LSA-DN Weekly Update

Disability Network News
Friday, November 13, 2020


The Lutheran Services in America Strength & Service Series

Upcoming Series Webinar Dec. 2, 1–2 p.m. EST: Book Launch with LSA’s own Héctor Colón — “From Boxing Ring to Boardroom: 5 Essential Virtues for Life and Leadership”

Join us as we hear from Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan’s president and CEO, Hector Colón, about his experiences overcoming adversity to achieve personal and professional success in international boxing and as a nonprofit leader, as discussed in his book, “From Boxing Ring to Boardroom: 5 Essential Virtues for Life and Leadership.” Register here.

Honoring Our Front Line Heros —

Lutheran Services in America is proud to honor the incredibly brave front line workers serving during this historic time in our national network. This week we are launching a new digital booklet that offers every inspiring entry to date in our Front Line Heroes series. Our Summer 2020 issue highlights the courageous efforts of our members dating back to March, and is just the first collection in what will be a continuing campaign to lift up the impact our members are making on their communities across the country. You can find the summer issue and an overview video on our new Front Line Heroes page. Please feel free to share these resources on your own social media pages, and to email Caitlyn Gudmundsen ( with stories from your organization you would like to see included in our upcoming issues.

CMS Announces $165 million in New Funding for Money Follows the Person Demonstration Programs

On September 23rd the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the availability of up to $165 million in supplemental funding to states currently operating Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration programs. This funding is being provided to help state Medicaid programs jump-start efforts to transition individuals with disabilities and older adults from institutions and nursing facilities to home and community-based settings of their choosing.

According to CMS, this action delivers on the Administration’s commitment to transform Medicaid by fostering increased state flexibility and innovation and to ensure safety and quality for beneficiaries.

Advocacy Update

McConnell Seeking to Restart COVID Relief Bill Negotiations: In a busy week in Washington, DC, Joe Biden, declared president-elect by several news agencies over the weekend, has begun to form his transition team, while President Trump has sought to challenge the election results in a number of closely contested states.  On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that he would like to resume negotiations on passing a COVID-19 relief package but acknowledged that he and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi remain far apart on its size and composition.  Mr. McConnell supports a relatively modest $500 billion bill, while Speaker Pelosi has not moved away from the more than $2 trillion in spending passed by the House in early October, and differences remain on key provisions such as support to state and local governments, school aid, and vaccination distribution funding.  Prospects therefore remain dim for passage until after Mr. Biden takes office on January 20th.  The president-elect has said that passage of a relief bill is an immediate priority.   Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday on a challenge to strike down the Affordable Care Act.  If struck down, coverage of more than 23 million people under the law, primarily through Medicaid expansion in several states, could be in jeopardy.  Based on the justices' questions during the hearing, it appears that the court will uphold the law, but a decision will not be handed down until June 2021. President-elect Biden campaigned on a promise to defend and expand the law, and the incoming Congress could be considering legislation related to the act early next year.   Lutheran Services in America continues to work with other nonprofit organizations to urge passage of a COVID-19 relief bill now with additional Paycheck Protection Program funding and other support to aid them through the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus Resources Lutheran Services in America has compiled a list of COVID-19 news and resources that is regularly updated. In particular, we are tracking philanthropic and federal funding opportunities and requirements for our members and compiling a list of upcoming webinars, meetings, and events. Be sure to check out these pages and feel free to reach out to or with any related questions you have.


CMS Loosens Medicaid Managed Care Requirements

Medicaid managed care plans will face fewer regulatory burdens and enjoy new flexibility under a final rule announced Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The new rule loosens requirements imposed in 2016 on private Medicaid managed care plans that run the low-income health benefits at a monthly per-person cost to the state. Comprehensive managed care covers 70% of Medicaid enrollees, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And nearly half of the program’s spending—$300 billion in 2019—goes to the managed care plans.

More from Bloomberg Law (subscription required)

Stimulus, Spending Bills Top Congress’s Long To-Do List

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are racing to finish a substantial to-do list before the end of the year, trying again to pass another coronavirus relief bill and seeking to avoid a government shutdown after a mixed result for the parties on Election Day.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration had paused negotiations on a relief bill until after the election, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is set to take a more active role in the talks after Joe Biden defeated President Trump. Members of both parties say they are eager to pass another relief bill after months of delays, though the disagreements that plagued previous efforts persist.

Mr. McConnell said Tuesday that the two parties remain far apart on how large another package should be, as Democrats seek a bill topping $2 trillion and Republicans favor a $650 billion proposal.

More from The Wall Street Journal

President-elect Biden announces coronavirus task force made up of physicians and health experts

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced the members of his coronavirus task force, a group made up entirely of doctors and health experts, signaling his intent to seek a science-based approach to bring the raging pandemic under control.

Biden’s task force will have three co-chairs: Vivek H. Murthy, surgeon general during the Obama administration; David Kessler, Food and Drug Administration commissioner under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. Murthy and Kessler have briefed Biden for months on the pandemic.

Biden will inherit the worst crisis since the Great Depression, made more difficult by President Trump’s refusal to concede the election and commit to a peaceful transition of power. The Trump administration has not put forward national plans for testing, contact tracing and resolving shortages in personal protective equipment that hospitals and health-care facilities are experiencing again as the nation enters its third surge of the virus.

More from The Washington Post

Disability Groups Worried As Supreme Court Weighs Affordable Care Act

Advocates say that people with disabilities have a lot to lose as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether or not to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

The high court heard arguments Tuesday in a case brought by Texas and backed by the Trump administration and several other Republican-led states challenging the federal health care law.

The suit, California v. Texas, alleges that the law’s “individual mandate,” requiring that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty, is unconstitutional because Congress eliminated the penalty in 2017. Accordingly, those who brought the claim say that given how central the mandate is to the law, the Affordable Care Act should be thrown out in its entirety.

More from Disability Scoop

Supreme Court appears ready to uphold Affordable Care Act over latest challenge from Trump, GOP

A majority of the Supreme Court appeared ready Tuesday to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s essential components in the face of the latest challenge to the health care law brought by Republican-led states and the Trump administration.

Two key members of the court — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — said plainly during two hours of teleconferenced arguments that Congress’s decision in 2017 to zero-out the penalty for not buying health insurance did not indicate a desire to kill the entire law.

With that, the latest effort to derail President Barack Obama’s landmark domestic achievement seemed likely to meet the fate of past endeavors. President Trump and Republicans have never summoned the votes to repeal the measure — even when in control of Congress and the White House. And the court has been unwilling to do the work for them.

More from The Washington Post

Pfizer’s Early Data Shows Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective

The drug maker Pfizer announced on Monday that an early analysis of its coronavirus vaccine trial suggested the vaccine was robustly effective in preventing Covid-19, a promising development as the world has waited anxiously for any positive news about a pandemic that has killed more than 1.2 million people.

Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with the German drugmaker BioNTech, released only sparse details from its clinical trial, based on the first formal review of the data by an outside panel of experts.

The company said that the analysis found that the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of prior coronavirus infection. If the results hold up, that level of protection would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles. No serious safety concerns have been observed, the company said.

More from The New York Times


Disability leaders condemn NJ's handling of COVID, worry about 2nd wave

New Jersey residents with disabilities and their advocates are angry with the state and how it failed their high-risk community during the pandemic, shows a new report.

The report outlines 23 ways in which the state failed to protect the disabled community during the crisis.

People with disabilities, which make up 24% of the state's population according to the CDC, were left aside and outside of the planning process because of a lack of understanding of the community, how they live and the help they needed, the report states.

"More than ever, this pandemic has focused a spotlight on the marginalization of the voices, needs, and rights of people with disabilities not just in New Jersey but nationwide. Additionally, the rights of parents of individuals with disabilities have been abrogated, and their voices are silenced by medical and political leaders," states the report.

More from

Federal appeals court allows lawsuit against Florida legislature for alleged ADA violation

In an en banc opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated its own opinion from January on Monday in a case accusing the Florida legislature of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

The suit was brought under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act against Floridian entities and officials for failing to provide captioning for live and archived videos of the state’s legislative proceedings.

The plaintiffs in this case originally sent a letter requesting the defendants provide captioning back in 2017 to provide those who are deaf or hard of hearing access to the videos of legislative proceedings. The plaintiffs claimed that, without being able to access the videos, they were being denied meaningful participation in the democratic process.

More from Jurist


Developmental Disabilities Heighten Risk of Covid Death

People with intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders are three times more likely to die if they have Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, compared with others with the diagnosis, according to a large analysis of insurance claims data.

The finding raises complex questions about how to allocate new vaccines as they become available in limited supplies. The drug maker Pfizer announced this week that its experimental vaccine is performing well in clinical trials.

So far, guidelines for distributing vaccines have recommended prioritizing emergency workers, health care providers and other essential workers, as well as people at heightened risk for severe disease, including some older adults and those with certain chronic illnesses.

More from The New York Times

Even In Adulthood, Autism Challenges Linger For Caregivers

Aging caregivers of adults with autism are struggling and new research finds that some factors make the burden especially great.

The severity of an individual’s autism and their ability to complete activities of daily living — everything from bathing to preparing meals — are directly tied to the level of caregiver burden experienced by parents, according to findings from a study published recently in the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Researchers surveyed 320 parents, all over age 50, of adult children with autism. They were asked about their family situation, their level of caregiver burden and to rate their child’s abilities in communication, behavior and socialization as well as in performing basic self-care and other day-to-day activities. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 51 of the caregivers.

More from Disability Scoop


The Power of Hearing President-Elect Biden Vow to Support the Disability Community

If you have anxiety and you also are really concerned about the state of our country, this week was likely not a good week for you. I know it wasn’t for me. The cliffhanger experience of finding out who was going to lead our country into the future was excruciating.

Personally, I believe there was really only one option this election for reasons I won’t get into here. But I will say that I have breathed a collective sigh of relief along with millions of other people. I felt the pride of being an American again after watching President-Elect Joe Biden give his acceptance speech in front of the nation Saturday night. He repeatedly mentioned the mandate he felt to help the American people, and the one thing that really struck a chord with me, that stood out most, was his promise to help the disabled community. We are often the most overlooked community. We severely lack sufficient advocacy in our government to create legislation that protects our rights and expands our potential as contributing members of society.

More from MSN news


Regardless of party, the next Congress must prioritize disability issues

Almost 160 million Americans voted this year, the highest voter turnout rate since 1900. If anything, this election has shown us Americans can be mobilized to vote based on issues that matter to them. By that measure, it's time to recognize the political clout of Americans with disabilities, whose projected voter turnout rate of 91 percent far surpassed that of the general populace at about 65 percent. This research comes from "The State of Voters with Disabilities," a survey Easterseals conducted with Pathfinder Opinion Research between Oct. 20-25 using a nationally representative sample of adults with disabilities. It found 89 percent of people with disabilities were registered to vote; 47 percent (or 15.9 million) had already voted; 49 percent (or 16.5 million) planned to "definitely" vote (44 percent) or "probably" vote (5 percent). But the importance of these numbers is underscored by the steady growth of this cohort and its increasing activism on issues that impact their quality of life. Americans with disabilities are of every ethnicity and race, and their numbers increase with age. Equally important is the fact that they fall almost equally on both sides of the party divide. In a 2016 post-election survey, Americans with disabilities' political preferences were similar to those of all voters: 46 percent said they voted for Hillary Clinton and 45 percent said they voted for Donald Trump, Pew Research reported.

More from The Hill

Upcoming Events

LSA-DN 2021 Winter Meeting (virtual)
Dates TBD


For more information on our topic specific work groups, please email Doug Walter at

  • Policy & Advocacy Team
  • Culture and Engagement Workgroup
  • Administrative Cost Survey Working Group

Keep in Touch

Lisa Morgan
DN Convener
Chief Operating Officer, enCircle

Mary Mulliet
DN Treasurer
Vice President of Community Services, Samaritas

Doug Walter
Director of Policy and Advocacy, Disability Network, Lutheran Services in America