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December 17, 2014

Tax-Free Disability Savings Bill Headed To Obama - DisabiltyScoop
The U.S. Senate has voted overwhelmingly to send legislation to the president establishing a new way for people with disabilities to save money without risking their government benefits.
December 16, 2014

10 Ways to Support Families of Children with Autism this Holiday Season - PRNewswire

BOSTON, Dec. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For many of us, the holiday season is a wonderful time of the year – a time to get together with friends and family, enjoy favorite foods, decorate our homes, and exchange gifts. But it can also be a stressful season when you...



Disability Champion Leaving Congress - DisabiltyScoop
After 40 years on Capitol Hill, a U.S. senator who shaped the Americans with Disabilities Act is leaving his post.

New Prenatal Tests Called Into Question - DisabiltyScoop
Companies hawking new prenatal tests to detect Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities may be promising more than they can deliver, an investigation finds.

Down Syndrome No Barrier To College Degree - DisabiltyScoop
Stereotypes and academic hurdles haven't stopped one man with Down syndrome from receiving his bachelor's degree, graduating magna cum laude.

Reps. Frankel, Deutch Cheer On ABLE At Autism Speaks' Florida Office - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Meet with parents of children with autism

December 16, 2014

WEST PALM BEACH, FL -- Meeting with parents of children with autism at the Autism Speaks office here, U.S. Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-22) and Ted Deutch(FL-21) spoke of the benefits that could come with final Congressional approval of theAchieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Act. Their Florida colleague, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (FL-4), is the original sponsor of the bill which passed the House 404-17 last week.

Awaiting final approval in the Senate after eight years before Congress,the bipartisan bill has been called themost significant disabilities legislation since the1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Families caring for a child with a disability worry about their child's long term security,” saidFrankel. “The ABLE Act allows parents to provide a cushion of support for their beloved son or daughter as they enter into adulthood."

Deutch said, “Parents of children with autism, Down syndrome, and other types of disabilities face unique financial challenges when it comes to planning for their long-term care expenses,” saidDeutch. "The ABLE Act is a commonsense solution that will help improve the financial security of millions of families by allowing them to save money in tax-free accounts and better plan for their disabled children's needs.”

Frankel and Deutch cosponsored the ABLE Act which would allow individuals with disabilities, or their families to save tax-free for their longterm disability expenses.


NC Mom Lectures Politically Opposed Sons: Agree On Autism - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

One a Democrat, the other a Republican get surprise call on TV

December 16, 2014

Political pundits Dallas and Brad Woodhouse who argue from opposite sides of the political spectrum were told yesterday to meet in the middle when it comes to autism. The order came from their mother Joy in a viewerphone call as the two weretalking politicson C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

"Oh god, it's mom," said Dallas Woodhouse, the Republican, as their motherrelated their bickering over Thanksgiving and pleaded fora "peaceful Christmas."

Asked by the moderator where she landed on the political spectrum, Joy Woodhouse said said she was a "one-issue person" driven by concern for her grandson with autism.

Watch the clip here:


NC Mom Lectures Politically Opposed Sons: Agree On Autism - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

One a Democrat, the other a Republican get surprise call on TV

December 16, 2014

Political pundits Dallas and Brad Woodhouse who argue from opposite sides of the political spectrum were told yesterday to meet in the middle when it comes to autism. The order came from their mother Joy in a viewerphone call as the two weretalking politicson C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

"Oh god, it's mom," said Dallas Woodhouse, the Republican, as their motherrelated their bickering over Thanksgiving and pleaded fora "peaceful Christmas."

Asked by the moderator where she landed on the political spectrum, Joy Woodhouse said said she was a "one-issue person" driven by concern for her grandson with autism.

Watch the clip here:


'60 Minutes' Spotlights Insurance Denials For Mental Health - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

California fights back through legal action, regulation

December 16, 2014

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has commended CBS "60 Minutes" for highlighting the difficulties individualsexperience in securing longterm mental health coverage and highlighted his agency's efforts to improve benfits, particularly for the treatment of autism.

The CBS segment, entitled "Denied," [view below] aired December 14 and focused onclaims processed byAnthem. CBS found that 90 to 100 percent of claims reviews were denied by Anthem's contracted physicians.

"60 Minutes highlights Anthem Blue Cross' history of denying coverage for vital mental health treatment despite mental health parity laws, but they are not the only insurer that has denied coverage for lifesaving care to those who suffer from mental illness," said Jones. "If a patient is denied medically necessary care, such as residential care for an eating disorder or behavioral health treatment for autism, the Department of Insurance is here to help the policyholder get the coverage they are entitled to under the law. This 60 Minutes feature puts a national spotlight on the all too common practice of denying people with severe mental illness the medical care to which they are entitled."

In April, Jones' agency issued strict guidelines on the behavioral health treatment for autism, such as applied behavioral analysis (ABA),that insurers must cover.Prior to the new regulations, it was not uncommon for health insurers to delay or deny medically necessary treatment for individuals with autism.

"The mental health parity regulations will help end improper insurer delays and denials of medically necessary treatments for people with autism," saidJones. "This regulation provides clear guidance to the industry, stakeholders and consumers on the requirements of the Mental Health Parity Act."

Autism Speaks honoredJones as its2014 Executive Champion for his strong advocacy on behalf of families with autism during the 9th Annual Autism Law Summit.

As a result of a string of class action lawsuits brought in Washington state, coverage for autism has now been required by regulation by all state-regulated health plans. The litigation was all based on alleged violations of state and federal mental health parity law.


Intronix Technologies to Collaborate with Western University to Develop New Rehabilitation Technologies for Musculoskeletal Disorders - PRNewswire

TORONTO, Dec. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Intronix Technologies will be collaborating with Western University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to develop technology to be incorporated into rehabilitation devices. Canadian-based innovator Intronix Technologies will...


December 15, 2014

Home Health Leaders Commend Congress on Budget Deal - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – a leading coalition of home health providers dedicated to improving the integrity, quality, and efficiency of home healthcare for our nation's seniors – today commended...



Governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island take action to help Islanders get jobs faster - PRNewswire

SUMMERSIDE, PEI, Dec. 15, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, the Government of Canada announced nearly $4 million in funding to Prince Edward Island (PEI) for two projects that will help young people and newcomers find work in their fields. The governments also renewed two agreements that will...



Feds Inch Closer To Disability Hiring Goal - DisabiltyScoop
The federal government added people with disabilities to its payroll at a higher rate last year than at any other time in the last three decades.

Division of Human Development and Disability's New Director, Dr. Georgina Peacock - AUCD
Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, FAAP has been appointed as the Director of the Division of Human Development and Disability. Dr. Peacock has served as the Acting Director for the past four months, but she assumed the role permanently on Monday, December 15, 2014.

Ohio Insurance Reform Delayed Into 2015 - Autism Speaks - Advocasy
December 08, 2014

An attempt to expand autism insurance coverage in Ohio in 2014to include state-regulated plans was quashed by a committee chairman who said he would refuse to consider the measure.

Rep. Lynn Wachtmann of Napoleon, who chairs the House Health and Aging Committee, said he would refuse to move the bill before he leaves the Legislature at the end ofthis month.

Children of state employees and those covered under the Affordable Care Act gained coverage this year by virtue of an executive order issued by Gov. John Kasich, but those with private health plans regulated by the state continue to be denied coverage for applied behavior analysis (ABA) and other treatments.

The autism insurance reform campaign will resume in 2015 to make Ohio the 39th state to require coverage of medcially necessary treatment.

December 12, 2014

Michigan To End Medicaid Waiver Services That 'Isolate' Individuals - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Public reaction sought through December 24

December 12, 2014

Michiganhas proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

TheMichigan Department of Community Health said it "will be developing a transition plan to bring its waiver programs into compliance with the new regulations while continuing to provide vital services and supports to Michigan citizens. The Department is committed to an inclusive process partnering with people receiving services, their allies, health care providers, and other organizations to create a transition plan that serves the best interests of the people of Michigan while also meeting requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services."

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on the new proposal through December 24. Further information is available at the Michigan Department of Community Health HERE.

To submit written comments, send them by email to: HCBSTransition@michigan.gov or by mail to:

Attention: HCBS Program Transition
Medicaid Policy
Michigan Department of Community Health
P.O. Box 30479
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7979

All comments should include a "HCBS Transition Plan Comment" reference somewhere in the written submission or in the subject line if an e-mail is used.

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid.Michigan has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks' live chat.

What can you do about it?

Michiganis now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain Home and Community-based Services (HCBS) programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is available online.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs including identifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statement here. Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?

Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published a set of exploratory questions that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, use these questions to tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services (because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, use these questions to talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?

CT To End Medicaid Waiver Services That 'Isolate' Individuals - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Public comment ends December 15

December 12, 2014

Connecticuthas proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

The plan was developed by the Connecticut Department of Disability Services which reports that the only public comments it has received to date are from "two area agencies on aging, a care management organization, and an advocacy organization." No comments were reported from people with autism or their caregivers.

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on the new proposal through December 15. Further information is available at the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS)HERE.

To submit comments, email DDS.HCBSTransition@ct.gov; call:(860) 418-8723; or fax your written comments to:(860) 622-2675.

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid.Connecticut DDS has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks' live chat.

What can you do about it?

Connecticutis now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain Home and Community-based Services (HCBS) programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is available online.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs including identifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statement here. Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?

Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published a set of exploratory questions that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, use these questions to tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services (because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, use these questions to talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?

Bell Law Group to Award $1,000 Wheelchair Disability Scholarship - PRNewswire

NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Making law school a little more accessible and affordable for one student, the Bell Law Group is launching a new $1,000 Wheelchair Disability Scholarship. With a wealth of experience supporting disability discrimination claims, the Bell Law Group is...



Special Ed, Disability Programs Unscathed In Budget Deal - DisabiltyScoop
A spending plan making its way through Congress is a win for people with disabilities, advocates say, more for what it doesn't do than what it does.

Effectiveness Of Cerebral Palsy Treatment Weighed - DisabiltyScoop
A surgery that improves mobility for some kids with cerebral palsy leaves others even more likely to lose balance. Now researchers are working to understand who's most likely to benefit.
Last updated : December 17, 2014 - 09:01:17
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