FMAP Passes Senate; House to Vote Tuesday
On Thursday, August 5, the U.S. Senate voted 61-39 to pass a bill whose amendments will extend some measure of enhanced Medicaid (FMAP) funding to states, including an expected $506 million to Massachusetts.
The bill, H.R. 1586, would extend portions of FMAP funding that were set to expire in December of this year. With passage of the legislation, $15 billion will be used to extend increased funding through June of 2010, though at a lower rate than included in the ARRA stimulus package.
Republican senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, voted to pass the bill. Massachusetts' senator John Kerry also voted in favor of the legislation. Senator Scott Brown voted against it.
The bill cleared a procedural hurdle on Wednesday when the Senate approved a motion for cloture on the bill, preventing a filibuster. After the Wednesday vote, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that she would call back the House to pass the bill. With the bill's passage through the Senate today, the House will consider the bill next Tuesday.
The extension of increased FMAP funding is welcome news in Massachusetts, where Governor Patrick was forced to make significant cuts to the human services safety net and local aid in anticipation of increased funding being rejected.
"I applaud the U.S. Senate for moving forward on this critical effort to save jobs, support education, and maintain critical services for working families and our most vulnerable citizens," Governor Patrick said in a statement. "I especially appreciate the leadership of Senator Kerry in ensuring that this bill comes to a vote on the merits. We are lucky here in Massachusetts to have an entire House delegation that has already shown their strong and vocal support for this initiative and I am hopeful that after final Senate approval the House will act on this vital legislation quickly."
The Arc played a central role in efforts pushing Sen. Brown to change his vote against funding FMAP, holding a vigil with partner organizations in his Boston offices in late June. We are disappointed that Sen. Brown did not come around, but thankful that the Senate as a whole did. The quality of life of several thousand individuals and families is dependent on those funds for critical cuts (including $19 million in the Department of Developmental Services alone) to be restored. We applaud our federal lawmakers for their persistence on this critical issue.
In This Issue
FMAP Passes Senate
R-word Removed from Mass. General Laws
Autism Insurance Reform Signed
Local Business Supports Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
Letter to the Editor
Looking for a Roommate
The mission of The Arc of Massachusetts is to enhance the lives of individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. We accomplish this through advocacy of supports and services based in the community.
Governor Signs Bill Removing R-word from Mass. General Laws
Advocates yesterday crowded Governor Deval Patrick's office as he signed legislation replacing the words "mental retardation" with "intellectual disabilities or disability" in the Massachusetts General Laws.
The legislation, "An Act Eliminating the Word 'Retardation' from the General Laws" (H4922), was sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro whose son has Down syndrome. The bill's passage reflects the passionate work of advocates, particularly self-advocates with developmental disabilities, and follows last year's renaming of the Department of Developmental Services, which had previously been called the Department of Mental Retardation.
"This is an important step in addressing the stigma faced daily by people with disabilities. Words do matter," said Leo Sarkissian, executive director of The Arc of Massachusetts. "As we saw last year with the DMR name change, removing the R-word from as many government documents and agencies as possible makes a real difference in how thousands of people with disabilities and their families feel about themselves and those charged with helping them," Sarkissian added.
"This has always been a civil right issue for me," said Sannicandro, who is Vice Chair of the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. "With today's bill signing, we fulfill the promise we made when we changed the name of the Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services; a promise to treat all persons with intellectual disabilities with dignity and respect."
"This important change reflects our commitment to promoting dignity and respect for people with disabilities," Governor Patrick said.
Autism Insurance Reform Signed into Law
On Tuesday, August 3, after months of advocacy from individuals, families, and disability organizations, including The Arc, Governor Patrick signed legislation that requires insurance companies to cover essential medical services for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In a ceremony at Fenway Park, Patrick praised the bill, saying he was "proud that Massachusetts now has one of the most comprehensive autism coverage laws in the nation." Patrick also commended the redoubtable efforts of individuals with autism and their families, noting that the success of the bill demonstrated "the way government is supposed to work."
The hundreds gathered in the Fenway stands to celebrate the occasion comprised a wide range of individuals who had contributed to the success of the bill.
"No one should be denied a healthy outcome because of the high cost of services. This is a victory for the courageous families who live with the uncertainty of autism daily," said Senator Frederick E. Berry, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Reflecting on the scope of the historic bill, Representative Barbara L'Italien, who sponsored the bill in the House, said, "today we are taking the necessary steps to transform the lives of people throughout the Commonwealth, so that all individuals with autism have access to services and treatment."
"Autism insurance coverage represents a systemic change in how many people with autism in Massachusetts will access critical treatment," said Amy K. Weinstock, Insurance Committee Chair for Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM). "We are grateful to the members of our community for their tireless advocacy and for the amazing support of Autism Speaks. Representative L'Italien and Senator Berry, we are incredibly fortunate to have you as our champions. Governor Patrick, thank you for making autism insurance coverage a reality for our families."
The enacted legislation is now a part of the Massachusetts General Laws at http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/seslaw10/sl100207.htm.