Having trouble viewing this email? Click here
Washington DC Update 1/26/22
No Go on Voting Rights and Election Reforms

While the legislation did not pass last week, there is a small group of Senators turning last week's discussions into momentum for a narrower bipartisan effort to reexamine the 1887 law that governs how Congress counts Electoral College votes from each state. The law came under scrutiny in the wake of last year's January 6 attack on the Capitol, which was aimed at disrupting that counting process. Members of the group are considering updating the 1887 law, the Electoral Count Act, to clarify that the vice president's role in overseeing Congress' certification of election results is ministerial (i.e., they can't overturn the results). In addition, the group is looking at potentially raising the threshold for challenging election results. Other ideas for broader elections reform include giving poll workers additional protections from harassment and expanding the use of grants from the Election Assistance Commission, which provides guidance to state and local election officials. The group is in its early stages, and it could be weeks before a concrete proposal comes together.

NOTE: Senate Finance Committee Mental Health Hearing Scheduled for 1/26/22 Postponed… Stay Tuned for a February hearing!
New Bill in House and Senate: Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (S.3238) to phase out subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. Currently, employers can apply for Section 14(c) waivers under the Fair Labor Standards Act to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. To assist in the phase out, the bill proposes to provide states and employers with the resources to transition workers with disabilities into competitive integrated employment. Introduction of this legislation follows the release of President Biden's American Jobs Plan, which calls for ending 14(c) waivers and supporting competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) previously introduced the House version (H.R.2737).
From the Administration
At Home COVID-19 Test Kits

On January 14, the White House announced a new initiative to help ensure Americans have COVID-19 tests on hand in case they are needed. The website to order at-home testing kits -- at no cost -- is now live and accepting orders. People who do not have Internet access or who need additional assistance with ordering can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to place their orders.

The Disability Information and Assistance Line (DIAL) also can assist people with disabilities with placing orders if they need additional help, connect people to accessible instructions, and help with administering the tests. Both phone lines are staffed Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern). People with disabilities can contact DIAL by calling 888-677-1199 or by emailing [email protected]. The DIAL information specialists are trained to work with people of various communications abilities, including spending as much time as needed to understand callers. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people can reach DIAL using the 711/Video Relay Service (VRS). To use this free service, simply dial 711 to be connected via text with a communications assistant. (For people who do not communicate through speech, sign language or VRS, email is the best option to communicate with DIAL.)

Two important notes:

  • There are enough kits to fill orders for every residential address in the country.
  • Orders will begin shipping at the end of January, for both people who placed their orders via the online form in the days when only the online form was available and those who began ordering when the phone lines became available.

Also, this Kaiser Family Foundation article “How are Private Insurers Covering At-Home Rapid COVID Tests?” offers some good information.

HHS Announces $13 million to Increase Behavioral Health Access in Rural Communities

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced the availability of $13 million in funding to increase access to behavioral health care services and address health inequities in rural America, including through evidence-based, trauma-informed treatment for substance use disorder.

HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will make awards through the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) - Behavioral Health Care Support. Eligible applicants include entities such as Rural Health Clinics, federally recognized tribes, tribal organizations, and community- and faith-based organizations.

CDC Data: Uninsured

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra released the statement below, based on new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - PDF showing a decline in the uninsured rate in 2021.

Video: What is Public Comment? And Opportunity to make Comment!

When the government changes how a health care law is carried out, it needs to let the public weigh-in—it's called a “public comment” process. This very short video primer teaches people about the public comment process!

Anyone interested in submitting comments by January 27th on the “Notice of Benefit Payment Parameters” (aka rules for insurance plans purchased by healthcare.gov and in state marketplaces) can do so using this link that makes reading the proposed rules and submitting comments VERY easy. This is an opportunity to tell the Biden Administration to protect people's access to good-quality health coverage. Your personal story matters!

Cures Act delivers Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and its Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE), The Sequoia Project, Inc., today announced the publication of the Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement (TEFCA). Entities will soon be able to apply and be designated as Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs). QHINs will connect to one another and enable their participants to engage in health information exchange across the country.

The 21st Century Cures Act, passed in 2016, calls for the development of a trusted exchange framework and a common agreement. The overall goal of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) is to establish a universal floor of interoperability across the country. The Common Agreement will establish the infrastructure model and governing approach for users in different networks to securely share basic clinical information with each other—all under commonly agreed-to expectations and rules, and regardless of which network they happen to be in. The Trusted Exchange Framework describes a common set of non-binding, foundational principles for trust policies and practices that can help facilitate exchange among health information networks.

NOTE about 21st Century Cures Act and Impact for CYSHCN: The Cures Act, signed into law by Obama, enjoyed wide bipartisan support and was landmark in many of the programs initiated regarding cancer, neurologic, precision medicine, health information, and mental health. This article offers a short summary and raises some of the concerns following passage. Over 40 of the Cures Act initiatives are up for reauthorization in 2022. While many aspects of the law could impact the care of CYSHCN now and in the future, it could be an important piece of legislation to watch as Congress moves to find ways to respond the pediatric mental/behavioral health crisis.
Medicaid and Unwinding the Public Health Emergency
Two helpful resources as things ramp up to unwind in your state:

This toolkit, created by Manatt Health, highlights opportunities for states to leverage managed care plans to support unwinding the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement. Close collaboration between states and managed care plans will be essential to ensuring eligible individuals retain coverage in Medicaid/CHIP and easing transitions to the Marketplace. The toolkit features guidance released by CMS for states on working with managed care plans and can be found HERE.

This NHeLP blog post also offers helpful guidance entitled Unwinding the Public Health Emergency: Checklist for Redeterminations.
Workshop and Podcast of Interest
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, the Navajo Nation made headlines for having the nation’s highest covid infection rates. And yet the Navajo people, also known as the Diné, rebounded spectacularly. A new season of the "American Diagnosis" podcast will explore the impact of hundreds of years of adversity on the health of Indigenous peoples in America. (News Release, KHN)

"Building a National Movement" Workshop Series
Child Trends is co-sponsoring a workshop series—presented by the Campaign for Trauma-informed Policy and Practice, the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, and PACEs Connection—on preventing trauma and fostering resilience. Half-day workshops will be offered every other Friday from late January to mid-April from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm ET.

  • February 4: “Building the Movement with Child Welfare and Justice Systems” 
  • February 18: “Building the Movement through Transformative Justice and Faith-Based Communities” 
  • March 4: “Building the Movement with Populations with High Prevalence of Trauma” 
  • March 18: “Building the Movement with Foundations and the Private Sector” 
  • April 1: “Building the Movement to Address Global Crises” 
  • April 15: “Building the Movement through Policy and Advocacy” 
ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Advisory Panels
Call for nominations to join a PCORI Advisory Panel- due March 31, 2022. Follow this link to learn which panels and process for nominations.

Thank you for subscribing to the Washington DC Update newsletter. Please feel free to contact the Family Voices Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Cara Coleman, with any questions. Past issues of the Update appear on the Family Voices website. If you wish to unsubscribe, you can do so via the "Unsubscribe" link below.

Family Voices is a national organization and grassroots network of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities that promotes partnership with families--including those of cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity--in order to improve healthcare services and policies for children.