Every January, ANCOR members from across the nation brave snow storms, airports, and probably fight off savage beasts ranging from gators to moose to attend the annual Government Relations (GR) Committee retreat in Baltimore, MD. All right, we confess that no one has actually confirmed taking on wild fauna as part of their ANCOR travels… but 2017 was in many respects a tough policy year and many providers probably feel like they did indeed ride tigers for a while. So we were honored when over 60 members of ANCOR’s GR Committee members started off 2018 with us at our GR Retreat, tackling on important conversations and deciding policy objectives for 2018 in lieu of extending their holiday breaks just a little bit longer.
ANCOR’s staff and lobbyists enter 2018 optimistic that this year will offer opportunities in the IDD realm. ANCOR lobbyists Al Guida, Rodney Whitlock and Katie Weider cautioned that the idea of different payments for Medicaid, such as block grants, have now been normalized in Congress and that this will continue to pose a risk for IDD supports and services in 2018. However, they had hopes that this year will be calm enough for ANCOR to engage in proactive and innovative policy proposals rather than spending the year on the defensive. These opportunities for proactive advocacy include: renewing the Money Follows the Person program; obtaining technology support from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS); exploring new payment models and convincing the Department of Labor to adopt Standard Occupational Classifications for DSPs (if you are confused by what that is, check out our other LINKS article here).
Esmé Grant Grewal, head of the ANCOR GR team, and Sarah Meek, who heads the legislative side of our advocacy, rounded up the session with the focal points laid out below.
Congressional Topics to Monitor:
- Entitlement reform – specifically which reforms could take place. [Note: since then House Speaker Paul Ryan has stated he did not think Congress would take on entitlement reform in 2018, but rumor in Washington D.C. has it that he may have been only referring to Medicare and Social Security.]
- Threats to the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- The 2018 election, the climate of which will influence policy discussions and which could also carry repercussions at the state level.
- Opportunities to think differently about Medicaid – now that folks are paying more attention to the program, the possibility for bipartisan improvement exists.
Administrative Topics to Monitor:
- Agency changes to entitlements (such as work requirements).
- Changes in regulations and guidance across multiple issues.
- The pending nomination of Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human services (HHS). [Note: since then Mr. Azar has been officially confirmed as head of HHS.]
And that was just from one session! Additionally, the following occurred at the GR Retreat:
- On the legislative front Esmé Grant Grewal shared information on the state model legislation on rate transparency that ANCOR has been developing and Sarah Meek led a discussion about what we would like to see developed in a data bill this year.
- Gabrielle Sedor announced that the Included. Supported. Empowered campaign’s page – www.wehaveastake.org – was live and asked for video testimony from attendees. 22 attendees shared their stories!
- Michael Murray and Richard Davis from the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) presented on employment first approaches.
- Kim Musheno from the Autism Society discussed opportunities for ANCOR and the Society to collaborate in future advocacy efforts.
- Ralph Lollar and Melissa Harris from CMS discussed electronic visit verification (EVV) at length, as well as HCBS transition plans.
- Attendees broke out in to CMS regional groups to discuss their core policy priorities and concerns including: managed care; the DSP Workforce crisis; lack of rate increases; minimum wage implementation; housing; and lack of communication or relationships with relevant state departments. Attendees also answered questions Esmé prepared on quality measures, competitive integrated employment and defining informed choice.
- Doris Parfaite-Claude, who handles ANCOR’s grassroots and research portfolios, teamed up with Gary Blumenthal of PAR to announce the relaunch of ANCOR’s Grassroots Work Group. Gary will chair the group, which has the goal of preparing and recruiting state champions for ANCOR advocacy initiatives. Members interested in learning more should email Doris at [email protected].
- Attendees voted on a new name for the Washington Insiders’ Club (WICS) publication – the winner was the ANCOR Capitol Correspondence! Keep an eye out for the ANCOR Capitol Correspondence in your emails, which we send out every Monday.
- Staff and attendees joined together to celebrate a surprise baby shower for Esmé, who will be on maternity leave from the end of January through March. Those with questions about ANCOR’s policy work should direct them to Sarah at [email protected] during that time.
The retreat culminated with its core task on the last day: reaffirming ANCOR’s Policy Principles and obtaining attendees’ guidance on priority issues that are covered by the three 2018 themes of managed care, accountability, and state flexibility. This included a vigorous discussion of policy challenges and opportunities ANCOR should address, and thoughts and concerns staff should keep in mind.
We are always thrilled to see how deeply our members care about making IDD issues heard and ensuring that policy-makers are aware of the needs of the people we support. We were honored to obtain our members’ insights in this retreat and look forward to all the work we will do this year alongside all of you!
Doris Parfaite-Claude is the Federal Advocacy and Research Manager at ANCOR. She can be reached at [email protected].