account. So for example, if a family member, upon birth, a family began a 529 college savings account, that can now, without penalty, be turned into, be rolled into an ABLE account, the funds that were prior in that 529 savings account. The funds rolled over from the 529 account are still subject to that annual contribution limit and capped at $15,000, and this can be -- the ABLE account beneficiary must be either a beneficiary of that account, so if that account was created for the individual themselves but now is going to be better served by an ABLE account, or it can be a family member of the beneficiary. So if there was one created for a sibling or parent or that sort of thing, it can still be rolled over. This provision does have a timeline. The provision is set to expire on January 1 of 2026, and this may be amended, but really, this is just because those family members that have already created that can roll those over in a time-limited instance, and then anyone else can just begin starting the ABLE account from the beginning.
Another change under ABLE, this is around Retirement Savings Contributions Credit. It acts as an incentive for low- and moderate-income taxpayers to make contributions to retirement accounts. And this new tax law extends a credit to those ABLE account holders who contribute to their own ABLE account. For example, if there is an individual who is an ABLE account holder who is also employed, we want to be encouraging those individuals to take part of the retirement packages that any employee would be able to contribute to. So the maximum tax credit that an individual could receive is $2,000; $4,000 if filing jointly. It's a nonrefundable credit, which means anybody would owe taxes to use the credit, but the maximum value would reduce the taxes that an individual owes down to zero.
In addition, the tax bill also dealt with how to deal with ABLE account contributions that are above $15,000, and this was for individuals who want to be able to contribute more to those ABLE accounts, perhaps because they have jobs or that sort of thing, and so this provision allows ABLE account beneficiaries who work and earn income to contribute above that $15,000 limit. Those, obviously, would be taxable.
We will anticipate some additional provisions and explanations from the Treasury Department on how this will all be implemented and, in general, expect some guidance and regulation on ABLE accounts. But that's just some specific changes that were included around ABLE in the tax bill. Now I want to get to some other things currently happening in Washington, DC and also continue to discuss some threats that we anticipate on the horizon. So first I really wanted to highlight a troubling vote that occurred last week, which was around HR or House Resolution 620, which was the ADA or the Americans with Disabilities Act Education and Reform Act of 2017. The bill was passed last -- in the House only on February 16 by a vote of 225-192. This bill specifically deals with -- prevents lawsuits or architectural barriers violating the ADA unless an individual provides -- an individual who cannot have access to a place -- provides specific enough notice and allows 120 days for a business to correct that barrier. The bill was introduced on the belief that the ADA has led to "frivolous lawsuits" where plaintiffs and attorneys intentionally seek barriers in order to extract funds. However, it's important to note that the ADA does not allow courts to award -- the federal law, the ADA, does not allow courts to award monetary damages. Where those damages are available, those all come through state law. So for example, in Arizona, California, and in Florida, and Texas, there are state laws on the books that go further than the federal ADA that allow these sort of monetary damages, and there are plenty -- there's plenty of data to support that even the existence of these frivolous lawsuits is an exaggeration, and we do know that there are already laws on the books that allow punishment of attorneys who represents clients in these frivolous lawsuits, so individuals can go after their licenses, that sort of thing.
Really, what's the most concerning thing about this bill is that it effectively eliminates incentives for businesses to comply with federal law until 120 days after a person with a disability asks them to do so. It really shifts the burden on an individual with disabilities, once they already can't access somewhere in their community, to then notify the business and continue to give businesses more time to comply with a law that in July we will be celebrating the 28th anniversary of. It's very concerning. There was a lot of grass-roots effort around this bill. At this point, there is not a Senate version that has been introduced; however, we have to keep the pressure up so that the Senate does not take this up and pass Congress's Senator Flake from Arizona has introduced a Senate version but thus far has not done so, and we are going to continue to keep the pressure up and encourage those of you on the phone to reach out to your senators to make sure there is a clear understanding that there is no appetite and the disability community does not support any sort of ADA notification. I think obviously the fact that the ADA Centers exist shows that there's plenty of opportunity for education and compliance resources for businesses if they so choose to utilize them.
As I mentioned earlier, both through the proposals included in the president and the administration's budget, we do know that while we may not have current legislative threats to Medicaid, the threats to vital programs remain. And that is why we have to remain vigilant, and also just really have to make sure that those on the ground and those that receive services have a real understanding of what Medicaid is and what Medicaid does. So just to take a step back, I know a lot of you on the phone certainly have subject matter expertise and content knowledge, but just to take a step back, I think it's always important to kind of do a refresher in general on what Medicaid does and is because what we learned during last year as we went through the healthcare -- the multiple healthcare bills and we saw the per capita caps being used as a pay-forward for those changes, it became clear that Medicaid and all that Medicaid does to support individuals with disabilities to live in the community through long-term supports and services, employment supports, personal care attendants, all those things, that that wasn't really understood for a variety of reasons. Even something as simple as some individuals and their family members who receive services might not realize that the funds they receive or the waiver that they have is Medicaid. I can't tell you how many times last year I heard, oh, that won't impact me. I have a waiver. So there was a real -- there is a real knowledge gap in understanding that if it's called TennCare or if can be called anything in different states or the Katie Beckett waiver or what have you, that all of that is Medicaid. And what Medicaid is ultimately is so much more than a health insurance provider and that it does provide those vital services for individuals with disabilities to stay in the community.
73 million individuals are covered under Medicaid, and this is obviously up from when the program began in 1965. We know that people with disabilities and senior citizens account for about 50% or 48% of total Medicaid budget but are only about 21% of the beneficiaries. And that obviously is because of the types of services and the cost of those services that individuals with disabilities need, as well as the typical timeframe that individuals may need services. Obviously, for a young adult, for example, my brother, Chris, is 28 and has autism. He is going to require those Medicaid services for the duration of his life, and those services are different than a checkup every year and that sort of thing, which those community-based services that are going to remain a need, so that's what we had to make sure was understood and individuals with disabilities were one of the groups that were originally meant to and are continuing to be supported through the Medicaid program.
So the current threats remain, especially once we saw that they were included again in the president's budget around Medicaid restructuring. Currently states receive federal Medicaid matching funds as an entitlement for services provided under the state plan or approved waivers. The federal match is based on a formula, and it varies. So every state receives a federal match from anywhere from 50% up to 70%, depending on the state. This is a guarantee from the federal government that whatever funds the state government puts in to pay for Medicaid services, it will be matched by the federal government. The restructuring proposals, all of them, whether they are called a block grant or per-capita cap, it eliminates that Medicaid guarantee or that automatic matching funds to the states. So depending on the nature of the restructuring, this would impact state budgets, this would impact the types of services that could be provided, and if something like, for example, the Flint water crisis or Zika in Florida, those sort of public health emergencies would not be calculated in, and those federal dollars would not automatically be matched, putting even greater pressure on state budgets.
So as we know, block granting, per capita cap, by whatever name, all of that means cuts. The primary goal of all of these proposals are to reduce the federal deficit and reduce Medicaid spending, but we know that Medicaid is not a driver of long-term national debt and that, obviously, we need to continue to increase Medicaid spending so that more individuals can be supported and also continue to support innovations in the Medicaid program so that more individuals can be served in the community and not in outdated settings.
This is just a slide created by Andy Slavitt, who was the CMS administrator under President Obama. This goes through each version of the healthcare bills and specifically talks about cuts to Medicaid and what those would have been. We have not seen numbers of what the president's proposed budget for 2019 would do, but we anticipate it would be along the same lines, so a cut of somewhere between $700 billion and $900 billion over ten years, and again, it would be removing that guarantee that families like mine rely on for services and support.
So that's some specific concerns we have and we continue to anticipate around Medicaid, and we need to remain vigilant. In addition to their Medicaid restructuring, we also have some concerns and troubling things coming out with Medicaid waivers. What Medicaid waivers are, that is what states negotiate with the federal government through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, and CMS has approved some waivers that are pretty troubling at this point.
We know that cutting individuals off of Medicaid won't help anyone work. It provides vital healthcare -- and this is a key ingredient for individuals to remain in the workforce. And what we are seeing is there are work requirements that have been approved in both the Kentucky and the Indiana -- Kentucky and Indiana have both had Medicaid expansion waivers approved that include work requirements. So this would mean that individuals could not receive Medicaid services unless they were -- unless they showed that they were working. We know that Medicaid specifically covers services such as attendant care that are critical to enable people with significant disabilities to have specific basic needs met, to get to and from work and to do their jobs, so the idea that we are requiring individuals to work to qualify for these programs would create a situation in which people cannot access the services that they need to work without working, setting up an impossible standard. And in addition, we also know that there is no way to make sure that this doesn't impact, for example, caregivers, family members who may be the primary caregiver for a family member with disability, and they could lose their Medicaid coverage if they are unable to work. So the notion that this guidance -- and there's been a lot of misinformation that work requirements exclude or don't count people with disabilities, but the notion that this guidance excludes all people with disabilities is really misleading. The protections that the guidance -- because CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, put out guidance around these work requirements, and that claims to provide people with disabilities are excluded, but that guidance is inadequate and actually does not exclude people with disabilities and is -- in a time that we are working so hard to ensure that individuals with disabilities are employed, we obviously don't want to be putting out a message that individuals with disabilities can't work because that's not true and not what we want to purport, but we also want to make sure that there's a real understanding that this is a slippery slope when it comes to putting these requirements on Medicaid that are supposed to be services that an individual with disabilities has an entitlement to in order to stay in their community.
In addition, around some positive Medicaid -- some positive legislation around the Medicaid sure, we have the EMPOWER Care Act. The EMPOWER Care Act was introduced this year by Senator Portman from Ohio and Senator Cantwell from Washington, and what the bill does is reauthorizes the Money Follows the Person program. The money follows the person program was -- first became law in 2008 and was reauthorized under the Affordable Care Act, but it's always been bipartisan legislation, and what it does is provide a 100% match, 100% federal dollars for the first year of an individual -- a Medicaid beneficiary who is moving from an institutional setting to the community. So far under the program, 75,000 individuals have moved from institutional settings, and we have independent reporting from Mathematica and other sources that show on average a 20% decrease in spending per beneficiary after that first year. So not only are people moving into settings where individuals and families want their family members in the community, but we also have data that shows that it's a less expensive funding system as well, in a system where we have over half a million people waiting on services, anything we can do to increase savings so that that money can be reinvested to provide more individuals services we have to support. So we are hoping that the money follows the person reauthorization is something that we can see included in the omnibus package that I mentioned earlier that we are working on to get towards March. The disability and aging communities have been working very closely on this particular bill because it has shown great promise in both communities, and we will be continuing to coordinate grass-roots efforts starting again the week of March 7 to ensure that voices are heard on why this program assists individuals with disabilities, and because also what it does is it -- those additional funds and the infrastructure and administrative pieces of those bills really support states in their efforts as they continue to rebalance the systems towards community and away from those institutional models.
The home and community-based settings rule, the HCBS rule, this was a rule that was put out in March of 2014 with a five-year transition period for states to write a plan on how they would ensure that home and community-based dollars were, in fact, being spent in the community. There's been a lot of misinformation and questions surrounding the rule. So we do anticipate additional technical assistance and guidance coming from CMS, specifically around what does institute a presumptively institutional setting, and there continues to be a lot of conversations on the Hill. The Arc participated with the disability community in a briefing in January around home and community based settings rule, again, to ensure that any sort of misinformation or miscommunication was made clear. Because really what the rule does is focus on the individual experiences of each person who is a Medicaid home and community based services recipient and ensuring that those dollars, again, are spent in the community based on a person-centered plan and that an individual with disabilities has access to the broader community. So I think at this point that was me talking at you for 40 minutes, but I am happy to take questions. I know that I just threw a lot at folks, so happy to answer anything I can.
Or if there's something I didn't touch on, I might be able to answer.
Great. Thank you, Nicole. Lots of information. On the technical side for everybody, obviously, but I think you ran through a lot of details and things of that nature. So just as a reminder to people, if you are on the telephone, we will give you instructions here in a minute on how to ask questions. If you are in the webinar platform, please feel free to submit through the Chat area a question, and we are more than happy to respond. If you want to send it by email, you also can do that at email@example.com. We will take your questions by email as well. So let's see if we have anybody on the phone before I start to take things that came in electronically. So Jay, could you give instructions to see if we have anybody to do a question on the phone? Is >> OPERATOR: Thank you. In order to ask a question, press * 1 on your telephone keypad. We will pause for a moment to compile the Q&A roster. Again, if you would like to ask a question, press * 1 on your telephone keypad.
I guess we'll wait and see if anybody queues up for that. I do have some questions that have come in electronically. Here are some questions that were submitted specifically to the issue of tax credits and such. Did the tax bill change anything regarding the Earned Income Tax Credit that many people with disabilities receive currently?
I am looking this up. I don't believe so. I should have started off by saying that tax is not an issue that I cover in my portfolio, but I have my colleague who answered a lot of my questions so I could be prepared for you guys. So it did not do anything with the Earned Income Tax Credit. It was not impacted.
Okay. Great. There was some confusion, I know, this person, asking if you could please clarify the issue because I think at one point in one of the versions it was taken out, and there are some questions whether or not they were put back in and such of the tax credit deductions that have been available since about the passage of ADA for businesses, the tax credit and then architectural barrier removal tax deduction. Were either of those impacted in any way, shape, or form in the final version of the tax bill?
They were not, and specifically, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit was not, although it had been targeted, but neither of those were included in the final bill.
Okay. So I didn't even include that. Okay. So the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, but the one for, like, disabled taxes credit, I think IRS Code 190, which is the one an employer could use for like paying for (Inaudible) 50% tax credit. As far as you know, that did not -- even though it was, I think, in one version, but on our end, we also thought that we got information that it was put back in in the final version.
Yeah, all of those things definitely ultimately did not -- were not on the chopping block.
Okay. Great. And any changes at all to any allowances for tax deductions related to service animals? This is an individual question.
I will have to -- I don't know that answer, so let me get back to you on that, Robin.
Yeah, sure. We can post that.
I want to make sure I get the right answer.
Appreciate it. I've got a question here, back to the tax codes, so as far as you know, if the tax codes were left unchanged, they would not have changed the like IRS Code 190 and stuff, they wouldn't change a code number or anything since they left them unchanged; correct?
Correct. Anything like that, there would be guidance coming from the Internal Revenue Service, and we haven't seen anything.
Okay. Great. Are there any specific things which may impact someone's MAGI, which formula is used for some Medicaid programming.
I am not sure. I don't know what that stands for.
Maybe if I could ask the person if they could spell out what MAGI stands for. Modified adjusted gross income.
There was nothing in the tax bill that changed anything about eligibility for Medicaid. There was nothing that impacted -- eligibility for Medicaid was not impacted with anything from the tax bill, so nothing around income or anything.
Great. Thank you. What input would you recommend for the disability community and organizations, what are they having with regard to specific spending on the two-year budget you talked about, right, that was part of this deal, what is happening in regards to the shaping of that actual budget detail? Because as I understand it, the budget deal was more of a shell, and the details, et cetera, the one that's in the works, I guess, and how would people potentially be involved in that, and what's the best way for them to get information related to that? Is
Sure. This is a great question. Now is the time that Senate offices and House offices are working on the budget proposals, and it's really important if there are specific issues, specifically one thing that The Arc and, as I mentioned, the disability and aging communities are very focused on is the money follows the person program, so -- and we anticipate some other Medicaid pieces that we may want to get included. So I would make sure that you are signed up for -- I am sure that everyone is on a million different list serves and that sort of thing. Sign up through The Arc's disability action Center, when you get specific action alerts around programs such as the money follows the person program or if there are specific pieces around employment, that sort of thing, there are some employment bills that there's a possibility will get thrown in there that will assist states to transition away from sheltered workshops and that sort of thing, although I don't anticipate those -- we haven't had enough around those to make it into March, so it's really important if there are specific things, specific program, to continue to reach out to legislators. I know in target states we are already coordinating advocates for the EMPOWER Care Act. So just to kind of explain what that means, target states, in this particular instance, it has to do with the committee, jurisdiction that a senator is on, the states that they are in, and if they are a majority or minority party, we are trying specifically to get cosponsors. So make sure you are signed up for action alerts, whether it's the national Council on independent living, The Arcs, then you will end up getting information on how to participate on specific issues that will matter in your state.
Someone has asked can you give a little bit more information about the 529 program because they are really not familiar with this program and what it's all about, so they wanted to know if you could give a little more information about that particular program. It was somewhat new to them.
Sure. So a 529 program is programs that each state runs their own, but it's a program where families can save money and not be taxed up to a certain amount to save towards college for a family. So to use an example, because I think it's sometimes easier and it's always easier for me to use my family as an example, so for an example, if my parents started a 529 account for all of us and it became clear later that Chris may not be attending a traditional college, that that 529 plan that they started for him could be rolled into an ABLE account, and the ABLE account is something that can be used to spend on anything that that individual with a disability needs to live their day-to-day life.
They would also be able to use a 529 for a student with a disability too; correct?
Correct because that 529 could be rolled into an ABLE account.
Right. Okay. But also could use it just as a 529 counts for a student who went to a traditional college too.
Certainly. Yes. There are plenty of -- obviously, we support anyone who has a desire and wants to attend a four-year or two-year or training program to use 529 funds for that. It's just if that family member -- if in the planning process it becomes clear that they would be better served by an ABLE account, those can be rolled into it. So that's all.
How was the age of disability of 26 arrived at for the savers credit program, and what is The Arc attempting to do, if anything, to get the age raised if possible?
This is before my time at The Arc, so I wasn't involved in it specifically, but it had everything to do with dollars and cents, and the disability community was not part of the conversation. It was more based with the offices that were cosponsoring the legislation at the time and what they thought they could get through. And the reason that it continues to be a hurdle is that changing that does make the bill more expensive. But The Arc in particular, along with several other organizations, like the National Disability Rights Network and others, are working very hard, and we are very disappointed to see that one not being included in the tax bill because that's really the one that would impact the most individuals who are not currently receiving benefits --
What age are you aiming for? Is it anything higher than 26 or what? >> At this point, I think they are shooting for some sort of compromise. In our view, it should be all the way up until retirement age, but I think that the last bill that was being negotiated had it somewhere in the mid 40s. Again, but that's just a negotiating point. We believe it should be all the way up until an individual would be covered by made care.
Age for carrying your parents' insurance too. 26, I don't know if that's a magic age. Anyway. And to follow up with that issue, just another question on 529, do you know what colleges and universities are doing to assist students in understanding the 529 provisions and changes at all? Is there someplace that a student or parent could go to?
Yeah, I don't know if there were changes to 529. So really what colleges and universities wouldn't need to be part of the conversation around the changes to ABLE. It would really be up to most states at this point have their own ABLE programs, so it would really be important to make sure that ABLE programs in an individual state was doing technical assistance and providing support around the changes to ABLE that were included in the tax bill.
I could see you have a student in a community college or that was in a college that was not doing well, and essentially having to drop out, you know, or not succeed. Then there might be some relationship or discussion there about how they would be able to -- but yeah, colleges and universities probably pretty much get out of that business at that point of working with them. So where do people go to get more assistance? I know you said it's a state-by-state issue. Where should people look for in their states in relationship to more information about -- you know, for guidance if they have some questions on ABLE accounts?
Sure. So obviously the different states -- if you Google the name of your state ABLE account, it will probably be the first thing that comes up. But instead of Google, there's also the national ABLE resource center, and it's all cable, ABLE is all caps, but then National ABLE Resource Center has a lot of fact sheets and information and webinars, go into a lot more detail with a lot more specifics, that should be useful to anybody that has support specific questions on ABLE.
Great. Thank you. We have a cynical question, not quite sure how I read this. But are people going to be able to really take advantage of the savers credit if folks are low income, are they really going to have money to set aside for retirement when most money is needed for getting by day by day?
Right. That's why we are so frustrated. It's an important thing for a small number of people, so we are glad it's included for the small number of people who will benefit from it; however, that is the concern and why we were disappointed to not see the age limit change included because that would impact and benefit a lot more people. And so we do recognize that is a very small pool of individuals who will benefit and that there are much bigger changes that need to be made to support employment and to support not keeping individuals with disabilities below the poverty line.
And where would you recommend is the best source to go for savers credit information and assistance?
The same, the ABLE Centers would have updates on all of the changes that were made under the tax bill.
Okay. They are tracking that stuff too, then.
Okay. Yeah, go ahead. Okay. Jay, anybody on the phone have a question at this point? >> OPERATOR: We have no questions on the phone.
Remember, don't be shy. Others have been chiming in here. I guess maybe people feel safer typing in than they do voicing it. But anyway, we'll move on here a little bit to a different topic than what we've been talking about, and this gets to the HR 620 that was recently passed. Will this have any impacts on persons filing complaints under state laws, given -- I mean, it's a federal fact sheet, obviously -- not a fact sheet. It's just a bill that got passed by the House. But would it have any bearing or anything on state law at this point?
It would not. First of all, to your point and also to reiterate that point, first of all, the bill was only passed in the House. There's not a Senate version, so it has not passed the Senate, and obviously, the final step to a bill, House and Senate, if the bill was the same, would be going to the president, so it is not a law, and at this point, knock on wood, and we don't anticipate it will become law, but even if it did, it would not impact the state laws. So if there are states, like the states that I mentioned, California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, others that have state laws that do allow those damages, it would not do anything to change those. I would imagine it would be used as a model, but it would not directly impact any of those laws. It would have to be done at the state level.
Okay. So let me go back. A question here that kind of circles back again. Good, people are thinking and typing as they think. Would people with disabilities be better served if all of these programs, the saver program, ABLE, 529, et cetera, et cetera, were all administered out of a single federal agency rather than multiple or different agencies?
Well, I mean, most of these are -- the regulatory work, at least, comes out of Internal Revenue Service, so I mean, I don't --
As tax issues, you mean?
Anytime that you streamline things, I think it gets better, but I mean, because 529 plans provide benefits to a broader audience; whereas, ABLE accounts are specifically for individuals with disabilities, I think that there are benefits to having separate programs so that the individual needs of those groups can be better identified and served. But I am a big proponent in general of streamlining services. That probably doesn't answer the question. Some of those changes would require regulatory changes and that sort of thing. At this point, we don't anticipate a huge appetite for additional regulatory work.
Yeah, right. Understood. Okay. I've got a question back to 620. It's an interesting question. It's one that I think it gets to some different issues, obviously we could have lots of discussion and debate about merits of 620 and maybe some positives or negatives or unintended consequences. But the question is isn't the timeframe that is currently in the HR 620 bill that was passed still shorter than the typical timeframe. What does it take the Department of Justice to process a complaint that's filed with them?
From the 120 days, it's certainly quicker than DOJ would have a chance to look into a case. How much, DOJ -- if somebody files a complaint right now, for example, with an attorney, if they file a complaint, it would be with the business directly. DOJ only looks at -- I don't know about only -- but typically looks at systemic. So systemic complaints around the ADA. So that's -- the premise is not accurate because DOJ isn't the one looking into it. So if an individual files a suit because they don't have access, it doesn't -- first of all, Department of Justice isn't included in that process, and that process could be quicker than the 120 days.
So I think what you are saying, that even though the Department of Justice has the administrative authority to take individual cases, due to their resources and their own approach to things, they have tended to look at taking on cases that might have an impact on a broader area. So for example, they might look at taking on a large corporate hotel versus, you know, the Motor Inn on Highway 112.
Yes, broader issues, especially under the current administration. The 120-day cure period included in 620 is still longer than it would take for an individual with private right of action to move forward with the business.
The person came back with the statement saying what about a private right of action where I am able to hire my own attorney, I don't have to go through the Department of Justice. (Overlapping speakers)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don't think that necessarily is rationale, but it definitely, when you are strictly just going to look at the timeframes, because there's much more to this in the documentation than the additional effort and work that it requires for persons with disabilities to go through this process.
Okay. Does HR -- topic of HR 620 -- does HR -- impact one's ability to file a complaint with the Justice Department in DC or with attorneys' office in their state? Does it change anything? Is there anything -- because it's Department of Justice, the role that -- or stated in the bill is that the role of education, doing a lot of education of businesses, state and local governments, and such. Does that change anything in relation to the complaint process or not?
It does not. DOJ would retain its responsibilities around education, but it did not limit an individual's right to file a complaint directly with DOJ.
Our audience is all over the place here, so back to just a quick question here. If block grant funding is implemented by the federal government for Medicaid, would states be on the hook for the loss in federal funding in regards to, you know, what they might be getting now versus what might be given in block granting?
Yes, states would be on the hook for the difference between what the current -- the federal government currently invests in the match and any difference between that and the actual cost of services which is why something I mentioned, Zika or the Flint water crisis, would be affected. We know state budgets have been slashed all over the country, so the idea that state legislators are going to be able to create more revenues or invest more in Medicaid spending to make up that federal difference is a pipe dream, excuse my frankness, and so -- the reality of what that will look like is cuts to services, growth in waiting lists, cuts to eligibility, and that would -- last year during the whole healthcare debate, not only were we targeting our federal legislators, we were also targeting state legislators so there would be an understanding that those hard decisions would be left in the state capitols.
Okay. Any other questions on anything that came in through the telephone at all, Jay? Anybody additionally that queued in on the telephone? >> OPERATOR: We still don't have any questions at the phone.
Okay. I will give people -- we are below our time period here, but I am going to give people on the webinar platform one more chance to submit any additional questions that you would like to submit at this time. We are at seven minutes after, so we are a little bit early, about you've had a got -- but you've had a good set of questions and dialogue we've had up until this point. I want to see if anyone has anything additional, don't be shy. If you have something else you would like to ask, here is your chance to do so. Nicole, while people are thinking, maybe you could potentially add some additional -- when you look at it, there's been much rhetoric and stuff, you know, with this administration and the various different policies that have been talked about or funding decisions and things of that nature. Where would you or how would you, I guess, rank us at this time where we are in regards to these issues? Are we -- you know, are we in a red zone? Are people -- should we be really significantly concerned about the loss of services and programs? I keep hearing that a lot about real potential threats to programs and services. Are we in a yellow zone where we need to be cautious and vigilant, or where would you say things are? And this is like the protection of civil rights, this is the issue of ongoing, you know, access to goods and services, et cetera. What would be your perspective given that you sit in a unique seat out in Washington? Maybe sometimes too close to it, but what is your perspective?
Yeah, that's such a hard question because the reality is -- so let me break it down. So around the Medicaid piece, I would say we are at a yellow. I think that the president's budget was not a good, positive move, but we still don't have actual legislative vehicles like we did last year that would have these drastic Medicaid cuts. However, we do need to remain vigilant and watch out for those and also continue to chip away at this idea that Medicaid is just something that's just a health insurance program and continue to tell a story of what Medicaid is and what it looks like for individuals with disabilities. And I think it's going to be a yellow or a red Medicaid until 2020. And I do think that we are opening up and beginning to have broader conversations around long-term care as a whole, but that's not going to be resolved, so we are going to continue -- need to continue to work on that.
As far as civil rights in general, I would say that's going to be a -- that is a red and is going to continue to be a red. The vote on HR 620, while I remain hopeful that we are not going to see something in the Senate, it is a canary in the coal mine as far as civil rights. We also have some concerns and some leaked documents that we are seeing around individuals with disabilities and Medicaid long-term supports and services and individuals who may be -- who may have immigrated from another country and those services being charged to those individuals -- payment for those services being charged to those individuals. So just in general, I think the civil rights watch I think we are going to be on the red no matter what.
And that's going to remain true as well for Olmstead and just broader civil rights access to community living. And it's going to come in a lot of different forms, and we are going to have to keep fighting it.
Yeah, yeah. Okay. So I guess, then, thank you very much for your time --
On a little bit more of a positive note.
There you go. Go for it. Go for it.
I do want to say some of you, I am assuming -- I am going to assume that everyone on this call and everyone on this webinar did something in the past year to talk about these services and civil rights of individuals with disabilities and why it matters, so I want to thank everyone on the call and say that, you know, the big fights to come. We can be buoyed by the success that we had last year and the disability community was called out by every member of Senate as one of the three communities that really were the reason that the harmful proposals last year were stopped. I have no doubt we will continue to do that. So thank you to everyone who is doing it. If I can be of any assistance or answer any questions, please always consider me a resource.
Great. And you did provide your contact information there on the last slide, so thank you very much. Thank you, everybody, for joining us today, and thank you for your participation in the webinar session. Our March session is going to focus on communication requirements for healthcare entities, specifically looking at some of the changes were in place under the Affordable Care Act and some of the rules and regulation that HHS has put in place related to effective communication in healthcare. And so the details and the registration for that should be up shortly. Just wanted to give you an alert, that will be March 20. Again, the third Tuesday of the month.
So thank you very much for joining us today. We hope to see you again. And you will get a follow-up email that will give you information about certificates of attendance, and we ask you to fill out an evaluation on our behalf so we can get feedback. On behalf of the ADA National Network, thank you very much for your participation, for your ongoing support, and everyone have a good rest of your day. You can now disconnect and hang up the telephone, and if you are on the webinar platform, you can go ahead and close out the webinar platform by either closing your browser or the upper left-hand side under file, exit option for the software. So thank you very much, and Nicole, take care.