NCPD Statement on Health Care Reform Bill (H.R. 3590)

NCPD Applauds Pro-Life Protections in H.R. 3962
and Opposes their Omission from H.R. 3590;
Seeks Assurances for Persons with Disabilities.

   The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) applauds the 240 members of Congress who supported The Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the US House of Representatives’ Health Care Reform proposal (H.R. 3962). This amendment would permanently prevent the funding of abortion within the public option of the plan, consistent with the provisions of the Hyde Amendment. Also consistent with these same provisions, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit the use of public funds for premiums paid to private plans that include abortion. Cognizant of an incipient movement toward eugenics in health care public policy, as evidenced by the fact that ninety percent of fetuses with Down Syndrome never are allowed to be born, these protections are welcomed.  ... (more)

However, there is no guarantee that the final version of the Health Care Reform legislation will include these provisions. In fact, the Senate version of this legislation (H.R. 3950) requires each state to offer a plan that includes abortion coverage. It also provides for tax-support of enrollment costs for private plans that cover abortions. It authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to allow such coverage in the public option. For both the public and private options there is to be a factoring out of the cost of those procedures in the premiums; but the overall public and private option plans that support abortion will be paid for by tax dollars. Thus, in reality this does not represent a prohibition of government support of abortion, especially since the proposal mandates abortion coverage in each region of the country. In addition, though protecting the consciences of health care workers and entities who refuse to participate in assisted suicide, the bill prohibits limiting access to "end-of-life care"--  a term broad enough to include euthanasia and mercy-killing, along with assisted suicide as well. Conference committees are used to rectify any discrepancies between House and Senate versions of legislation. Herein rests the need to be vigilant in continuing to express opposition to publicly funded assaults on human life, especially when such assaults are based on the presence of a disability.


            Caution also must be exercised in embracing the end-of-life care parameters of the proposals.  End-of-life care planning consultations in H.R. 3962 exclude assisted suicide. However, as states embrace and redefine “assisted suicide” as “death with dignity,” and disallow a death certificate to use suicide as the cause of death, consultation for such purposes may be paid for under the plan. If restrictions and limitations are placed on health care services to be provided, the negative impact on persons with disabilities would be significant. Limited access to requisite health care literally could cause persons or their surrogates to choose death over life. Explicit incorporation of protections, consistent with federal anti-discrimination legislation and the Baby Doe Amendment to the Child Abuse Law, are necessary in any health care reform legislation.

            We also are deeply troubled that pending legislation does not protect against the use of comparative effectiveness standards, which could diminish existing insurance coverage for people with disabilities. Many such standards have an inherent bias against disabling conditions, and thus their use would diminish insurance coverage for people with such conditions.

            Thus, while the NCPD applauds the passage of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, it urges such provisions be included in the Senate version of the legislation. We continue to seek provisions that assure that health care reform is truly reform which provides for the life, dignity, and well-being of all persons, including persons with disabilities.


Mexico City Policy

Mexico City Policy Decried
by Chair of USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities:

Let us stay vigilant in our efforts to support laws and initiatives that support life.  In a Jan. 26 article, the Zenit news agency reported that Cardinal Justin Rigali called President Barack Obama's decision on day 3 of his presidency to reverse the Mexico City Policy to be "very disappointing."  There had been an 8-year ban on U.S. funding of organizations that perform and promote abortion in developing nations.  President Obama has insisted during his electoral campaign that he wasn't for abortion but rather for reducing the number of abortions without making abortion illegal.  The Mexico City Policy had prevented the diversion of U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, and longtime Board member and Episcopal Moderator of NCPD until recently, wrote to Obama before his inauguration urging him to retain this policy: "'The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them.


SSA Class Action Suit brought by American Council of the Blind

The American Council of the Blind filed a class action suit against the Social Security Administration (SSA) asking for additional notice options for individuals with a visual impairment.

A federal court has certified a class composed of applicants, beneficiaries and representative payees with visual impairments that substantially limit their ability to see so that they require communications from SSA to be in an accessible format in order to participate in the Social Security or SSI programs. The class action does not include any claims for money damages. 

SSA will display a poster of the class action notice in large print in field offices across the country from November 14, 2008 through January 16, 2009.  At the same time, there will also be links to the notice on www.socialsecurity.gov and at www.segurosocial.gov/espanol  and a toll-free number will be available for people to call to hear a recording of the notice in English or Spanish. The toll-free number is 1-866-940-0765.  

Please direct any questions about the class action to plaintiff's counsel at 1-800-348-4232 or by e-mail to ssaclassaction@dredf.org. SSA employees are not able to answer any questions concerning it.



Social Security Announces Nationwide Launch of Compassionate Allowances


Process Will Fast Track Applications For People with Cancers and Rare Diseases

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the national rollout of the agency's Compassionate Allowances initiative, a way to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants whose medical conditions are so severe that their conditions obviously meet Social Security's standards.

"Getting benefits quickly to people with the most severe medical conditions is both the right and the compassionate thing to do," Commissioner Astrue said.  "This initiative will allow us to make decisions on these cases in a matter of days, rather than months or years."

Social Security is launching this expedited decision process with a total of 50 conditions.  Over time, more diseases and conditions will be added.  A list of the first 50 impairments - 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers - can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.


Social Security Announces 5.8 Percent COLA Benefit Increase for 2009

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 55 million Americans will increase 5.8 percent in 2009, the Social Security Administration announced today.  The 5.8 percent increase is the largest since 1982.

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise

in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding period of the current year.  This year's increase in the CPI-W was 5.8 percent.
The 5.8 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that over 50 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2009.  Increased payments to more than 7 million Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will begin on December 31.


Community Choice Act Support by NCPD

NCPD, legislators and thousands of disability and social justice leaders have a long history of supporting the passage of this housing & disability services initiative (S. 683/H.R. 1670).  We once again have joined with other religious and religiously-affiliated organizations to write to Congress in strong support of the Community Choice Act to support this legislation which promotes independence with dignity and allows individuals who receive long-term services through Medicaid to have a choice in where, how and from whom they receive personal assistance.  Encourage your legislators to support the Community Choice Act.  These services, currently available to some under the Medicaid Waiver (the Katie Beckett Waiver), are of great benefit to those children and adults who receive them, and their families.

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