AUCD Legislative News In Brief
October 19, 2009
Vol. IX, Issue 44
The Senate will take up a bill affecting Medicare physician pay. Later in the week the Senate is expected to take up a defense authorization bill that includes the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Senate will also continue working on annual appropriations bills for FY 2010. The House is set to consider the reauthorization of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. The Ryan White program provides critical health care and related services to uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV/AIDS.
House leaders plan to pass another Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide temporary funding to agencies while appropriators try to complete their work on FY 2010 spending bills. This is needed because the current CR expires on October 31 and, although the House has passed all 12 of its regular spending bills, the Senate has only passed three. Like the current CR, the second is likely to represent level funding.
Health Care Reform
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), passed the America’s Healthy Future Act on a bipartisan vote of 14-9. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) joined all Democratic members in voting for the bill.
Both the House and Senate leadership are now engaged in the difficult task of merging their respective health care reform bills. The House has three committee-passed bills; the Senate has two. The Senate held its first meeting last week to work out significant issues between the HELP and Finance Committee bills. Those identified as taking the lead on this task are Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Chris Dodd (D-CT), and two key White House officials: Rahm Emanual and Nancy Ann DeParle. Senate leaders would like to take a bill to the floor for consideration within the next two weeks. The House is likely to follow the Senate. Once the two bills pass their respective chambers, they will have to be reconciled into one bill and passed by both chambers before going to the President.
Senate Health Care Letter
AUCD signed onto a Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) letter to Senate leaders containing its priorities for the health reform bill. CCD is now seeking national, state and local organizations in the disability community to sign on as well. The letter outlines critical issues for people with disabilities including private market reforms (pre-existing condition exclusions, guaranteed issue, discrimination based on disability, etc.), Medicaid and long term services and supports (e.g. CLASS Act and Community First Choice), prevention, accessibility and health disparities. AUCD members are encouraged to sign on by completing the short form online. AUCD sent an email to the network with this information on Friday and posted it on the public policy website: www.aucd.org.
AUCD has signed on to a letter to Congress prepared by the American Heart Association regarding its concerns about recently proposed amendments in health care reform. The amendments would expand authority provided under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to allow for increased premium variation based on health status for employee wellness programs. Employers who have wellness programs would be able to require employees to take a series of health assessment tests and rate their premiums according to the results. Although the amendments are intended as incentives to encourage healthy behaviors among employees, a number of organizations are concerned that allowing employers to vary premiums based on health status could lead to discriminatory practices and make health coverage unaffordable for those who need it most. The sign-on letter addresses three main concerns: affordability (the amendments would allow employers to vary premiums by up to 50 percent of the cost of the plan), lack of evidence that such programs work to create healthier lifestyles, and privacy concerns. The final letter will be posted on AUCD’s website soon.
Department of Education Stakeholders Meeting
AUCD staff participated in the ED Stakeholders Forum at the Department of Education on October 13. These meetings, sponsored by Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, are aimed at collecting information concerning best practices for education as we approach the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB). This hearing focused on professional development initiatives to strengthen teachers and leaders in our nations’ schools. Full transcripts and video of this and previous hearings are available on the Department website.
AUCD now has an H1N1Flu information webpage which provides the latest state and federal guidance on planning for and responding to the needs of individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities are part of an at-risk group that spans all other vaccination priority groups.
On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), will hold a hearing on "Monitoring Response to H1N1 Flu". Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan are scheduled to testify.