Newsletter Spring 2016: Support the DIA
May 17, 2016
Editor’s Note: A version of this article appears in the Spring 2016 LIFTT Connection Newsletter
With the input and support of the disability community including advocates from ADAPT and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has introduced “The Disability Integration Act” (DIA) for consideration in the United States Senate.
Based upon legislation introduced in previous congresses by disability rights icon and now retired Sen. Tom Harkin, The DIA builds upon the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision by requiring that those who use Medicaid Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) have a real choice in how they receive those services.
Current federal law only requires state Medicaid programs to offer LTSS in the form of nursing home and other institutional placements. Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) such as those offered in Montana are optional meaning that some states do not offer them. In addition the optional nature of HCBS means that states that do offer them can limit participation in them to a certain number or percentage of consumers creating waiting lists of months or even years.
The DIA changes the LTSS equation. If the bill becomes law, HCBS will become a required part of state Medicaid programs on par with institutional services making them available in all states and eliminating the use of waiting lists and other limits. In short, the passage and signing of the DIA will be a huge step on the road to freedom and full inclusion for persons with disabilities in our national life and will reaffirm to the world the commitment the United States made when the ADA came into law that “Disability Rights are Civil Rights!”
Currently the DIA has been formally filed in the Senate, assigned a bill number (S. 2427) and awaits an as yet to be scheduled hearing in the Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee (HELP). If congress doesn’t act on it before it adjourns in December, The bill will have to be reintroduced in the new Congress.
One way advocates can assist in convincing HELP committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, get the ball rolling and hold hearings and a vote on the DIA is by contacting your Senators and convincing them to sign on to the bill as a Co-Sponsor. So far in addition to Sen. Schumer six other senators have signed on as co-sponsors. All six of these senators are members of the Democratic caucus (five democrats and one independent) and all but one (Sen. Bennett of Colorado) represent states in the northeast region. A much larger, bipartisan and geographically diverse group of co-sponsors will be needed to force Sen. Alexander into holding a hearing.
Montana advocates can help create that coalition by contacting Montana’s two US Senators: Jon Tester and Steve Daines today and asking them to co-sponsor S. 2427 “The Disability Rights Integration Act.”