MaineCare now allows Telehealth to deliver pharmacy services

In a special ruling made on March 16, 2020 by the Division of Policy of MaineCare, Chapter 101 of MaineCare Benefits Manual Chapter I, Section 4, Telehealth services for Pharmacy Services are now covered by MaineCARE.

In the “concise summary” the change in rules states:

This emergency rulemaking will remove the MaineCare Benefits Manual (MBM), Chapter I, Section 4, Telehealth Services blanket prohibition against providers utilizing telehealth to deliver services under the MBM, Chapter II, Section 80, Pharmacy Services. Pursuant to 5 M.R.S. Section 8054, the Department has determined that immediate adoption of this rule is necessary to avoid a potentially severe and immediate threat to public health, safety or general welfare. The Department’s findings of emergency are set forth in detail in the Emergency Basis Statement. Maine is facing a substantial public health threat posed by the global spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. As a preemptive action by the Department, Pharmacy Services will be available via telehealth when medically necessary and appropriate.

This emergency rule change will take effect upon adoption and will be in effect for 90 days (5 M.R.S. § 8054). The Department is concurrently engaging in the routine technical rulemaking process for Section 4 to prevent a lapse in the rule and added services.

Please use this link to see the new rules and rulemaking documents

 

US Department of Education updates guidance

The United States Department of Education (USDOE), in response to apparent incorrect assumptions being made across the nation, that providing educational services to student with disabilities via “distance instruction” presents too many barriers. On March 21, 2020 the USDOE published, Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities. 

This guidance states the following:

At the outset, OCR and OSERS must address a serious misunderstanding that has recently circulated within the educational community. As school districts nationwide take necessary steps to protect the health and safety of their students, many are moving to virtual or online education (distance instruction). Some educators, however, have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that federal disability law presents insurmountable barriers to remote education. This is simply not true. We remind schools they should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.

To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), † Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction. School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to these students. In this unique and ever-changing environment, OCR and OSERS recognize that these exceptional circumstances may affect how all educational and related services and supports are provided, and the Department will offer flexibility where possible. However, school districts must remember that the provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided through distance instruction provided virtually, online, or  telephonically.

The Department understands that, during this national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided. While some schools might choose to safely, and in accordance with state law, provide certain IEP services to some students in-person, it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some institutions, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language educational services. Many disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online. These may include, for instance, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing.

It is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented national emergency. As mentioned above, FAPE may be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing special education and related
services to students. Where, due to the global pandemic and resulting closures of schools, there has been an inevitable delay in providing services – or even making decisions about how to provide services – IEP teams (as noted in the March 12, 2020 guidance) must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume normal operations.

Finally, although federal law requires distance instruction to be accessible to students with disabilities, it does not mandate specific methodologies. Where technology itself imposes a barrier to access or where educational materials simply are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students. For example, if a teacher who has a blind student in her class is working from home and cannot distribute a document accessible to that student, she can distribute to the rest of the class an inaccessible document and, if appropriate for the student, read the document over the phone to the blind student or provide the blind student with an audio recording of a reading of the document aloud.

Download and read this entire PDF document: Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities…

US Department of Education – Guidance on COVID-19

In an article published by Disability Scoop, the US Department of Education has offered guidance to educators across the nation on how to handle the needs of students with disabilities.

The article notes:

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a webinar and fact sheet this week for education leaders aimed at ensuring that students’ civil rights are upheld while schools are closed due to COVID-19.

The webinar reminds school officials that distance learning must be accessible unless “equally effective alternate access is provided.”

Online learning tools should be compatible with any assistive technology that students use and schools must regularly test their online offerings for accessibility, the Education Department said.

Building Financial Solutions for People with Disabilities

The following free webinar is from the US Department of Labor

Get Empowered: Make the Most of Your Job and Improve Your Financial Security Building Financial Solutions for People with Disabilities

February 27, 2020 – 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. ET

showing money growthIf you are a person with a disability who is getting ready to enter the workforce or who recently did, you probably have a lot of questions related to your new job and your financial security. We want to help you find the answers so that you are empowered to take steps to achieve your financial goals.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and America Saves Week, join the U.S. Department of Labor, America Saves, and the LEAD Center for a webcast to learn about ways to improve your financial security. National experts from the National Disability Institute will discuss ABLE accounts that can help you save for some of your goals without threatening disability benefits. Hear a personal account from staff at the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy about moving from disability benefits to employment and achieving financial independence. The Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration will provide information and resources on financial planning to help achieve your goals. This includes budgeting, managing debt and determining a target retirement saving rate so you can make the most of your workplace-provided retirement plan. Learn more about workplace-provided retirement saving plans – the easiest way to save for a secure retirement.  America Saves will share how direct deposit can help with saving for all of your goals.

So, during America Saves Week, get empowered. The more you know, the more prepared you will be to make decisions for your financial security today and in the future. Start today by registering for this webcast!

Use this link to register for this webinar…

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by PixaBay

Accessible Polling Facilities and the ADA

The word "vote" with a wheelchair embeddedThe Great Lakes ADA Center in collaboration with the ADA National Network invites you to attend the March ADA Audio Conference Series session titled “Accessible Polling Facilities and the ADA” featuring  Julie Brinkhoff, Co-Director/PI, Great Plains ADA Center.

Session Description: This presentation will cover resources available to election officials to evaluate the accessibility of polling locations, specifically the ADA Checklist for Polling Places developed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2016. The presentation will discuss training polling place staff and volunteers on key issues related to disability voting rights, disability awareness, and avoiding barriers to voting access. The presentation will include real life examples, images and graphics to illustrate the content.

Date: March 17, 2020

Time: 2:00 – 3:30 pm Eastern Time

Cost: Free

This session is offered via the telephone and/or via a web based webinar platform. The session will be captioned via the web based webinar platform.

Registration is available at www.ada-audio.org  (You will need to set up an account if you do not have one already).

Questions regarding the session should be directed to webinars@adagreatlakes.org or at 877-232-1990 (V/TTY).

Update of Accessibility Guidelines for Rail Cars

From the U.S. Access Board

US Access Board logoPublic Hearing on the Advance Notice on Updating the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Rail Vehicles
March 10, 2020, 2:00 – 4:00 (ET)
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Access Board is initiating rulemaking to update its accessibility guidelines for rail cars covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeks public comment on this effort. As indicated in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking it published on 2-14-2020, the Board plans to update provisions in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles that apply to vehicles used in fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, and intercity rail. The Board requests information from the public for its use in developing a proposed rule.

The Board intends to update these guidelines, which were published in 1991, according to an advisory panel it organized. The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee, which included representatives from advocacy organizations, transit operators, rail car manufacturers, and other stakeholders, reviewed the existing guidelines for rail vehicles and recommended how they should be updated to address accessibility issues, advances in technology, changes in car design, and other factors. The Committee’s report provides recommendations on provisions for vehicle communications, boarding and alighting, on-board circulation, seating, and rooms and spaces.

The advance notice discusses the committee’s report and includes questions posed by the Board. The Board seeks comment on both the substance of the recommendations from the committee as well as related questions about the feasibility or potential impacts on vehicle design, operations, and cost. It is also interested in research, data, and technologies on improved accessibility to rail vehicles.

Questions raised in the notice address coverage of new and remanufactured vehicles, variable message signs, hearing induction loops, vehicle ramps and lifts, car doors, between-car barriers, handrails and stanchions, wheelchair spaces, and vertical access in bi-level cars. The Board will use the information collected to draft a proposed rule which also will be made available for public comment.

The advance notice, which includes Instructions for submitting comments, is posted at www.regulations.gov (Docket ATBCB-2020-0002). Comments are due May 14, 2020.

In addition, the Board will hold a public hearing on March 10 from 2:00 – 4:00 (ET) that will provide an opportunity to submit comments either in person or by phone. Those who wish to provide testimony should contact Rose Marie Bunales at (202) 272-0006 or bunales@access-board.gov .

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Juliet Shoultz at (202) 272-0045 or shoultz@access-board.gov for technical questions or Wendy Marshall at (202) 272-0043 or marshall@access-board.gov for legal questions.

 

State provides guidance on new Hearing Aid mandate

Regarding the recently passed and enacted legislation related to 24-A M.R.S. § 2762, a law which requires health insurance carriers in Maine to provide hearing aid coverage in all individual and group health plans, the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulations has published the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documentation:

New Hearing Aid Mandate, Effective January 1, 2020

Q: I have insurance and I need hearing aids. Does this new law mean my insurance will cover the cost now?

A: It depends on several factors:

Type of Insurance

The following types are required to provide the benefit:

      • Fully funded major medical policies, including ACA coverage;
      • Short-term limited duration policies

These types are exempt from all State health insurance benefit mandates:

      • Medicare products, including Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans (federally exempted by Social Security/Medicare);
      • Self-insured plans, except state or municipal governmental and multiple-employer welfare association (MEWA) plans;
      • Plans other than comprehensive major medical or short-term limited duration: accidental injury; specified disease; hospital indemnity; dental; vision; disability income; long-term care; other limited benefit health insurance.

Benefit Details, Deductibles, Cost, Networks, and Renewal Dates

Coverage amount:

      • Up to $3,000 per hearing aid for each hearing-impaired ear; and
      • Available every 36 months.

Deductibles: You should be aware that you could still be responsible for all or part of the cost if you have not yet met your annual deductible at the time you purchase a hearing aid.

Cost:  If you purchase a hearing aid that costs more than $3,000, you should assume you will need to pay the amount over the $3,000 out of your own pocket, even if you have met your deductible – unless your policy specifically provides a greater benefit.

Network:  You could also be responsible for all or part of the cost if you use a provider who is not part of your plan’s network.

Renewal dates:  If you have a group plan that is required to provide this benefit, but it renews later in the year, the benefit will not be included in your coverage until that time.

Q: I know I have hearing issues. Do I need to go to my primary care office before going to see a hearing specialist and getting a prescription for hearing aids?

A:  Whether you are able to self-refer to a specialist and whether pre-authorization is required to purchase a hearing aid would depend on your policy contract.  Check with your insurer and/or your employer’s benefits department.

Q: Will my insurance cost more because of this mandate?

A:  The cost of providing the new benefit is built into the premium and should be very minimal (the Bureau’s 2014 report estimated that the cost per policyholder could be $.47 per month).

If you have questions beyond this FAQ, please contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance

Access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs

From the U.S. Access Board

Study Initiated on Equipping Passenger Aircraft with Wheelchair Restraint Systems

US Access Board logoThe U.S. Access Board is undertaking a study that has the potential to advance access to air travel for passengers who use wheelchairs. As directed by Congress, this project will assess the feasibility of equipping passenger planes with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Having to transfer out of wheelchairs makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities.

The Board is conducting this study through the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). TRB has organized a committee of experts to evaluate the feasibility of in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. Members include experts in aircraft interiors and safety engineering, accessibility, wheelchair design and crashworthiness, airline operations, and other disciplines. Committee members will evaluate the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the committee will then assess the wheelchair restraint systems that can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning.

The committee will hold its first meeting February 5 – 6, 2020 at the Access Board’s conference center. Most sessions will be open to the public and available by web conference. Those attending in person do not need to register in advance, but registration is required (free) to attend online.

Visit TRB’s website for further information on this project, the meeting agenda, and the committee.

Questions about the study can be directed to Mario Damiani of the Access Board at damiani@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0050 (v), or (202) 272-0066 (TTY). Inquiries about attending the committee meeting or registering for the web conference should be addressed to Anusha Jayasinghe of TRB at AJayasinghe@nas.edu or (202) 334-2401

 

U.S. Access Board Webinars on ADA and ABA Standards

Woman using accessible elevatorStarting in the new year, the U.S. Access Board will devote its monthly webinar series to a chapter-by-chapter review of the ADA Standards. These standards govern the construction and alteration of a wide range of facilities covered by the ADA. The sessions will also cover similar standards that apply under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) to facilities that are federally funded. Presenters will focus on common sources of confusion in the ADA and ABA Standards and frequently asked questions.

The first session in this year-long program will take place January 9 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will cover application of the standards (Chapter 1). Presenters will explain how the ADA and ABA Standards apply in new construction, alterations, and additions, dimensions for adults and children, equivalent facilitation and modifications or waivers, construction tolerances and other conventions, referenced standards, and definitions.

Visit accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register for this session.

Questions may be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the live webinar.

Over the course of the year, this review will also cover:

  • February 6, 2020 – Chapter 2: Scoping – New Construction
  • March 5, 2020 – Chapter 2: Scoping – Alterations
  • April 2, 2020 – Chapter 3: Building Blocks
  • May 7, 2020 – Chapter 4: Accessible Routes
  • June 4, 2020 – Chapter 5: General Site and Building Elements
  • July 2, 2020 – Chapter 6: Plumbing Elements and Facilities
  • August 6, 2020 – Chapter 7: Communication Elements and Features
  • September 3, 2020 – Chapter 8: Special Rooms, Spaces, and Elements (Part 1)
  • October 1, 2020 – Chapter 8: Special Rooms, Spaces, and Elements (Part 2)
  • November 5, 2020 – Chapter 9: Built-In Elements
  • December 3, 2020 – Chapter 10: Recreation Facilities

The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site.

Photo Credit: Public domain image from Pixnio

Access Board to Assess Feasibility of Wheelchair Restraint Systems on Aircraft

From the US Access Board:

The inability to use one’s wheelchair on airplanes makes air travel very difficult, if not impossible, for many people with disabilities. It requires multiple transfers between boarding chairs and aircraft seats, posing injury risks. Airline seats are a poor alternative to personal wheelchairs which are typically customized for the user’s safety, comfort, and specific medical needs. Further, passengers’ wheelchairs are stowed in the cargo hold and often damaged, mishandled, or lost as a result.

To address these challenges, the Access Board is undertaking a study to assess the feasibility of equipping aircraft with restraint systems so that passengers can remain in their wheelchairs on flights. Congress directed the Board to study this question in its most recent reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The Board has enlisted the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences, to conduct this assessment and to issue a report. The Board and TRB will consult the Department of Transportation, aircraft manufacturers, air carriers, and disability advocates in the course of the study, as directed by the act.

“The Board is eager to examine this issue which has the potential to make flying safer and more comfortable for thousands of people who use wheelchairs,” stated Board Executive Director David Capozzi. “We look forward to building upon and advancing the work of other organizations who have provided critical leadership, advocacy, and research on this subject, notably All Wheels Up, Flying Disabled, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.”

TRB will organize an expert panel to assess and evaluate the feasibility of equipping passenger aircraft with in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. This panel will include experts in aircraft manufacturing, aeronautics, aviation safety, accessibility, disability policy, airline operations, and other disciplines. It will examine the design, engineering, and safety requirements for equipping aircraft with locking or tiedown mechanisms for non-motorized and motorized wheelchairs used as seats. If such restraint systems are found to be feasible, the panel will then assess how they can be used to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs through all phases of flight, from boarding to deplaning. A peer-reviewed report on the panel’s findings will be published at the conclusion of the project and submitted to Congress. The report is expected by October 2021.

For further information on this study, contact Mario Damiani of the Access Board at (202) 272-0050 (voice), (202) 272-0066 (TTY), or damiani@access-board.gov.

Public Weighs in on Proposed Voluntary Guidelines for Aircraft Wheelchairs

In August, the Access Board released advisory guidelines for wheelchairs used on airplanes and made them available for public comment. These voluntary guidelines specify dimensions, features, and capabilities for wheelchairs used during flights to access aircraft lavatories. The guidelines address maneuverability, stowage, stability, back support, restraints, assist handles, and other details. The published notice also posed a number of technical questions to the public.

By the close of the 60-day comment period, the Board received over 40 comments from various interests and stakeholders, including people with disabilities, advocacy groups, aircraft manufacturers, trade associations, manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs, researchers, and others. In addition, the Board held a public hearing on the guidelines in September that provided an additional forum for submitting comment. The docket, which includes all submitted comments and hearing testimony, is available on regulations.gov.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to supplement its regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to require onboard wheelchairs with enhanced functionality on certain single-aisle aircraft as part of a negotiated rulemaking (PDF) to improve access for air travelers with disabilities. The Board is developing these non-binding guidelines as technical assistance to air carriers and manufacturers of onboard wheelchairs by providing an example of how to meet DOT’s planned performance standards.

For further information on the Board’s development of these guidelines, contact Wendy Marshall at (202) 272-0043 (voice) or marshall@access-board.gov, or Mario Damiani (202) 272-0050 (voice) or damiani@access-board.gov.