sunset view of the U.S. Capitol dome from a distance

Small Victories, but Stimulus Bill Overlooks Many Critical Needs of People With Disabilities, Their Families and Workforce in COVID-19 Crisis

Washington, D.C. – While the legislation passed by Congress this week to address the COVID-19 pandemic will help in some ways, many of the grave issues facing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), their families, and workforce, were ignored.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for everyone, and everyone includes people with disabilities and their families. While this bill does provide some important support in this pandemic, there are huge risks facing people with disabilities, their families, and the direct support professional workforce that were largely ignored in this response,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The big missing pieces in this $2 trillion bill are:

No new funds for in-home supports. As we have seen in nursing homes in Washington state and on cruise ships, COVID-19 is particularly dangerous in congregate settings. To address the needs of people with I/DD who need care at home, Congress must approve funding to expand home and community-based services and minimize the risk of people with disabilities being forced into institutions. States need these additional, new dollars to minimize waiting lists for home and community-based services, and to hire enough workers, provide wage increases and overtime pay to the workforce.

Doesn’t address the shortage of personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, needed for direct support professionals and providers to be safe. The direct support professional, or DSP, staff often help people with disabilities with very personal tasks that can’t be done from six feet away, yet the gear necessary to do these tasks safely is scarce, and Congress did not expand access to personal protective equipment for DSPs. This will lead to illness and death.

No paid time off for family caregivers of people with disabilities. A family caregiver who has to take off from work to care for a loved one with disabilities is not guaranteed paid time off.  Their employer, if they provide time off, will not be eligible for the tax credits Congress provided for employers to cover the costs of paid sick days and expanded Family and Medical Leave Act. As disability service providers have been ordered by government agencies to stop some services, families are scrambling to provide care to their family members with a disability, often at the expense of their job.

Forcing people with disabilities receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to jump through needless hoops to access stimulus payments. People with disabilities were included in the stimulus payments, Recovery Rebates, which are exempt from asset and income limits. But to access payments, people must have filed 2018 or 2019 taxes, or now file them, even people with I/DD who receive SSI who earn too little to file taxes.

“We know that thousands of people with disabilities and family members implored their Members of Congress to include these needs in this bill. We are going to have to be a lot louder in the coming weeks, as we face the grim reality of this virus spreading further, putting the health, wellbeing, and lives of people with disabilities, their family members, and direct support professionals on the line,” said Berns.

The stimulus package does respond to some critical needs of people with I/DD and their families by:

Including non-profit organizations that receive Medicaid funds in the small business loan assistance. At first left out of the package, this inclusion is incredibly important for people with disabilities, family members, and service providers because without access to small business loans, some service providers may not survive.

Allowing direct support professionals to accompany and assist the people they support when they are in the hospital. Prior to this bill, this level of support was not allowed. This will assist individuals who end up hospitalized with their transition home after they recover.

Funding for special education and some protections for students. Additional funds that can be used for various education programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. The bill does not grant the Department of Education any authority to waive the IDEA, but it does include a directive for the Secretary of Education to make recommendations for waivers for education laws, including IDEA.

Funding for housing. The bill provides $12 billion in funding for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs, and important eviction and foreclosure protections.

Extending, but not permanently putting in place, a successful program which moves people with disabilities out of segregated settings and into the community. Money Follows the Person program, or MFP, provides flexibilities and funds to support states to continue transitions to the community and away from congregate settings. However, at a time when the risk for institutionalization is high, instead of permanently extending MFP, Congress opted for its fifth short term extension, which now expires November 30, 2020. We will continue to seek permanent reauthorization of this program.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The United States Capitol Building

The Disability Community Must Once Again Show #WeAreEssential

By: Nicole Jorwic, Senior Director of Public Policy, The Arc

Here we are again, fighting for our lives in Congressional negotiations – this time during a global pandemic. And the outcome will impact the services people with disabilities rely on, strain systems that provide those services, and may close down service providers all over the country that support people with disabilities to live the lives they choose.

This is far from the first time in my five years in Washington, DC, that I have watched Congress overlook the disability community. In 2017, the year Congress tried again and again to cut funding to Medicaid, a program that people with disabilities rely on for supports and services, we made them pay attention. But it took people with disabilities and their families coming forward to share their most personal stories, and some literally putting their bodies on the line, to show Congress that Medicaid means life and death. Together we were strong enough to hold off the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, protect the integrity of the Medicaid program, and show the power of our community.

And, again, it seems the issues that matter to the disability community are being ignored. Our chapter network is on the front line of this pandemic: some of the people with disabilities they serve have passed away from COVID-19, and others don’t have the supplies for staff to safely serve or quarantine. The direct support professional, or DSP, staff often help people with disabilities with very personal tasks that can’t be done from six feet away, yet the gear necessary to do these tasks safely is scarce. And in the coming weeks and months, we know that some service providers will be forced to close, leaving families like mine with nowhere to go.

But the fight to save Medicaid in 2017 showed that when we band together as one voice, we can make things happen.

Despite the magnitude of what we are facing as a country, this is the time we must once again share our stories. We must demand that Congress address the needs of the disability community in legislation to combat COVID-19.

Here is what Congress should do:

  • COVID-19 is particularly dangerous in congregate settings, and too many people with disabilities are currently in those settings, or at risk of unnecessarily ending up in those settings if there are not enough supports for services at home and in the community. Congress should ensure that legislation includes funds ($10-$15 billion) to support delivery of safer home and community-based services AND funding to support the hiring and hazard pay for the community workforce.
  • COVID-19 is requiring heroic work from health care professionals from around the country. Those professionals include DSPs and home health workers who do not have the personal protective equipment that they need to keep themselves and the people with disabilities that they serve safe. This will lead to illness and death. Congress should ensure that DSPs and home health aides have the supplies they need.
  • COVID-19 is closing programs all over the country, leaving people with disabilities and their families scrambling to come up with alternate supports. In many cases family caregivers won’t be able to work so that they can provide those services and supports. Right now, the legislation passed will not cover paid leave or paid sick leave for family members, like me, who may need to miss work to provide care for adults with disabilities and aging family members.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic economic impact is causing Congress to consider cash payments to individuals. People with disabilities should receive an equal amount of stimulus as everyone else without it impacting their access to Medicaid and other social support programs with strict asset limits. Congress should also boost Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments to ensure that people with disabilities have the resources to protect themselves.

The asks of the disability community around this crisis are simple: recognize that whether it is individuals with disabilities, their family members, or the DSP workforce, #WeAreEssential.

Ready to act with us? Here are three easy ways:

Woman on escalator wearing a face mask; she's holding a cell phone in one hand and her suitcase handle in the other

COVID-19 Legislation First Step in Addressing Crisis for People With Disabilities, Families

Washington, D.C. – People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are facing threats to their health and wellbeing due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the legislation passed by Congress and on its way to President Trump’s desk is a start in addressing their needs in this crisis.

The legislation includes:

  • A 6.2% increase in federal reimbursement for state Medicaid programs (FMAP), which will help state governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic;
  • Emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover testing;
  • Expanded nutrition assistance and crucial waivers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and school meals;
  • Expanded unemployment insurance; and
  • Limited paid sick day and paid leave provisions that do not explicitly include caregivers for people with disabilities.

“This crisis is going to have a major impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and caregivers, and this legislation is a good first step in meeting their needs. As this crisis evolves, more will have to be done at the federal level for all Americans, particularly those with disabilities, their families, and caregivers,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc is working hard with legislators to ensure that the next package more directly covers the unique needs of people with disabilities, their families and the direct support workforce:

  • An additional FMAP increase that creates a grant program to support access to home and community-based services and to support the direct support professional (DSP) workforce with better pay during the crisis, and greater flexibilities in hiring and service provision.
  • A permanent reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person program, or MFP, which gives funds to states to move people with disabilities out of segregated settings and into the community. There is a real threat to unnecessary institutionalization. The flexibilities and funds from permanent MFP will support states to continue transitions to the community and away from congregate settings.
  • Economic stimulus with increased asset limits. For people with I/DD receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Medicaid, strict asset limits must be maintained to receive the benefits. We strongly support stimulus for low income individuals, but because of the asset limits, people with I/DD may end up with too much money in the bank, jeopardizing their SSI and/or Medicaid. Asset limits should be increased or paused to ensure that people with disabilities are able to benefit from the stimulus without jeopardizing their benefits.

“Without addressing these issues, the lives of people with disabilities and their families could be altered with no turning back. People could be placed into institutions and other congregate settings in violation of their rights and posing risk to their health. Families could be more pressed to choose between a paycheck and health and well-being. And our current DSP workforce crisis could get even worse, impacting day to day life for millions of people with disabilities. We have an opportunity in the coming days to address these big issues, and we are urging Congress to act swiftly,” said Berns.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Close up of a microscope

Coronavirus Relief Bill: The Arc Fights for Disability Community

The Arc is pleased that Congress is recognizing the unique and vital needs that people with disabilities have when facing the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency relief bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today includes important and specific measures that would help mitigate the potentially catastrophic impacts of the novel coronavirus on millions of people with disabilities.

As we grow increasingly concerned over the threat of COVID-19 to people with disabilities, their families, and the workforce that supports them, we are encouraged that the House bill includes increased federal reimbursement for state Medicaid programs, which will help the uninsured gain access to COVID-19 testing, emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover testing, expanded nutrition assistance, and paid sick days and paid leave.

We are glad to see that the paid sick time and paid leave provision could be used to care for loved ones who are “otherwise in need of care.” That would cover workers who take time off to care for a loved one with a disability who has lost their primary source of care due to the new coronavirus.

As the legislation moves through Congress, we are advocating for specific funding to support the direct support professional workforce that supports people with disabilities, whose wages largely come from Medicaid, and that they are covered by both paid sick days and paid leave policies put in place by this legislation. Further, people with disabilities must be able to have access to a 90-day supply of medication and medical supply re-fills.

“This bill addresses many of the needs of people with disabilities in this global crisis. As the coronavirus relief bill moves through Congress, the paid sick days and paid leave policy must include funding to cover our direct support workforce,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “We fear that without appropriate action by Congress and President Trump, the coronavirus pandemic could lead to further exacerbation of the workforce crisis and the unnecessary placement of people with disabilities and aging adults into institutions and other congregate settings in violation of their rights and posing risk to their health.”

The Arc logo

The Arc, Allies, and Self-Advocates Finally ‘Stop the Shock’

WASHINGTON – After too long of a wait, The Arc celebrates a victory in our seemingly never-ending fight to underscore the value and human dignity of the lives of people with disabilities. After years in limbo, the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday it will finally ban the use of the electric shock device that has inflicted painful abuse on residents of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts for decades. JRC is an institution for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues.

By the FDA’s own count, as many as 50 JRC residents wear the shock device. Staff members use remote controls to administer shocks for perceived misbehavior. JRC uses the barbaric and inhumane practice, despite substantial evidence that the shocks are painful and traumatizing to residents.

“The Arc and The Arc of Massachusetts, alongside several disability rights organizations and empowered self-advocates across the country, fought for decades to ‘stop the shock’ and to end abusive and cruel practices masquerading as ‘behavioral treatments.’ People with disabilities deserve to live free from fear and torture. The FDA’s decision, years in the making, to ban the use of the electric shock device is a hard-fought victory and a testament to what is possible when disability advocates fight their hardest for change and for the civil rights of people with disabilities. We hope the ban is a significant step in ending the use of all aversive procedures on people with disabilities, who deserve to be supported with dignity,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

A woman in a floral bathing suit lays in a beach chair by the pool, smiling

This Black History Month, We Salute Lois Curtis

Lois relaxing at the pool

This Black History Month, we celebrate the life and legacy of our African American heroes. They endured, persisted, and paved the way – for us all.

The Arc salutes Lois Curtis. Ms. Curtis’ bravery and refusal to live behind the dark walls of a state institution led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead v. L.C. decision in 1999. The case established that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is a form of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act – and that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community rather than institutions.

More than 20 years after Ms. Curtis returned to the community, she is living life to the fullest.

“I am doing pretty good,” Ms. Curtis tells The Arc.

She lives in her own home near Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Curtis, 52, has a new and blossoming passion for singing and song writing. She enjoys writing original songs and her own versions of Motown hits. Ms. Curtis records at a local recording studio and takes keyboarding lessons. She is also invited to sing for groups in the Atlanta area.

Ms. Curtis says singing makes her feel good and reminds her of good memories with her mother.

These days, Ms. Curtis travels often with her family and direct support professional. She enjoys vacationing in Florida and her family is currently planning a trip back to Miramar Beach.

She loves church, going to the movies, shopping, getting her nails done, and going out to eat. Her favorite cuisine is Mexican.

Ms. Curtis’ longtime direct support staff Pertula Mark says it is a joy to see her happy. There are some tough days when Ms. Curtis talks about her time living in the institution or runs into people she knew at the facility.

Despite the pain of the past, Ms. Curtis, Olmstead co-plaintiff Elaine Wilson, who died in 2005, and attorney Sue Jamieson inspire us all to keep fighting for inclusion, community living, and equality for people with disabilities.

Thank you, Ms. Curtis!

Photo of desks in a classroom with dim, moody lighting

Class Action Complaint Filed in West Virginia Alleging Systemic Disability Discrimination in Kanawha County Schools

Charleston, WV – The Arc of West Virginia is joining parents of a child with autism in filing a class action complaint in federal court in Charleston alleging widespread failures by Kanawha County Schools (KCS) to educate children with disabilities, including autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Specifically, the complaint, filed Friday, asserts that KCS—the public school district serving the Charleston metro area—has failed to provide behavioral supports to students with disabilities and is instead punishing them by sending them home instead of educating them. Attorneys for The Arc of West Virginia and the parents—Disability Rights of West Virginia, Mountain State Justice, The Arc, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the global law firm Latham & Watkins LLP—allege that KCS has violated federal laws protecting students with disabilities.

“The Arc has long fought for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be educated in their neighborhood schools, with appropriate supports,” said Liz Ford, Executive Director of The Arc of West Virginia. “KCS’ systemic failure to provide such supports to students with disability-related behaviors has led to punishment, segregation from classmates without disabilities, and loss of valuable instruction time. This is unacceptable to The Arc and our constituents in West Virginia.”

“Students with disabilities and behavioral support needs can thrive in school, graduate with diplomas, and transition to successful adulthood provided they receive the appropriate supports to which they are entitled under federal law. It is critical that KCS take responsibility for teaching all of its students, not just some,” said Jeremiah Underhill, Legal Director of Disability Rights of West Virginia.

Data from the West Virginia Department of Education shows that over 1,000 children with disabilities enrolled in KCS were removed from their classrooms during the 2018-2019 school year after their schools suspended them. This number does not include all of the additional students with disability-related behaviors whose schools asked their parents to take children out of the school before the end of the school day, or to keep them at home, without formally suspending them. It also does not include students with disabilities who were expelled from school for their behavior; those who were separated unnecessarily from mainstream classrooms and moved to segregated classrooms where they interact only with other students with disabilities and receive an inferior education; or those who were placed on “homebound” status where they may receive only a few hours of tutoring each week. These students are not receiving critical behavioral supports that can help them be successful in the general education classroom with their classmates without disabilities.

“It is heartbreaking to see KCS undermine the great potential of students with disabilities by failing to provide necessary supports and, ultimately, removing them from the classroom, causing them to fall farther and farther behind academically and socially,” said Lewis Bossing, Senior Staff Attorney with the Bazelon Center. “And the problem is only getting worse: in the 2018-2019 school year, KCS removed nearly 250 more students with disabilities from the classroom than in the prior academic year, despite overall KCS enrollment decreasing during that same period.”

Specifically, the complaint alleges that KCS is: 1) violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to provide children with disabilities with the special education they need to receive a “free appropriate public education” in the least restrictive environment; and 2) violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and the West Virginia Human Rights Act by failing to educate children with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, and denying them equal educational opportunity.

“We are seeing KCS discipline students with disabilities for ‘infractions’ as minor as touching another student with a plastic fork or refusing to get off the playground slide at the end of recess. Students are receiving behavior supports that take the form of rote “code of conduct” checklists rather than the individualized supports that the IDEA requires to adequately support children to succeed in school,” said Lydia Milnes, an attorney with Mountain State Justice.

In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 that the “IDEA demands more.” Specifically, the Court provided a new and more demanding standard for what schools must do to adequately educate students with disabilities, requiring that school districts provide “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” and provide students with disabilities the opportunity to meet “challenging objectives” with “appropriately ambitious” special education. For virtually all children, this means receiving instruction and services in the general education classroom, with appropriate supports, alongside students without disabilities. In addition, in 1999, in Olmstead v. L.C., the Court held that the ADA prohibits the needless isolation or segregation of people with disabilities. The ADA applies to public schools, which cannot unnecessarily segregate students with disabilities, nor deny them equal opportunities.

“KCS’ systemic failures to support students with disabilities in the least restrictive, most integrated setting, and overuse of punitive disciplinary measures for behavior that is disability-related, cannot be justified in light of recent and longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said Michael Faris, Latham & Watkins partner. “By failing to adhere to the IDEA and ADA, KCS is diminishing our clients’ ability to secure the education to which they are entitled by law. We look forward to ensuring that the law is upheld.”

About The Arc

The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. In partnership with its network of 650 chapters across the country, including The Arc of West Virginia, The Arc works to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, work, and learn in the community free from discrimination. To learn more, visit www.thearc.org and www.thearcofwv.org

About Disability Rights of West Virginia

Disability Rights of West Virginia (DRWV) is the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in West Virginia. DRWV protects and advocates for the human and legal rights of persons with disabilities. To learn more, visit https://www.drofwv.org/.

About Mountain State Justice

Mountain State Justice is a non-profit legal services firm dedicated to redressing entrenched and emerging systemic social, political, and economic imbalances of power for underserved West Virginians, through legal advocacy and community empowerment offered regardless of ability to pay. To learn more, visit https://mountainstatejustice.org/.

About The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is a national legal advocacy organization protecting and advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities. The Center promotes laws and policies that enable adults and children with mental disabilities to live independently in their own homes, schools, and communities, and to enjoy the same opportunities that everyone else does. To learn more, visit www.bazelon.org.

About Latham & Watkins LLP

Latham & Watkins LLP is global law firm with more than 2,700 lawyers located in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. For more information, please visit its website at www.lw.com.

MLK Day logo that says "MLK Day of Service - Corporation for National and Community Service"

The Arc Joins #MLKDay of Service to End Food Insecurity

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, The Arc will once again commemorate the life of Dr. King and his dream for equality and civil rights for all people. The iconic civil rights leader’s passionate and persistent fight for equality and against discrimination paved the way for the disability community to advance and persevere in its ongoing fight for equality, rights, and inclusion.

In honor of his work, The Arc is making it a day on, not a day off! This year, several chapters of The Arc and partner organizations will work together to address food insecurity and promote inclusive volunteering to bring together people with and without disabilities to serve their communities.

“People with disabilities are often perceived as the ones always in need of help, but in reality, they also have the desire and ability to help others and to play an active role in strengthening their own communities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “In the true spirit of Dr. King, the Day of Service shines a light on what all people – including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities – can do to love, uplift, and support their neighbors.”

Interested in participating on a volunteer project with one of our 2020 subgrantees? See if there’s a volunteer event near you in the list below! You can also search the national database for all opportunities to get involved.

A graphic depicting Martin Luther King, Jr. that reads "25th MLK Day of Service - make it a day on, not a day off. January 20, 2020. Volunteer at MLKDay.gov.

2020 MLK Day of Service Partner Organizations

If you’re looking for more information on volunteering and people with disabilities, check out our free resources.

Black and white photograph of a hallway with open doors

The Arc Disgusted by Allegations of Human Subject Experiments, Abuse, and Inadequate Care in Iowa State Institutions for People With Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – The Arc is disgusted by monstrous allegations against two institutions for people with intellectual disabilities operated by the state of Iowa. The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether the state violated the civil rights of residents at the Glenwood Resource Center by subjecting them to sexual arousal studies and other “harmful and uncontrolled human subject experiments.” According to reports, the Justice Department is also looking into allegations of inadequate care, needless restraint, and physical injury at Glenwood, in addition to possible violations of the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act at Glenwood and the Woodward Resource Center.

“We are sickened and outraged. The allegations include degrading and dehumanizing practices, medical invasions in violation of the bodily integrity and dignity of people with disabilities, and reportedly, an increase in deaths.

“This type of alleged treatment is reminiscent of a dark history of coerced medical experimentation and abuse – it’s repugnant and unacceptable. The disability community refuses to go back to those days,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “We will be watching this investigation closely. Regardless of the outcome, The Arc and our allies continue our adamant calls to shut down every institution in the nation as soon possible.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

close up of medical form with stethoscope

Open Enrollment and Disability: What You Need to Know

Disability Open Enrollment Week of Action kicks off Sunday, November 17, 2019 — but you can enroll until December 15!

The Arc believes that everyone, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, should have timely access to high quality, comprehensive, accessible, affordable, appropriate health care that meets their individual needs, maximizes health, well-being and function, and increases independence and community participation.

If you are uninsured or looking for more affordable health insurance, visit healthcare.gov or your state’s Marketplace or health insurance exchange. During the open enrollment period from November 1, 2019 – December 15, 2019, you can review private health insurance options and purchase coverage. People with low and moderate incomes may be able to get financial help to pay for premiums and other cost-sharing may be available for individuals and families, depending on the plan.

If you have a disability or health condition, here are key questions to ask:

  • Is there a broad range of health care providers included in the plan’s network?
  • Are there enough medical specialists in the network to meet your needs?
  • Are needed medications included in the plan’s list of covered drugs?
  • Is there adequate access to non-clinical, disability-specific services and supports?
  • Does the plan have service limits, such as caps on the number of office visits for therapy services?
  • Are mental health services covered to the same extent as other “physical” health needs?

How to get help:

Purchasing health insurance can be complicated. If you or your family member needs assistance, healthcare.gov can help. Each state has health insurance “Navigators” to assist with enrollment. Individual health plan information should be available on the website.

If you already have health insurance through the Marketplace, open enrollment is a good time to see if your coverage still meets your needs. It is also important to update income and household information to make sure you are receiving available assistance and to help avoid penalties, if your income has increased.

You can also sign up for insurance outside of open enrollment, if you lose your job, marry, divorce, or have a baby.