What it is: An attempt to align the Colorado Civil Rights Act with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This legislation would make the Disabilities portion of the Colorado Civil Rights Act enforceable.
It will increase statutory damages from $50-500 to $3,500.
Adjustment of a provision that allows for attorney fees in cases of discrimination against a service animal, but not a person.
Continues current protections for service animals in training.
The presence of families/children at this hearing is strongly encouraged – this is the greatest legislative priority for the disability community this year and will significantly affect people for many years to come!
Affordable Care Act: Essential Health Benefits & Habilitative Services
by Brooke Lehmann and Janis Guerney
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a proposed regulation that, among other topics, addresses the “Essential Health Benefits” that must be included in certain health plans pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed regulation raises serious concerns about the availability of “habilitative” services-therapies and devices that help individuals to acquire or maintain skills or function.
BACKGROUND: The ACA requires that a package of “Essential Health Benefits” (EHB) be covered in all health insurance plans sold in Exchanges and in all non-grandfathered individual and small group policies for plan years beginning in or after 2014.
ACA Essential Health Benefits List:
ambulatory patient services
maternity and newborn care
mental health and substance use disorder services
rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
preventive/wellness services and chronic disease management
pediatric services, including oral and vision care
The Department has proposed that each state establish its own set of EHBs, based on a “benchmark” plan selected from one of four types of plans sold in that state (e.g., largest small group plan, largest HMO). If a state fails to select a benchmark, then the default will be the largest small group plan in the state. About half of the states have already identified their benchmark choices, which must be made by December 26.
HABILITATIVE BENEFITS: With respect to habilitative services, the proposed rule is quite troublesome. If the state’s benchmark plan does not include any habilitative services, the state would be able to define that benefit. But HHS does not provide guidance about how states should do so.
If a state declines to define habilitative services, then insurance plans will determine the benefit. Each plan must either provide habilitative services that provide parity with rehabilitative services, or establish its own set of habilitative benefits and report them to HHS.
If insurers get to define habilitative services without any parameters, each one will have an incentive to provide minimal benefits, so that its plan will not attract a disproportionate number of people who need costly habilitative services.
Family Voices Colorado is the Family to Family Health Information Center (F2F HIC) for our state, funded by a federal grant from the Maternal Child Health Bureau within the US Department of Health and Human Services. Funding for the F2F HIC program will expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2012 if new legislation is not passed to continue it. The bills proposing renewal of funding are S. 2123, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, and H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone.
If we hope to get the F2Fs re-funded,Members of Congress will need to hear from families about how important F2F services have been in their lives. If you have benefited from information, training, system navigation, or advocacy support from Family Voices Colorado, would you take a moment to contact your Members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the relevant bill?
You can call them through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. (Find the names of your Members of Congress here.) When you speak to the receptionist, state that you are a constituent and ask to speak to the staff person who handles health issues. If that person is not available to talk, you can leave a BRIEF message identifying yourself as a constituent who has a child with special health care needs (if applicable) and asking that the Representative/Senator cosponsor a bill that would extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers. Refer to the appropriate bill number and sponsor – in the Senate, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Menendez; in the House, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Pallone. Leave your home phone number and email address.
You can also write to your Representative (even if you call) via the “Advocacy” section of the Family Voices website, where you will find a pre-written letter that you fill in with your personal information. (You do not need to know the name of your Representative.) Please ask other families you know, professionals you have worked with, friends, and relatives to write their Representatives through the Family Voices website also. At this time, the website is not configured to automatically send the letter to Senators, but simple instructions about how to contact your Senators, and text to copy and paste, can also be found on that page. (You do not need to know the names of your Senators.)
Thank you for lending your voice to support Family Voices Colorado!
Making Colorado a better place for children and youth with special health care needs