May 16, 2023

Reps. Moulton, Fitzpatrick, Dingell, and Morelle Introduce HEADs UP Act to Expand Coverage for Disability Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Joseph Morelle (D-NY) introduced the Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population (HEADs UP) Act of 2023.

The HEADs UP Act would direct the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) to designate people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) as a Medically Underserved Population. The HSRA is the government agency that advocates for people who are cut off from quality healthcare by economics, geography or medical vulnerability.

“There are clear cracks in America’s healthcare system, and one example is the way we treat those among us who require the most complex care,” said Congressman Moulton. “Citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve quality treatment just like everyone else, and America has an obligation to provide that. We’ve come so far, but there is still more ground to cover. With this bill, we can expand healthcare resources to make them more available to these Americans. I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to get this passed into law.”

“Over 7 million people in the United States have an intellectual or developmental disability and they are often met with hardship when it comes to meeting their complex medical needs,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “The bipartisan Healthcare Extension and Accessibility for Developmentally Disabled and Underserved Population (HEADs UP) Act will remove barriers to care that exist for the millions of Americans within the IDD community so that they can lead healthy lives.”

“All Americans should have access to health care that meets their personal needs and specific medical situation, but individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities who have complex needs often face barriers to receiving adequate specialized care,” said Congresswoman Dingell. “As co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, I am committed to ensuring Americans with disabilities don’t get left behind or slip through the cracks in our healthcare system. The HEADs UP Act will expand access to resources for the IDD community to make it easier to get the support and care they deserve.” 

“As the number of families impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities continues to rise, we must ensure we are doing everything in our power to provide the support they need to reach their full potential,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to secure better care that will help our most vulnerable community members, who have gone underserved for too long. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to pass this bipartisan legislation and help ensure those with different abilities can lead happy, healthy lives.”

The change in designation would give Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities access to new primary care and specialist services, incentivize new research, and authorize more favorable reimbursement rates for providers who treat Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

The “Medically Underserved” designation was created with the passage of the Health Centers Consolidation Act of 1996. Despite years of advocacy and clear evidence that people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are underserved, Congress has failed to provide them with the legal designation. Doing so would open up more than 25 government programs for the I/DD population across agencies including the Health Services and Resources Administration.

These programs include:

  • Federal funding for health centers and public health infrastructure such as Federally Qualified Health Centers
  • Eligibility to apply for federal funding to develop and operate Community Health Centers
  • Access to loan repayment and training programs in HRSA’s Workforce Development and Training Programs including national Health Service Corps Scholarships
  • Incentives for physicians to treat this population through higher CMS reimbursement rates for services delivered in Health Professional Shortage Areas, a designation closely related to medically underserved populations
  • Preference given to federal research studying medically underserved populations, including through the National Institutes of Health