AUCD Legislative News In Brief

 

aucd_bulletAUCD Legislative News In Brief

Oct. 6, 2008

Vol. VIII, Issue 36

 

Congressional Schedule

Congress adjourned Friday; however, the Senate plans to convene a “Lame Duck” session Nov. 17-19.  The House of Representatives has adjourned for the year and plans to reconvene on Jan. 3, 2009. 

 

Last week, Congress focused on getting enough votes in the House to pass the $700 billion economic rescue package (HR 1424) that failed the first time around.  In response, the Senate made a few changes to the rescue package and tacked on a bill to extend popular tax cuts as well as the mental health parity bill.  The House passed the revised package on a 263-171 vote. President Bush signed the bill less than two hours after the House voted. The President also signed into law the Continuing Resolution to provide budget authority for Federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted.  See more on all of these issues below.

 

Mental Health Parity

AUCD is extremely pleased to report that Congress passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (see summary on AUCD’s website).  The bill was attached to the huge economic rescue bill (see statement of bill champions) which was rushed through the enrollment process, speeding the legislation to the White House Friday afternoon where President Bush immediately signed it into law. AUCD has been working with the Mental Health Liaison Group to support passage of this bill since 2001.  Thanks to all of our Members who helped by contacting your Members of Congress to educate them about this issue.  Additional Fact sheets and past letters to Congress are posted on the coalition website: www.mhlg.org/page18.html

 

Medicaid
AUCD tried, but was unsuccessful, in efforts to urge Congress to pass the moratorium on the proposed regulation relating to redefining outpatient hospital and clinical services before adjourning (see also last week’s In Brief). With the House recessing until January, our next chance is to convince the new Administration to withdraw or not implement the rule. Thanks to those of you who made extra efforts to contact targeted members last week on this issue.

 

The Senate also failed to garner enough votes on a separate economic stimulus package that included a temporary Medicaid FMAP increase over $19 billion.

 

AUCD is working with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) on a letter opposing CMS approval of a recently submitted 1115 Medicaid demonstration waiver by Rhode Island.  The waiver would result in a block grant of the Medicaid program which would place Medicaid beneficiaries at risk, including those who need long-term services and supports.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released the following analysis of the Rhode Island waiver proposal:   http://www.cbpp.org/9-4-08health.htm

 

Crime Victims with Disabilities

On Oct. 1, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) introduced the Crime Victims with Disabilities Act (S. 3668). Sen. Biden mentioned AUCD’s support in his floor statement upon introduction. The bill provides funds to increase the investigation, prosecution, and prevention of crimes against people with disabilities and by facilitating collaboration among criminal justice agencies and other agencies and organizations that provide services to people with disabilities.  The bill also authorizes $4 million over four years to fund research to assist the Attorney General in collecting valid, reliable national data relating to crimes against individuals with developmental and related disabilities for the National Crime Victims Survey conducted by the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics as required by the Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act.  Currently, the BJS does not collect this data, leaving many crimes unreported in the survey and making it difficult to address the problem. University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities would be among those eligible to work on such research. There is still a small chance that the bill could be passed under unanimous consent during the Lame Duck session planned for Nov. 17-19. Sen. Biden is currently seeking a House sponsor of the bill as well as additional Senate co-sponsors.

 

FY 2009 Appropriations

On September 30, the President Bush signed the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act" (H.R. 2638).  The continuing resolution provides full year funding for the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs-Military Construction, and Homeland Security.   It provides funding for most other programs and agencies at current levels through March 6, including most disability, health, and research programs within the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. Congress will attempt to finish the FY 09 Appropriations bills early in the next Administration at which time AUCD will advocate for the highest possible level of funding for University Centers and other programs that support people with disabilities.  See July 7 In Brief for a comparison of House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bills.

Prevention
Last week, the President signed into law a bill (S. 1760/H.R.3267) reauthorizing the Healthy Start program, expanding the program meant to prevent infant mortality with new prenatal services and increasing its funding 20 percent. The Senate passed the bill on April 30 by unanimous consent. The House passed the bill on Sept. 23 under suspension rules.  The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-339) authorizes an additional $20 million in 2008 on top of the $100 million Congress already appropriated for the program this year. The legislation was introduced in July 2007 by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Richard Burr (R-NC). The bill allows the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to address significant disparities in United States-Mexico border states, Alaska and Hawaii. It also directs HHS when awarding grants to take into account factors such as low birth weight that contribute to infant mortality and the extent to which grant applicants facilitate a community-based approach. Under the bill, HHS would be prohibited from awarding grants for research, state policy formation and additional health care services for pregnant women and infants.

Higher Education Act

AUCD is preparing comments to deliver this Wednesday as part of the Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking process for certain sections of the recently reauthorized Higher Education Act.  AUCD’s comments will focus on Title IV which concerns access to financial aid for students with intellectual disabilities.  In addition, AUCD is working with House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Miller (D-CA) to ensure a seamless transition for the demonstration projects on quality postsecondary education which were recently awarded. 

 

Empowered at Home Act

AUCD prepared a Summary of the Empowered at Home Act (S. 3327) introduced by Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Grassley (R-IA).  The bill would make improvements to the Medicaid State Plan Option and create a new option for state to provide community-based services to individual who are likely to develop an institutional level of care.  The bill also would authorize health promotion grants, provide a caregiver tax credit, and put in place spousal impoverishment protections for individuals opting for home and community based services and supports.          

 

Legislative Goals Development

For the last several years, The Arc, UCP, AAIDD, ANCOR and AUCD have collaboratively developed legislative goals to guide our joint public policy and advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill.  (AUCD will also be developing its own goals.) With the First Session of the 111th Congress beginning in January 2009, we are in the process of updating these Goals.  These goals will be distributed to all Members of Congress and will be used in our advocacy efforts related to the 2009 Disability Policy Seminar.  The Arc/UCP Policy Collaboration has created an electronic survey located at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=h0_2fsj2ecFSTwjtUgEbqGew_3d_3d to get input from the membership of the collaborating organizations.  Responses to the survey questions will help determine what changes we make to our current legislative goals.  The Goals for the 110th Congress can be viewed on AUCD’s Public Policy website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=27 (see Resources on right). Please take a few moments to fill out this brief 5-question survey. The deadline for completion is November 7.Thank you in advance for your effort.

 

Health Care Reform

The Commonwealth Fund released an analysis of the Presidential campaigns’ health care reform plans last week.  According to an estimate discussed in the report, in 10 years McCain’s proposal would reduce the number of people who are uninsured by 2 million out of a projected 67 million, while Obama’s plan would reduce the number of uninsured people by 34 million.  Over the next couple weeks, the Kaiser Family Foundation is hosting live webcasts with candidates’ advisors on health care.  Obama: Wednesday, October 8, 11:00 a.m. ET ; McCain: Thursday, October 16, 1:00 p.m. ET

 

Voter Registration

In several states, today is the last day to register to vote for the Presidential election.  To find out more about voter registration and deadlines in your state visit the AUCD Action Center: http://aucd.capwiz.com/election/home/

 

 

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=27

 

 

 

 

 

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