LSA-DN Weekly Update

Disability Network News
Friday, July 23, 2021


Join Us for the LSA-DN Summer Meeting August 5, 1:30-4 PM ET

The Lutheran Services in America Disability Network will hold our (virtual) Summer Meeting on Thursday, August 5th. In addition to an engaging member panel discussion, the meeting will feature two high-level special guests to provide in-depth updates on national policies that will impact the disability community.  This is a great opportunity to engage them in discussion:

  • Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Senior Director for Faith and Public Policy in the White House Domestic Policy Council
  • Michael Gamel-McCormick, Disability Policy Director for the Senate Special Committee on Aging

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the LSA-DN Winter Meeting: January 27–28, 2022, in Tampa, Florida—right after CEO Summit 2022!

By the (Hand)book — Staying Compliant in a Changing Environment

Tuesday, August 17th 2:00–3:00pm ET

Register here

Handbooks, policies, and forms…oh my!  In 2020, many organizations had to quickly adapt to working remotely and keep up with rapidly changing new health and safety requirements.  With these changing work environments coupled with new legislation, your handbook may be (probably is) outdated.  There are over 50 new laws that took effect July 1st alone that impact 20 different states.  How can you keep up?  How do you know if your handbook is compliant for federal, state, and local laws?  Join us for this webinar to discuss handbooks where we will:

  • Share best practices on updating your handbook
  • Discuss key employment areas to review or create
  • Provide guidance for returning to the office or considerations for remaining remote
  • Give an overview of the online HR Support Center
  • Share how you can stay up to date with legislative changes

Presenter: Beth Jones, Director of Ministry Solutions, Concordia Plans

View video recordings of previous Strength & Service Series sessions and check for upcoming webinars on our website.

Lutheran Financial Managers Association Reimagined 2021 Conference: Bringing you the Magic of Finance

November 7- 9, 2021 Grand Cypress Hotel - Orlando, FL

2020 and 2021 have been unique years for all of us. Funding challenges, increased demand, concern about employee well-being, and continued cyber threats abound. Join your financial and risk management colleagues this November in Orlando to share experiences and solutions, and to gain valuable knowledge that will help sustain your organization through 2022 and beyond.

Click here for the full agenda and registration.

CEO Summit 2022

Save the Date:

Join us—in person—for our exclusive forum for CEOs with a shared mission: the Lutheran Services in America CEO Summit 2022, in Tampa, Florida, January 23-26.

Tap into the power of our strong network to gain actionable insights, share learnings and innovative ideas, and build meaningful connections, all within a trusted environment.

We’ll explore how leaders are reimagining the health and human services sector and guiding their organizations, partners, and key stakeholders in the post-pandemic world. You’ll learn from leading experts, as well as your peers, about:

  • Expanding leadership capacities to adapt to the new environment,
  • Sparking innovative partnerships and business models to maintain competitiveness, and
  • Partnering with your board to create a more skilled, diverse, and inclusive board of directors.

Stay tuned to your email for more details about the event, including speakers and registration information, in the coming months.

For more information, please visit our website here. Special Enrollment Period Continues Through August 15

Do the people you serve need health insurance? Coverage is now available during a Special Enrollment Period via the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.Gov, with extra savings because of COVID relief laws.  For new applications made now during the Special Enrollment Period, coverage will begin the 1st of the next month.  Anyone who needs health insurance at this time can take this opportunity to look for coverage and see if they qualify for savings on a Marketplace plan. Consumers won’t need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of coverage or a move), which is usually required for eligibility.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has designated next week (July 26 – 30, 2021) as Disability Week of Action, hoping to encourage more people living with disabilities to sign up for coverage.

Advocacy Update

Following Temporary Setback, Senate Leaders Continue Path to Passage of Infrastructure and Reconciliation Bills

While Senate Republicans united to block a procedural vote in the chamber on Wednesday which would have limited debate on the $579 billion bipartisan so-called “traditional infrastructure” package, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) indicated that he plans to call another vote on the matter early next week.  Republicans objected to the timing of the vote, saying they wanted to resolve lingering differences on the substance of the legislation before moving forward, but the Republican members of the bipartisan group negotiating the bill have said they anticipate voting for it when it reaches the Senate floor. Their 10 votes, combined with those of all 50 Democrats, would secure passage.

Meanwhile, work continues on a separate but related track on the budget resolution and $3.5 trillion reconciliation package which would enact many of the “human infrastructure” provisions included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.  While the initial outline for the package does not contain much detail on individual policy provisions or specific dollar amounts for programs that it includes, it does contain language indicating that the President’s proposed expansion of Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) will be included. This week, Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reiterated his belief that the committee will finalize a budget resolution by early August that can secure the votes of all 50 Democrats, which is the first step in passing the $3.5 trillion package via the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.  This timeline depends on the status of the traditional infrastructure package, however, because if the Senate fails to pass it as a standalone bill, Democrats now plan to combine it with the “human infrastructure” bill for a larger, $4.1 trillion package, which would take more time to finalize.

Lutheran Services in America continues to advocate for the inclusion of key provisions of the President’s proposals in the reconciliation package, particularly the $400 billion home and community-based services (HCBS) investment (which is outlined in the Better Care Better Jobs Act, S. 2210/H.R. 4131) and a provision for $213 billion for affordable housing and homelessness services, and is urging the inclusion of the WORK NOW Act legislation (S. 740) to provide nonprofit health and human services organizations funding to pay wages, salaries, and benefits to retain staff and meet services’ demand.  Please join us in this effort through our advocacy alert calling for inclusion of these key initiatives in the package.


How Could $400 Billion New Federal Dollars Change Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services?

At the end of March 2021, the Biden Administration announced the American Jobs Plan, which includes $400 billion to expand access to Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) for seniors and people with disabilities and strengthen the direct care workforce. The new proposal responds to growing demands for HCBS stemming from the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths among people in nursing homes and other congregate settings, the growing elderly population, and the unmet need for community-based care that preceded the pandemic.

The proposal also aims to expand and strengthen caregiving jobs supported by Medicaid HCBS. Like people who rely on HCBS, direct care workers who provide these services have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The workforce is predominantly female, low-wage, and people of color. Home care workers earned on average $11.52 per hour, or $16,200 per year, in 2018. Despite the ongoing unmet need for HCBS, which is expected to grow with the increasing senior population, states regularly cite workforce shortages as a barrier to expanding HCBS. 

More from Kaiser Family Foundation

Democrats are 'not particularly pleased' with the Senate infrastructure deal. They'll back it anyway.

Ben Cardin is “not particularly pleased” with parts of the bipartisan infrastructure package. Kirsten Gillibrand has “no reason to be against it.” And Elizabeth Warren said she’ll support it if “it makes some people happier.”

Those are Democratic senators' scintillating reviews for a plan billed as a major goal of President Joe Biden. As negotiators rush to finish their package by Monday, they're signaling they’ll go along with it, even if it’s through gritted teeth.

When asked if he plans to support the bipartisan deal, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hardly brimmed with enthusiasm: “I voted for it yesterday, didn’t I?” All 50 Democratic Caucus members supported advancing the bill on Wednesday, an effort blocked by 50 Republicans.

In interviews Thursday, Democratic senators said they expected all 50 members of their caucus to sign on to the final product, with the assurance that their $3.5 trillion social spending proposal will include their top priorities. The bipartisan group still needs to sway several Democrats angry about water funding, but the party seems content to enter the home stretch of the infrastructure drama united — and leave Republicans split over whether to support it.

More from Politico

CMS Proposes Rule to Increase Price Transparency, Access to Care, Safety & Health Equity

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing actions to address the health equity gap, ensure consumers have the information they need to make fully informed decisions regarding their health care, improve emergency care access in rural communities, and use lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to inform patient care and quality measurements. In accordance with President Biden’s Competition Executive Order, CMS is further strengthening its efforts to increase price transparency, holding hospitals accountable and ensuring consumers have the information they need to make fully informed decisions regarding their health care. “As President Biden made clear in his executive order promoting competition, a key to price fairness is price transparency,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “No medical entity should be able to throttle competition at the expense of patients. I have fought anti-competitive practices before, and strongly believe health care must be in reach for everyone. With today’s proposed rule, we are simply showing hospitals through stiffer penalties: concealing the costs of services and procedures will not be tolerated by this Administration.”

More from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Advocates push to extend services for students who aged out of special education during the pandemic

Special education lawyers and advocates are pushing D.C. officials to provide an extra year of special education services to students who aged out of these programs during the pandemic, arguing that these young adults did not receive the education they are entitled to under federal law while school buildings were closed.

But D.C. officials say that a blanket extension is not necessary and individual families should make their appeals to the local education agency that oversees special education if they feel their child requires more services.

It’s a fight taking place in jurisdictions across the country as districts attempt to recoup some of what the nation’s most vulnerable students lost during the prolonged school closures. And it’s an acknowledgment that education officials don’t yet know the full scope of the academic and social toll that students experienced over the past 16 months. In New York City, the education department extended eligibility to some students for an extra year. Other states have allowed aged out students to attend summer programs.

More from Washington Post


Missouri Supreme Court reverses Medicaid expansion decision

The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to the state’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion plan, overturning a lower court’s ruling that the constitutional amendment would wrongfully force lawmakers to set aside additional money.

The unanimous decision sends the case back to Cole County Circuit Court, where Judge Jon Beetem last month ruled the amendment unconstitutional. Supreme Court judges wrote that the plan doesn’t put limits on the Legislature’s budgeting powers.

“An initiative that simply costs money to implement does not necessarily require the appropriation of funds,” judges wrote, “so long as the General Assembly maintains discretion in appropriating funds to implement that initiative.”

Three women who were newly eligible for Medicaid sued after Republican Gov. Mike Parson refused to implement it July 1 because the GOP-led Legislature didn’t set aside any extra money for it in the state budget. -- Before Medicaid expansion, Missouri’s health care program did not cover most adults without children, and its income eligibility threshold for parents was one of the lowest in the nation, at about one-fifth of the poverty level. The expansion is expected to add Medicaid eligibility for up to 275,000 low-income Missourians.

More from Associated Press

Maryland Governor Announces Release of State Disabilities Plan

Governor Larry Hogan, in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Disabilities, on Wednesday announced the release of the new Maryland State Disabilities Plan, a roadmap for changing the lives of Marylanders with disabilities for the better. “Our state is committed to ensuring all Marylanders living with disabilities have the knowledge and influence to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others,” said Hogan. “This plan will guide us there, and I want to commend Secretary Beatty and all those involved in preparing this bold and ambitious roadmap." The State Disabilities Plan provides for the coordination of those state services and policies that ensure compliance with state and federal civil rights laws, and will provide community-based supports, emergency preparedness, housing, transportation, employment, health care, accessible technology, education, and family support to Marylanders with disabilities. The plan also provides a framework for delivering, monitoring, and striving to improve these services. 

More from WBOC

New York Medicaid Still Holding Onto Pandemic-Era Telehealth Expansions Even After COVID-19 Waivers Disappear

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 210, which officially declared the end of the New York State of Emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the New York emergency telehealth waivers have expired.  These telehealth waivers had previously allowed many digital health companies and health systems to utilize certain flexibilities related to the methods of allowable telehealth technologies and the use of out-of-state providers to expand services and to cover understaffed departments.

In response to the Governor’s announcement, the New York State Department of Health issued guidance extending the expansion for the ability of all Medicaid providers in all situations to use a wide variety of communication methods to deliver services remotely during the remainder of the federally-declared COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Note that this guidance does not impact or provide additional flexibilities to non-Medicaid providers.

More from National Law Review

Research & Reports

Disability rights advocates are worried about discrimination in AI hiring tools

Your ability to land your next job could depend on how well you play one of the AI-powered games that are increasingly used in the hiring process.

Some companies that create these games claim that they limit bias in hiring. But AI hiring games can be especially difficult to navigate for job seekers with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. And if a company’s hiring assessments exclude people with disabilities, then it must prove that those assessments are necessary to the job.

For employers, using games such as those produced by Arctic Shores may seem more objective. Unlike traditional psychometric testing, Arctic Shores’s algorithm evaluates candidates on the basis of their choices throughout the game. However, candidates often don’t know what the game is measuring or what to expect as they play. For applicants with disabilities, this makes it hard to know whether they should ask for an accommodation.

More from MIT Technology Review

Researchers Report on Disparities in School Spending for Students With Disabilities

"Charter School Funding: Support for Students with Disabilities" examines the funding surrounding the education of students with disabilities in traditional and public charter schools during the 2017-18 school year in 18 major U.S. cities.

Across the 18 cities, traditional public schools received nearly $5 billion more in funding than the public charter schools in those same localities. While this study shows, on average, that the charter schools in these cities enrolled a smaller proportion of students with disabilities compared to their traditional public school counterparts (9.5 percent in charters, 13.1 percent in traditional schools), that differential only partially explains the funding gap. On average, disparities in spending on students with disabilities account for 39 percent, or $2,550, of the average per-pupil charter school funding gap, said Patrick J. Wolf, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and 21st Century Chair in School Choice in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

More from University of Arkansas

Resources, Opinions & Opportunities

Medicine needs to see what disability means, looks like, and feels like — in its ranks and in its patients

Opinion: Maggie Salinger Licensers, employers, and others have asked about my status: disabled or not disabled?

The first time I read this question in my new job’s onboarding forms, I was struck by the implied permanence and the dichotomy of the two choices.

At the same time, I also appreciated that the impetus for this query was the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which had protected me throughout my internal medicine residency. This landmark legislation prohibits discrimination and promises reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals who have medical, physical, and/or psychological limitations. The ADA was signed into law in July 1990, allowing me to celebrate its inception alongside a rite of passage for me as a physician: On July 1 of this year I went from being a resident in general internal medicine to being a fellow. This advance in rank gave me new roles and responsibilities, which also led to a change in my status, from disabled to not disabled.

More from Stat

In one house, two brothers with disabilities had opposite pandemic experiences

Seven years ago, Dana De la Torre, who was born in Mexico, had to leave her house-cleaning business in Phoenix, Arizona, to care 24/7 for her two youngest children. Lonnie Hermosillo is a 10-year-old with Down syndrome and Lincoln Hermosillo is 8 and has autism. They both have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She was going through a complicated divorce and juggling financial and immigration challenges. But she decided her children needed her, body and soul.

“It has been quite a challenge for us; it’s not only one child with special needs. These are two totally different syndromes! They don’t go well together,” said De la Torre.

In a typical year, De La Torre would spend her day running from one place to another seeking better medical and educational options for her children. “We had as many as 600 appointments every year, including therapies, school and doctors,” she said. “600!”

The pandemic changed everyone’s routine.

More from The Hechinger Report

Upcoming Events

LSA-DN 2021 Summer Meeting (virtual)
August 5, 2021
1:00-5:00 p.m. Eastern


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  • Policy & Advocacy Team
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Director of Policy and Advocacy, Lutheran Services in America