In recent news...
Major developments and their effect on developmental services
The past two weeks have seen a flurry of activity in D.C. After the inauguration, President Trump proceeded to issue an executive order halting certain work related to Obamacare, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary, and both the timeline for, and shape of, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare continue to morph.
One of President Trump's first actions was to sign an executive order requiring all government agencies to stop taking any actions that "would impose a fiscal burden" on the states or individuals. This targets the individual mandate, requiring people to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. However, this type of piecemeal approach to changing the insurance market has the potential to destabilize the marketplace and prompt insurance companies to stop participating.
Betsy DeVos, an advocate for charter schools, was confirmed recently as Secretary of Education. Her confirmation provoked an outpouring of opposition, with two Republican Senators voting against her. Of particular concern to disability and special education advocates was her confirmation hearing. During the hearing, she was unsure about the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, requiring free, appropriate public education. She also indicated that the matter is better left to the states. As a result, advocates have expressed worry about her qualifications to head the Department.
Repeal, replace, repair... but when?
As heard in a leaked tape from a recent Republican policy retreat, legislators are still (privately) concerned about how to repeal and replace Obamacare. This has led to efforts to rebrand the GOP approach as "repair." Subsequently, two leading Senators, Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Lamar Alexander (Tennesse) have publicly expressed an openness to this more narrow approach.
Additional pressure is coming from the National Governors Association, which is requesting that any reforms "not shift costs to states" and "maintain predictability in federal programs while reforms are considered."
Most recently, President Trump has said that the full changes he is seeking could take until 2018 to accomplish, with House Speaker Paul Ryan saying they will be "done legislating... this year."
As pressure grows, it becomes harder to enact wide-ranging reforms (including to Medicare), particularly as opposition crystallizes. A recent example was seen at a town hall held by Representative Tom McClintock (R, Alta/Far Northern catchments). At the event, hundreds of protesters from his district and surrounding regions showed up to voice their opposition to these efforts.
And even without this growing grassroots opposition, the continued slow pace of appointments, including key mid- and upper-tier administrators, as well as a federal hiring freeze with very limited exceptions, creates a serious hurdle for the administrative processes needed to roll out any changes.