Voices from the Capitol (XI): Protect the Affordable Care Act

Back • March 21, 2017 • Uncategorized

The General Assembly will soon be shifting its focus from the Committees to the House and Senate floors. Today we will go over where the budget stands now and where it is going, updates on the latest hearings, and how to take action and get involved to defend the Affordable Care Act.

One quick note: we still want your feedback! It only takes a minute to complete this brief survey, but your suggestions and ideas are appreciated. Thanks!

This week: Committee Hearings

Judiciary Committee

Friday, March 24 – Room 2D, 10:00 AM – Agenda

Appropriations Committee

Friday, March 24 – Room 2C, 10:30 AM – Agenda

Take action! Protect the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. House of Representatives intends to hold a vote on the American Health Care Act (the Affordable Care Act repeal bill) as early as this Thursday. Many organizations, including Connecticut Voices for Children, are working together through Protect Our Care CT to coordinate a series of events, press conferences, and actions to raise our voices to defend health care in the state.

Join us at the Capitol this Wednesday, March 22, for Health Care Action Day from 10 AM to 3 PM. Stand up for health care on the eve of  the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The event will start with a press conference featuring speakers who have benefited from the ACA and Medicaid at 10 AM in Room 1B. Sharon Langer, our Advocacy Director, will be one of the speakers.

From 10:30 until 3:00 PM, we'll have information and materials available at the 2nd Floor Atrium. You can talk to your legislators about the importance of health care and about your particular concerns. You can also participate in a range of activities to raise the visibility of the importance of health care programs we all count on – the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare, and women's health programs.

Please post and share Health Care Action Day’s Facebook event page.

Please RSVP on Facebook or send a quick email to:  Jane McNichol, jmcnichol@universalhealthct.org.

News: Hearings and Budget Updates

Education Committee (March 20)

You can read our testimony here.

H.B. No. 7276 An Act Concerning Education Mandate Relief.

This bill eliminates the requirement that all expelled students be provided with individualized learning plans.

Why is it important? We oppose this change. The current law helps ensure a minimally adequate education for expelled students. Without an individualized learning plan, these students are at greater risk of dropping out altogether, which increases the difficulty of finding employment after leaving school and can have other negative outcomes such as increased risk of juvenile arrest.

H.B. No. 7270 An Act Concerning The Education Cost-Sharing Grant Formula For Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2018, And June 30, 2019.

The bill mandates an adequacy study on the true cost of education, while also providing a mechanism to fully fund the current Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula without cutting support to Connecticut towns.

Why is it important? We support this bill. The most important school funding issue in Connecticut is that the current ECS formula is underfunded. This bill provides a mechanism to ensure that additional funds to the ECS grant will help the towns that are most underfunded under current allocations. For that to happen, the bill mandates a study on the true costs of education to change the current distribution of the funds to take into account community needs, including special education and English language learners, as well as the town's ability to pay.

S.B. No. 1014 An Act Concerning Various Revisions and Additions to the Education Statutes.

The bill promotes community school reforms and class size reductions in high-need Alliance districts.

Why is it important? We support this bill. Community schools are defined by a system of wraparound supports for the child, the family, and schools to target student’s academic and non-academic barriers to learning. Evidence shows that community schools are very effective tools to reduce the opportunity gap, strengthen families, and increase learning.

Judiciary Committee (March 13)

S.B. No. 1025 An Act Concerning The Closure Of The Connecticut Juvenile Training School And The Transfer Of Juvenile Justice Programs And Services From The Department Of Children And Families To The Judicial Branch.

The bill would close the Connecticut Juvenile Training School by July 1, 2017.

Why is it important? Although we support the closure of this facility, we are concerned as to whether this process can be completed by July 1, 2017 without putting the juvenile justice-involved youth in this institution at increased risk. It is necessary to consider a more appropriate alternative that provides youth and their families with the therapy and supports they need as part of this process.

H.B. No. 7045 An Act Concerning Juvenile And Young Adult Justice.

This bill gradually includes young adults (18-20 year olds) in the juvenile justice system rather than the adult system, so that young adults charged with lesser crimes can access therapeutic services provided within the juvenile justice system. Young people charged with class A and some class B felonies would remain in adult court.

Why is it important? We support the first three sections of this bill, as they include effective, evidence-based policies that provide young adults the supports they need to be productive, contributing members of society. However, we oppose Section 4, which allows more 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to be transferred to the adult system. This section stands in opposition to the intent of the rest of the bill, as it would make adult court the default system for class B felonies even for younger adolescents.

H.B. No. 7286 An Act Concerning the Recommendations of The Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.

The bill creates and implements a community-based diversion system by utilizing resources that already exist in many communities.

Why is it important? We support this bill. It would leverage Youth Service Bureaus (YSBs) as a coordinating hub to evaluate the needs of youth and families, refer youth and families to appropriate services, coordinate and implement these services, and evaluate the effectiveness of services. This model also aims to address the context and dynamics in which the youth developed antisocial or delinquent behaviour, while limiting court involvement to the most serious cases.

Budget Updates: the Impact of Federal Grants on Connecticut’s Budget

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examines potential cuts to federal grants based on proposals from President Trump and Congressional Republicans. Federal grants accounted for one-fifth ($6.122 billion) of the state budget in 2016 and supported critical programs for low- to moderate-income families.

The federal budget pays for these grants through mandatory and discretionary spending; mandatory programs are set in permanent law, while discretionary programs have to be appropriated annually.

Mandatory grants fund programs such as Medicaid, CHIP, child nutrition programs, the Adoption and Foster Care Program, Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and Social Services Block Grants (SSBG). Federal Medicaid grants to Connecticut were worth $4.582 billion in 2016.

Discretionary grants to state and local governments in Connecticut were worth $1.753 billion in 2016 and provide funding for high-poverty schools, special education, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), mental health and substance abuse services, child care, heating assistance, training and employment programs, transportation, and public safety.

The report points out that both discretionary and mandatory grants – excluding Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP) – were already at historically low levels in 2016; mandatory grants are lower than any other year since 1980 (equal to 0.42% of the economy in 2015), while discretionary grants were lower in 2015 than all but one year since 1980 (equal to 1.05% of the economy).

Steep cuts to these grants would be catastrophic for a state budget already mired in fiscal challenges, and would likely mean even deeper cuts to programs that are critical to low- and moderate-income children and their families.

Legislative arcana: what is next in the budget process

The calendar for the legislative session sets the deadlines for most committees to vote on bills by the end of this week, with a few exceptions. The key date is the “JF deadline”, with JF standing for Joint Favorable report. The JF deadline is the last day a legislative committee can vote for a bill to be sent to the Senate or House floor.

There are two committees, however, that stand apart: the deadline for Appropriations is April 27, while the deadline for Finance is April 28. This extra month accounts for the additional time, effort, and work needed to put together the legislature’s budget proposal, the session’s most complicated, contentious and vital bill. The tradition is that Appropriations releases its half of the budget – spending – first, with Finance releasing its side – revenue – the day after.

This year, however, the process might be more complicated. As this CT Mirror article explains, Democrats have a single-vote majority in both committees. Anything too controversial risks the budget proposal being voted down, so it is quite possible that the budget proposal produced by one of the committees (likely Finance) will be unfinished, meaning it doesn’t balance the budget. This would move most budget negotiations to the Floor – but in practice, legislative leadership and the Governor will attempt to work out a deal behind the scenes. Although it is not unusual to see some changes made this way, the negotiations are likely to be harder without a complete blueprint of the budget. Plenty of work ahead.

Spotlight: Youth Opportunity Atlas

This week we released our "Connecticut Youth Opportunity Atlas" report, offering a town-by-town analysis of the multiple factors that support or hinder youth in the state. Our analysis focuses on indicators that relate to struggling youth – young adults between 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school, pregnant youth, and youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

Main findings of the report include:

  • Youth opportunity is shaped by many community, peer, and educational influences.

  • Community income is a key component in understanding youth opportunity in Connecticut.

  • Communities where schools rely more heavily on exclusionary discipline have significantly more youth who disconnect from their schools and communities.

Visit our Tableau page for interactive visualizations and see how your town fares. You can download the full report here.

Upcoming Events:

Speak Out for Medicaid: Waterbury, March 22

Community leaders, parents, and health care providers will speak out against cuts to Medicaid and community health services, asking the Waterbury state legislative delegation to protect and defend parents’ continued access to essential health coverage. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 22, at 9:30 AM at Stay Well Health Center, 80 Phoenix Avenue, in Waterbury,.

Governor Malloy’s recently released budget reduces Medicaid (HUSKY A) income eligibility to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, potentially leaving thousands of low-income parents without coverage. This proposed reduction in eligibility comes on the heels of changes made in September 2015 impacting about 8,000 parents who were no longer eligible for Medicaid and did not take up private coverage through Access Health CT and are likely to be uninsured.. Even fewer of the 9,500 parents whose HUSKY coverage is targeted for elimination are likely to be able to afford coverage.

Similar events are planned in Windham, Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Norwalk and Norwich. Contact Ann Pratt at ann.prattccag@gmail.com if you have any questions.

What We Are Reading:

Two reminders: