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BREAKING: House Passes H.R. 620

Feb 16, 2018

U.S. House of Representatives Passes H.R. 620, an Alarming Step Towards Dismantling the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)–Help your Academy Fight for Patients’ Rights!

Despite relentless ongoing Academy efforts in opposition to proposed legislation, on February 15, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 620: The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, by a 225-192 vote. 12 Democrats voted for the bill, and 19 Republicans voted against it. The bill now moves to the Senate, where no companion legislation has been introduced. AAPM&R will urge the Senate to reject any effort to weaken provisions of the ADA, should legislation be introduced.

Your Academy opposed H.R. 620 based on our longstanding support of the ADA and the civil rights protections it provides for people with disabilities. The proposed legislation creates significant obstacles for people with disabilities to enforce their rights under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to access public accommodations, and would impede their ability to engage in daily activities and participate in the mainstream of society. The most concerning portion of this legislation would essentially require a person with a disability to send a letter of notification to a business or other public facility that it is not in compliance with the law, and allows a grace period before a person with a disability could file suit. The bill was purportedly designed to prevent non-meritorious lawsuits based on noncompliance with Title III of the ADA; however, the Academy argued the courts already have tools to address fraudulent or unscrupulous claims. 

“The House passage of HR 620 places unfair hardships on those citizens that the Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to protect. Persons with disabilities should not suffer because of the actions of attorneys that have abused the legal system in filing unscrupulous lawsuits. Individual states have processes in place to deal with ‘drive-by lawsuit’ attorneys. During our visits on Capitol Hill this week, members of the Health Policy and Legislation Committee educated members of Congress and their staffs about this proposed bill. Our Academy opposes it, the American Medical Association opposes it, and on behalf of our patients and AAPM&R members who will be adversely affected by this legislation, we will now focus on working with the United States Senate to stop this destruction of one of the core principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act”. - Stuart Glassman, MD; Chair, AAPM&R State Advocacy Subcommittee; AAPM&R Delegate to the AMA House of Delegates

In October 2017, your Academy joined over 500 organizations in support of the National Council on Independent Living’s (NCIL) letter to Representatives Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House) and Nancy Pelosi (Minority Leader) opposing H.R. 620. The AAPM&R Delegation also introduced and advocated for a resolution to the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates (HOD) in opposition to any proposal that would increase barriers for disabled persons attempting to file suit to challenge a violation of their civil rights. This resolution was accepted as official AMA policy during the November 2017 Interim HOD Meeting.

Pending the House vote, on February 13, 2018, your Health Policy and Legislation (HP&L) Committee met in Washington, DC, with both House and Senate members and staffers advocating in opposition to H.R. 620. On February 14, your Academy submitted letters to all House chiefs of staff urging their opposition to the bill and solicited the support of the AMA, citing the official AMA policy introduced by AAPM&R.

Your Academy will continue to closely track legislative developments, solicit your engagement, and urge the Senate to oppose this detrimental bill that would significantly and negatively impact the civil rights of people with disabilities. Please continue to watch your emails for an AAPM&R Advocacy Action Alert with a template letter you can send to your Senate representatives when this legislation is introduced.