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Congress is debating legislation that will help create new options of public transportation for people with disabilities. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public transportation like public buses to be accessible, there are still many types of transportation that are not. For example, many subway stations that were constructed before the ADA are still only accessible by stairs, leaving them unusable by people who use wheelchairs.
On April 14, 2015, the U.S Senate passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2) by a vote of 92–8. The bill updates the formula for physician’s fees, or the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), paid by Medicare. The House of Representatives had passed the legislation in March, so it will now go to the President for his signature, which is expected.
This correction to the SGR has been called the "doc fix" and Congress has made adjustments in the formula 17 times since 1997. The changes included in this bill will focus Medicare doctor pay on quality of care rather than just economic growth. This will impact many providers in the Medicare program, including Easter Seals, because the rates of reimbursement for physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists, for example, are based on the physician rate. The new rate will remain in place for five years as providers transition to the new system.
This bill also included a two-year extension for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), community health centers, and Family to Family Health Information Centers. These programs all contribute to providing a stronger base for families.
All six amendments offered on the floor were defeated. One of these amendments would have allowed the CHIP program to be extended for four years rather than two, and another would have repealed the Medicare cap on therapy reimbursement payments. Easter Seals government relations team will continue to advocate for these policies.
On Thursday, April 16, 2015, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted unaminously 22-to-0 to approve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization negotiated by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Washington). The measure will now move to the full Senate floor.
Each day, decisions are being made in Washington, D.C., that will affect people with disabilities and Easter Seals' ability to provide services to them, as well as to meet Easter Seals' mission today and for years to come. The unmet needs of people with disabilities will continue to go unaddressed if Easter Seals is not engaged in educating public policy makers about people with disabilities' disproportionate reliance on government for health, education, employment, transportation and other needed services.
Easter Seals has been active in public policy advocacy since our founder, Edgar Allen, lobbied the Ohio Legislature to fund appropriate services for children with disabilities in the 1920s. We continue to actively support and promote federal legislation that helps people with disabilities achieve independence.
People with disabilities and Easter Seals have a significant stake in government programs. For many children and adults with disabilities, their ability to get an education, earn a living and live independently in the community is dictated by the availability of services and supports, many of which come only from the federal government.
This chart, developed by Easter Seals Office of Public Affairs, tracks the funding history of federal disability programs. The chart divides the information by agency, listing underneath each agency specific programs that matter to children and adults with disabilities.